How to open a bank account in the Philippines
If you’re planning a move to the Philippines you’ll probably be wondering about the best ways to go about opening a bank account to hold, spend and exchange PHP payments.
Opening a bank account with a traditional provider in the Philippines probably means visiting in person – or at least providing a Philippine proof of address for verification purposes. That means it’s tricky to get started before you arrive. But if hitting the ground running is important to you, there are ways to get ahead of the game and open a PHP account before you travel, through online specialist services. We’ll take a look at some of them – and how to get started – in just a moment.
What documents do I need?
To open a bank account with a traditional bank you’ll usually need to provide:
- Your own ID document – for foreigners, this is usually a passport
- Your local address in the Philippines – proof of address may be required
The actual process for opening an account does vary between providers, so you’ll want to check with a few to see which offers the best service for your needs. If you’re eligible for online opening you may be able to get set up through a video call which can be more convenient than visiting a branch in person – but you’ll still need to have a physical address in the Philippines for correspondence and verification.
Save the paperwork with alternative solutions like Wise or Revolut
One alternative to opening a bank account with a local bank in the Philippines is to use an online and digital provider like Wise or Revolut. You can create a Wise or Revolut account online or in an app, before you head to the Philippines, using your US ID and address.
Both providers have accounts which offer international debit cards and multi-currency accounts. And if you choose the Wise account you’ll even be able to hold and exchange PHP easily, and with the real mid-market exchange rate.
Providers like Wise and Revolut are a good option as you can get started without needing to leave home, with the opportunity to open a free account with no minimum balance and no ongoing obligations. Just use your account as you need to, with low fees for the services you actually require. Easy.
How to open a bank account in the Philippines
Some banks in the Philippines offer online account opening you can manage through a video call. That still means you’ll need to make an appointment to talk to a staff member online – but it can be a whole lot more convenient than having to physically head out to a branch.
Whether you’re able to open your account online or need to visit a branch in person, the steps are similar:
- Choose the perfect account for your needs
- Get all your documentation ready
- Apply online, by video call, or in person
- Submit your documents online or in a branch
- Once your account is verified you’ll be able to start transacting
If you’re opening an account in a branch you might be able to get your debit card and all the account details on the same day. Online opening processes may mean you have to wait a few days for your card to be mailed to you.
Can I open a bank account in the Philippines before arrival?
To open an account with a traditional bank in the Philippines you’ll normally need a local address. That makes it tricky to get your account set up in advance of arrival.
Instead, you may be better off looking at multi-currency accounts from popular providers like Wise and Revolut, which you can open from the US and use at home and abroad in a range of currencies.
Which account is best in the Philippines for foreigners?
Let’s compare a few account options, looking at both large traditional banks, and online challengers with multi-currency options. There’s more detail on each of these providers coming up later.
|Eligibility||Available to customers in many different regions||Legal residents of the EEA, Australia, Singapore, Switzerland, Japan, the UK and US||Legal residents of the Philippines||Legal residents of the Philippines|
|PHP and USD account options||Yes||PHP not supported for holding and exchange – you can spend in PHP with your linked card||Yes||Yes|
|Open before you arrive in the Philippines||Yes||Yes||No||Philippine address is required|
|Opening fee||No fee||No fee||No fee||No fee|
|Fall below fee||No fee||No fee||1,000 PHP for peso accounts|
20 USD for USD accounts
|300 PHP for PHP checking account|
|Maintenance fee||No fee||Varies by account tier, up to 16.99 USD/month||No fee||No fee|
|Online international money transfers||Low, transparent fees and the mid-market exchange rate||Costs vary by region – some account plans offer no-fee international transfers and currency exchange||20 USD for payments to the US – fees for different currencies are higher||10 USD + 20 USD cable charge if you choose to cover this rather than have the beneficiary pay for it|
*BDO account profiled is the peso checking account – alternative account options are also available
Wise multi-currency accounts can hold and exchange 50+ currencies including PHP and USD, with a linked debit card for easy spending.
You’ll also be able to send payments to 80+ countries, and get local bank details for up to 10 foreign currencies to get paid fee free from 30+ countries.
Wise currency exchange always uses the real mid-market exchange rate and low, transparent fees whenever you switch currencies in your account, or spend with your linked Wise international debit card.
Account types: Depending on where you are in the world, you’ll be able to open personal and business accounts with no minimum balance or monthly fees. To learn more, check out our Wise fees guide.
Eligibility: Wise accounts are available to customers in a broad range of countries – although the exact account services available may vary based on your location. Simply use your home proof of address to get your account open and access a PHP balance.
