How to open a bank account in the Philippines

11.07.17
5 minute read
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The Philippines is well known for their hospitality, so it’s no surprise that some rank the country as one of the best places in the world for an expat to live.

If you’re thinking of joining those who have already made the move to the Philippines, then you’ll need a local bank account. Figuring out a new banking system can feel daunting - but a local account is key to accessing many of the everyday services that will help you settle in your new home.

Use this guide to help you open a bank account in the Philippines.

What documents do I need to open a bank account in the Philippines?

If you’re opening a bank account in person in the Philippines, you’ll need to bring documentation to prove your identity and residency. If you don’t have the exact documents the bank specifies, it may still be possible to start the process if you meet with the bank manager to talk through your personal circumstances.

The documents you’ll likely need are:

  • Proof of your right to be in the Philippines - usually an ACR (Alien Certificate of Registration) Card. Some banks will accept the Immigrant Certificate of Registration instead.
  • Photo ID like your passport or national identity card.
  • Documents that prove your address. Usually banks request a rental contract or several recent utility bills.
  • Passport-sized photographs.
  • Minimum deposit (the amount varies from bank to bank).

Some institutions also require some form of reference from your previous bank. They may contact your home bank directly or ask for statements that show you were a good customer. This is less likely if you are opening an account with an overseas branch of your own bank or have been introduced by an existing customer.

Some American expats in the Philippines have experienced problems opening accounts with local banks. Although not official bank policy, local branches might be wary of opening accounts because of the stringent anti-money laundering laws that are applied to U.S. citizens, even overseas. If this is the case, you can open an account with an international bank such as HSBC more easily.

Can I open a bank account from abroad?

Due to documentation requirements, it isn’t possible to open a Philippine bank account online. However, that doesn’t mean you have to wait until you move to get started. Because many of the banks operating in the Philippines also have overseas branches, you may be able to open an account more locally before you set off.

The best place to start is with your regular bank. If they operate in the Philippines, asking them to help transfer your account will make things simpler. If you don’t have that option, you might find a local branch of a different bank that operates in the Philippines.

Wherever you open your account, the documentation required will be similar to the previous list, although the minimum payment required must be made by international money transfer instead of cash. It’s an admin-heavy process, so expect it to take some time.

Can I open an account as a non-resident?

It’s not possible to open an account in the Philippines as a non-resident. All banks ask for proof of your address in the country.

If you want to get started before you move, try an international bank who also operate in the Philippines. That way you can switch your account to their local partner more easily once you have residency.

Which Bank should I choose?

Banking in the Philippines is advanced, with a network of international banks as well as regional institutions. For foreigners opening accounts, it’s usually best to stick to an international bank or one of the large national banks which cover the Philippines as well as the broader area. Regional banks can be more difficult to use and only offer limited services.

To start your search, here are the four largest banks in the Philippines:

BDO Bank - Philippines

Locations 961 sites in the Philippines, plus overseas offices in China, Korea and Japan
Currencies and single words Some accounts available in PHP, USD, or several other currencies.
Services Checking accounts, debit and credit card as well as some other discounted goods and services are available.

Metrobank - Philippines

Locations Find the closest location with Metrobank’s online branch locator
Currencies Some accounts available in several different currencies.
Services Offering savings, checking, and fixed term deposit accounts as well as some savings options. They cater a lot to overseas Filipinos with accounts that can be opened from abroad.

Landbank - Philippines

Locations 364 Branches and 1,588 ATMs
Currencies Savings accounts in Philippine Pesos, US Dollars and Chinese Yuan
Services Checking accounts and debit/credit cards. They also have remittance offices throughout Asia and much of the Middle East, as well as some parts of Europe.

BPI (Bank of the Philippine Islands)

Locations With hundreds of location’s, use BPI’s branch locator to find the nearest.
Services Good online and telephone banking. Among their checking accounts, there are options specifically for entrepreneurs who want an interest-earning current account. You may also receive additional discounts or perks in local businesses.

In general, opening an account in the Philippines can be quite bureaucratic. Give the process time and be prepared to provide a lot of paperwork. Although some online forums report local branches willing to circumvent the rules (such as allowing you to open an account with limited paperwork), it’s probably not a good idea to do so. Plan ahead so you don’t need to worry about the documentation required.

Banking fees and charges

Before you open a bank account in the Philippines, go through the terms and conditions carefully - especially when it comes to banking fees and charges. The structure of charges might be quite different to what you're used to, so be wary.

Check, for example, if there are account handling fees to keep your account open, or separate charges to be able to use a credit or debit card. You might also fees for withdrawing cash from an ATM operated by a different bank.

How much these charges will impact you will depend on how you use your account, so think carefully before you choose.

If - like many expats - you need to regularly move money between accounts which use different currencies, you’ll want to find the most cost-effective way of doing it. Usually bank fees are very high for this service. As well as a charge for processing the transaction, the exchange rates used can be far from favourable because banks tend to add fees as well as their own profit margin into the exchange rate they offer. This isn’t transparent and is rarely the best deal for the customer.

To get the best deal available, find an exchange service that uses the mid-market exchange rate when they convert your money from one currency to another, like TransferWise.

With TransferWise, you can transfer money between bank accounts using the real exchange rate - no mark up, and no hidden fees, just a simple flat charge for your transaction.

TransferWise is the smart, new way to send money abroad.

Find out more