How to open a bank account in the Philippines

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How to open bank account in the Philippines

As an incredibly diverse and beautiful nation of friendly people, it is obvious that the Philippines attracts a lot of expats. Did you know the Philippines is consistently rated on top of lists of best places in the world to live for expats? We did not know either. Many foreigners make the archipelago of 7000+ islands their place of retirement owing to its weather and beaches, low cost of living, and laid-back lifestyle. 

How to open a bank account in the Philippines

As someone who has just landed there or if you are thinking of making the move whether in bustling Metro Manila or in the laid-back countryside, you will need to establish a financial life as a student, professional, investor or retiree. Here is our guide on how to open a bank account in the Philippines.

Documents needed to open a bank account in the Philippines

To open a bank account in the Philippines, you have to visit a branch, sign forms, and submit a few identification documents in order to prove your identity and your residency. It may even be possible to break from the rules a bit if you have a chat with the bank manager and explain your set of circumstances to the person.

Here are the documents you need, as a rule of thumb:

  • Immigration documents such as your Alien Certificate of Registration Card (ACR) or in some cases the Immigrant Certificate of Registration
  • Passport or ID
  • Proof of address such as rental contracts or utility bills
  • A minimum initial deposit (amount set by the bank)
  • 5x7 size passport photos (some banks take your picture using a webcam)

Individual cases will vary and some banks may even require a reference letter from your current or previous bank and they may even contact said bank to get information. The chances of this happening is lower if you are opening an account with your own bank but abroad.

Beware that some countries have highly tight AML (anti money laundering) policies which make it difficult for a bank to open an account for foreigners depending on where you are from. For example, the United States has some rather strict laws in place that even forced Switzerland to disclose information from their notoriously secretive numbered bank accounts

Can a foreigner open a bank account in Philippines?

Yes, a foreigner can open a bank account in the Philippines but the type of account you can open will depend on your status as a foreigner. If you have been living in the country for more than 180 days, you're classified as a resident alien. Resident aliens can open accounts that are also available to Filipinos, such as a savings account, debit card, credit card, and Unit Investment Trust Fund (UITF). 

Can I open a bank account in Philippines as a non-resident?

If you have been staying in Philippine soil for less than 180 days, you are classified as a non-resident alien. Yes, you can open a bank account, but only limited to a foreign currency deposit account, such as a dollar savings account. You cannot open a peso savings acount.

You also have the option to open a bank account before you arrive with an international bank with operations in the country and after some time transfer to a new account by one of the local banks.

Best banks in the Philippines

As a modern nation, the banking system of the Philippines is of international standards and the selection is a large mix of local and foreign financial institutions - from international banks, national & government banks to rural banking institutions. For expats, it is better to work with international banks, such as Citibank and HSBC, or one of the major Filipino banks as these will cover most of the nation and generally be easier to work with for newcomers. 

Can I open a bank account in Philippines as a non-resident?

Here are 4 of the largest banks in the country

  • Banco de Oro: With 1,400 branches and 4,400 ATMs all over the country, BDO is the biggest bank in the Philippines. As a full service bank with current, savings, investment and multi-currency accounts they are also convenient thanks to their branch & ATM networks which are extensive. Some accounts come with a lot of perks such as cashback from some retail establishments and discounts from others. Another advantage of being a BDO client if you are a regular traveller within Asia is that they have offices in Japan, China and Korea. Finally, they have phone based help desk and online banking as standard with all accounts.
  • Metrobank: Another large popular bank in the country with a large network of ATMs (over 2300 nationwide) and branches (over 950 nationwide) and a full product offer including personal and private banking, accounts for small businesses, investors and services such as savings accounts in foreign currency and remittances too. You have the possibility of getting debit cards, credit cards with travel insurance, and you can take cash out of ATMs and POS terminals by Cirrus and Maestro. You are also to open accounts from abroad and some accounts are interest-earning.
  • Landbank of the Philippines: With a large network of branches and ATMs, this government bank is a large and convenient option with a list of services and products that include checking and savings accounts, debit and credit cards, insurance and loans. Some Landbank cards come with perks such as cashback. One interesting feature of Landbank is that they have international remittance stores all over Asia and some in the Middle East and Europe.
  • Bank of the Philippine Islands: With locations all over the Philippines and quality online and phone banking, this is a popular bank with a lot of account options for individuals, entrepreneurs, small businesses and investors alike. BPI accounts come with cards, SMS notifications, cheques are cleared as cash, and accounts may earn interest.

It is not the easiest of processes to open a bank account in the Philippines, yet if you are prepared and with the documentation on hand it should be a doable task. Beware of branches willing to bend the rules to have you as a customer as it could point to a bigger problem in the banks system. Refraining from breaking the legal system as an expat is probably a good idea.

Fees are not to high, but the structure is different. There could be separate charges for keeping the account open, using cards and special charges for various ATM networks. Charges may also vary upon usage and how much you keep as minimum balance. We recommend reading the fine print and contract throughly.

Are deposits in the Philippines Insured?

Yes, deposits are insured. Similar to the FDIC of the United States, the Philippines' PDIC or Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation insures your deposit up to 500,000 Philippine pesos per depositor. This is significantly much less than FDIC's $25,000 per depositor, per insured bank, for each account ownership category standard insurance amount. 

The virtual bank account alternative

It costs a lot to send money abroad from the Philippines

Sending money abroad is always expensive if you use a bank because they are large institutions with large costs. It makes sense that they often charge 5-10% for a simple international remittance thanks to currency conversion fees. For example, if you send 10 thousand dollars worth of euros to India, you end up receiving only about 9000 euros worth of rupees in the bank. This is too expensive.

The virtual bank account with B2B Pay is a more economical alternative. You save 900 euros on the same 10 thousand euro transaction. Yes, we only charge you 1% flat fee. saving you a whopping +85% on average.


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