Is Wise safe? Wise is registered with a broad range of global regulatory bodies, including FinCEN in the US, the FCA in the UK and more.
Before you head to the Philippines, why not open a Revolut account which you can use to hold and handle 28 currencies and spend with a linked card.
Revolut accounts can’t be used to hold PHP just yet, but you will be able to top up your account in USD and spend on your linked Revolut card when you’re in the Philippines for convenience.
Choose a no-fee or fee paid Revolut account which may come with options to budget, invest, save and exchange, plus Junior accounts for family members.
Account types: Standard account plans don’t have monthly fee or you can upgrade to a paid plan – Metal plans in the US cost 16.99 USD/month
Eligibility: Available to customers with addresses in the UK, the EEA, Australia, Singapore, Switzerland, Japan, and the US.
Is Revolut safe? Revolut is registered with regulatory bodies wherever it trades, and is a trustworthy provider to choose
UnionBank offers PHP accounts along with dollar denominated account options. You’ll need to be legally resident in the Philippines to apply, but once your account is up and running it can be used easily online and in the UnionBank app.
There are a few fees you’ll need to know about when operating this account, which may not be the same as the charges you’re used to in the US. Account dormancy fees may apply, as an example, if you don’t transact regularly for just a couple of months.
There’s a 20 USD fee for international payments sent from PHP to USD. Read through the terms and conditions carefully before you sign up.
Account types: UnionBank offers different savings and checking accounts
Eligibility: Available to customers who are legally resident in the Philippines
Is it safe? Yes – UnionBank is regulated and uses industry standard approaches to ensure customers and their money are protected
BDO Unibank has a range of checking and savings accounts which can be opened in PHP and USD. Some accounts can be opened online through a Zoom call with the bank’s services staff – and you may even be able to schedule a meeting online with a staff member who speaks a range of languages if you need translation support.
You’ll be able to sign up for online and digital account management tools, plus a linked debit card to make it easier to spend and make withdrawals from your account.
Account types: Broad range of PHP and USD savings and checking accounts; some accounts can be opened online through video calling the bank’s service team
Eligibility: Most accounts are available to customers who are legally resident in the Philippines
Is it safe? Yes – BDO is a major bank and trustworthy provider
What are the costs?
Different banking systems have their own sets of fees, so it’s natural to expect costs for your account in the Philippines which are a bit different to the charges you’re used to in the US.
Normally there’s no fee for opening your account, but it is common to need a minimum opening balance, plus an ongoing minimum balance which you have to retain in the account to avoid fees.
Also you’ll find a range of other costs including:
- Account dormancy fees
- Statement fees
- Checking fees
- Withdrawal fees for ATM use
- International payment fees
- Charges for receiving funds into the account
It’s worth investing the time to read the account fee schedule carefully before you get started, to make sure you don’t run into any unexpected charges when you transact.
Tips for transferring money
Living overseas comes with some extra costs, including high fees for sending international payments. However, sending money overseas is usually a fact of life for an expat, so it’s important to be aware of some of the ways your fees may mount up when you use a traditional bank:
- International payment fees can be higher when sending a payment by phone or in a branch
- Expect charges for both sending and receiving payments
- Bank exchange rates usually include a markup which is an extra fee hidden in the rate applied
- Third party costs may be deducted from the payment as it is processed, unless you opt to cover all additional charges when you initiate the transfer
Being able to transact in pesos easily and with low fees is essential if you’re moving to the Philippines. However, opening a bank account overseas can be tricky if you don’t already have a local address. That means it’s often easier for expats to open an account with an online specialist instead, to get access to a PHP balance even before they leave the US.
Check out providers like Revolut and Wise for multi-currency account options you can open online or in-app, using your US proof of address, to get flexible account services and a linked international debit card.
- Can a foreigner open an account in the Philippines?
Yes. If you have a local address in the Philippines you’ll find it easy to open a traditional bank account. If you don’t have a local proof of address you may decide to use an online multi-currency account instead.
- How much do I need to open a bank account in the Philippines?
Many banks ask for a minimum opening deposit amount, with an ongoing minimum balance amount to avoid fall below fees. Check the details before you get started, to make sure you don’t run into surprise fees.
- Can I open a bank account in the Philippines online?
Some banks do offer online and video account opening options – but you’ll still need a local address in the Philippines which means this is not usually an option for non-residents.
- Can I open a bank account in the Philippines before landing?
To get access to a PHP balance before you even arrive in the Philippines, check out an online provider like Wise which has PHP among 50+ currencies supported in its low cost multi-currency account.