Avoiding the 200 Peso ATM Fee for Foreign VISA Cards
10k Peso Limit + Fee
Philippines ATMs (BDO, PNB, etc.) all charge a 200 pesos ($4) additional fee for foreign bank cards and withdrawals are capped at 10000 pesos at a time.
BPI 20k Limit + Fee
One exception is the 20000 peso withdrawal limit at BPI ATMs (Bank of the Philippines Islands). The red ones. They also charge the 200 pesos fee though.
So using a foreign bank card to withdraw cash in the Philippines would cost you 1% vig with BPI and 2% with all other Filipino bank ATMs (200 pesos out of 10000).
And then a couple % lost from whatever poor exchange rate your bank sets.
Hard to Open a Filipino Bank Account
At the current time it’s hard for foreigners to open a bank account in the Philippines due to money laundering regulations.
It at least requires having an Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR) card which you need to be living in the Philippines over 59 days to even apply for.
HSBC ATMs 40k Limit No Fee
Luckily for short mongering trips there’s HSBC ATMs. In the Philippines they allow you to withdraw up to 40000 pesos (~$800) at a time, with no fee on their end, any bank card including foreign VISA cards.
If you’re from the US and open a Charles Schwab account as Dante wrote about there’ll be no fees on your end either. With my Thai bank card I get a 100 baht ($3) fee.
Sadly HSBC ATMs are much less common than Filipino ATMs, you have to go out of your way to go to an actual HSBC branch. Unlike BDO banks which are everywhere. Even BPI ones can be a bit hard to find.
HSBC ATMs in Manila
Makati HSBC ATM
If you stay in Makati e.g. at Greenbelt Excelsior which I reviewed that’s very near the Makati Enterprise Centre, which is opposite Ayala Triangle Park.
There’s a HSBC branch there, walk into the Enterprise Centre. It has three ATMs, if one says it has a 10k peso limit try another.
If you’re staying at P Burgos or Gramercy it’s a nice walk down to that HSBC branch, past Ayala Triangle park which has some cute chicks walking around.
Big sidewalks, monuments, and you can use Legazpi underpass to cross the road.
Ayala Triangle Park
Gabriela Silang monument, first Filipina to lead the revolt against Spain
Don’t go past this monument, hang a right out of the underpass
HSBC in Angeles City
The nearest HSBC to Angeles City is in San Fernando, will cost a few hundred in trike fees the get there and back so best bet is to withdraw in Manila before going.
Or use the BPI ATM opposite Casino Filipino to get 20k.
BPI bank on MacArthur Highway
HSBC in Cebu
There’s a HSBC in Cebu business park near Calyx Residences which I reviewed.
Another option is open a wallet with Coins.ph, send bitcoin to it, then cash it out using the eGivecash option.
That allows you (or your FilipinoCupid girl) to withdraw cash at any Security bank ATM with no card or fee, all that’s needed is a code sent by text message.
But the spread they charge is equivalent to around 170 pesos fee depending on the day, and it’s limited to 10000 pesos at a time.
Coins.ph cardless withdrawal
There’d always be some fee in converting Bitcoin to cash via an exchange though so that’s still better than using a foreign card at a Filipino ATM.
Or post an ad to sell BTC on LocalBitcoins.com, find an individual buyer in the Philippines, meet them in person and make a profit on the trade for pesos.
Can’t Bring More than 10k Pesos In or Out
Without prior authorization you can’t bring more than 10000 pesos into the Philippines, from previous trips, or leave the Philippines with more than that.
If you do and are caught it’s subject to confiscation by customs. Although I’ve never had my wallet checked at airports. You can bring in up to $10k USD without declaring it, or more if you do declare it at customs.