The Philippines has a comprehensive banking system encompassing large international banks, national banking institutions and small rural banks. Expats therefore have a variety of options when it comes to managing their finances in the Philippines.

Money in the Philippines

The official currency in the Philippines is the Philippine Peso (PHP). One peso is equal to 100 centavos. 

  • Notes: 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 PHP 

  • Coins: 10, 5 and 1 PHP, and 25, 10, 5 and 1 sentimo. 

Various banks, hotels and authorised foreign exchange dealers provide peso exchange for most foreign currencies.

Banking in the Philippines

There are many banks in the Philippines for expats to choose from. Major local banks include Philippine National Bank, Metrobank and Bank of the Philippine Islands. International banks such as Citibank, Bank of America, Standard Chartered Bank and HSBC also have branches in the Philippines. Many expats living in the Philippines choose to bank with an international bank, which makes it easier for foreign money transfers back home.

Internet banking facilities are available through most major banks. Banking hours in the Philippines are usually from 9am to 3pm, Monday to Friday. Banks are closed on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.

Expats should be wary of banking with small rural banks. These banks cater for the rural communities of farmers and local merchants, offer limited services and are subject to closure at short notice; the security of an expat's money is therefore not guaranteed if banking with one of these organisations.

Opening a bank account

To open a local bank account in the Philippines, expats must personally visit the bank of their choice to verify their details. Expats need to present two valid forms of ID, one of which should be their passport. They are also required to immediately deposit funds into the account.

Expats wishing to open an account will also need to provide bank references from their country of permanent residence or country of citizenship. The Philippine bank will then either write to these bank references to inquire about the status and handling of the foreigner’s account, or require the foreigner to submit written certification from their own bank abroad. The branch officer will then confirm any certification submitted by the foreigner.

For walk-in foreigners (those who are not introduced by existing clients or employees of the bank), the account will not be opened until confirmation of bank reference has been done. Expats who were referred either by a bank employee or client can immediately open their account, but the checking of the bank reference will still be done.

ATMs and credit cards

ATMs are widely available in cities and larger towns in the Philippines. ATMs are mostly located behind security doors in shopping centres and at bank branches. 

Credit cards are accepted at major hotels, resorts, shops and restaurants across the Philippines, although cash is preferred in more remote destinations. Credit card fraud in the Philippines is an ongoing problem and expats should use credit and debit cards with caution, such as only using it in reputable establishments and never letting the card out of sight during transactions.

Taxes in the Philippines

An individual’s tax liability in the Philippines is determined by their classification as a tax payer. Categories include:

Resident citizen

Non-resident citizen

Resident alien

Non-residents alien engaged in trade or business

Non-resident alien not engaged in trade or business

Resident citizens are taxed on all income derived from worldwide sources, whereas the other categories are taxed only on their local income.

Income is taxed progressively from 5 to 32 percent for resident citizens, non-resident citizens, resident aliens and non-resident aliens engaged in trade or business. Non-resident aliens not engaged in trade or business are subject to tax at 25 percent of their gross income.

The tax year in the Philippines runs from 1 January to 31 December, and tax returns are usually due by 15 April of the following year. 

Expats should research whether the Philippines has a taxation treaty with their home country in order to avoid double taxation.

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