Finder is committed to editorial independence. While we receive compensation when you click links to partners, they do not influence our content.
Using a credit card in the Philippines
Be on the lookout for merchants that charge hidden fees of up to 10% if you pay with plastic.
The Philippines is a safe country when it comes to using your credit card. While you can easily use Visa and Mastercard, you may find it more difficult to locate merchants that accept American Express cards – especially outside of big cities like Manila.
If you decide to travel around any of the 7,000 islands of the Philippines, you will need cash for everyday expenses. To get cash, you can either exchange Canadian dollars for the local peso once you arrive (or order some from your bank before you leave Canada), or you can use an ATM to withdraw cash. Just keep in mind that using an ATM usually comes with fees.
Compare credit cards for use in the Philippines
What credit cards can I use in the Philippines?
Despite Visa and Mastercard being the most popular card networks in the Philippines, you shouldn’t find it hard to pay with your American Express when you’re in big cities.
Although you shouldn’t use your credit card to withdraw cash from an ATM, emergency situations may arise. If you need cash and you have an Amex card, look for Banco De Oro (BDO) Unibank ATMs.
Potential credit card fees in the Philippines
You should always keep an eye on credit card fees, especially when travelling overseas.
- Foreign transaction fees. Most credit cards issued in Canada come with foreign transaction fees of 2.5%. You’ll need to pay this fee every time you use your credit card outside of Canada. Fortunately, there are a few credit cards that charge no foreign transaction fees in Canada.
- Currency conversion fees. If someone gives you the choice of paying in Canadian dollars or Philippine pesos with your credit card, always choose the local currency. Paying in Canadian dollars with your card will subject you to a dynamic currency conversion (DCC) that can lead to poor exchange rates and currency conversion fees. Pay in the local currency and let your bank do the conversion.
- Cash advance fees. If you use your credit card to withdraw money from an ATM, you’ll face a cash advance fee as well as the cash advance interest rate, which is usually charged from the day you withdraw the funds. To avoid the high APR, use your debit card to withdraw funds from an ATM.
- ATM fees. Even using your debit card to withdraw funds from an ATM will likely have you facing an ATM fee. To avoid this fee, you can use a debit card issued by a bank that belongs to an international ATM alliance, such as the Global ATM Alliance that Scotiabank is a member of.
- Hidden fees. Some merchants add up to 10% commission when you pay with a credit card. Before you pay with credit, ask if there are any additional charges. Roughly calculate the exchange rate so you’ll have an idea of how much the charge will be once you check your credit card statement.
Can I avoid all of these fees?
Yes, here’s how:
- Apply for a no foreign transaction fee credit card to avoid this fee.
- Avoid conversion fees by always paying in the local currency.
- Avoid the high cash advance APR by using your debit card – instead of your credit card – to withdraw cash from an ATM.
- To skirt around ATM fees, you’ll need to use a debit card from a bank that belongs to an international ATM alliance – plus you’ll need to stick to ATMs that belong to that network.
- Avoiding hidden fees can be more challenging. Before you pay with a credit card, ask the merchant if you will be charged any commission fees or surcharges. If they add a fee, use another payment method or head to a different merchant.
ATMs in the Philippines
If you travel on less populated islands or outside of the large cities, you’ll need cash to pay for food, transportation, activities and some accommodations. ATMs are relatively easy to find and are usually located within banks, convenience stores, shopping malls and transportation hubs, as well as on busy streets.
Should I use my credit card to get cash?
No, avoid using your credit card to get cash from an ATM at all costs. You’ll end up paying a cash advance fee as well as interest, which will start adding up from the day of the transaction. If you need to withdraw cash from an ATM, use your debit card.
Do taxis in the Philippines accept credit cards?
Unfortunately, no. If you want to pay with your credit card, download the Grab rideshare app and instantly request a ride.
Note that you can’t get an Uber in the Philippines anymore.
Is it safe to use my credit card in the Philippines?
In general, it’s safe to use your credit card in the Philippines. However, for increased security, always:
- Protect your PIN. When entering your PIN, use the other hand to hide it from hidden cameras and onlookers.
- Select ATMs carefully. Use ATMs found in banks, shopping centres, convenience stores and otherwise busy areas. Avoid ones in isolated areas or unsafe districts.
- Keep an eye out for skimmers. If you feel that the card slot is not as smooth as it should be or if you think there’s a problem with the keypad, cancel your transaction and use a different ATM. Someone might have installed a card skimmer on the machine.
- Keep your card physically safe. Instances of pickpocketing and theft are common in the Philippines. Take extra care when venturing out after dark and always keep a close eye on your wallet or purse at all times.
How to prepare before travelling to the Philippines
Credit card usage in the Philippines is generally safe, but as always, use caution.
- Carry at least two credit cards. Ideally, take at least two credit cards with you, with at least one being a Visa or Mastercard. That way, you can avoid being left without money if your primary credit card is lost or stolen or if a merchant doesn’t accept Amex.
- Think about foreign transaction fees. Paying foreign transaction fees does not make sense when you can find cards that come with no foreign transaction fees. For each transaction, you’ll save yourself 2.5%.
- Inform your bank. Banks monitor accounts to minimize fraudulent transactions. If your bank sees an unexpected purchase made in the Philippines, it will have a good reason to temporarily block your card. Let your bank know of your travel plans in advance.
- Carry emergency numbers. If your card ends up lost or stolen, you should know which number to call. Write down your credit card providers phone number and carry it on you at all times.
- Know how you’ll get cash. You should carry at least some cash on you at all times. Use your debit card to withdraw cash in order to avoid the cash advance interest rate that comes with using a credit card. You can also exchange Canadian dollars for Philippine pesos or make use of travellers’ cheques.
You can avoid unexpected problems by asking yourself these simple questions before you leave for the Philippines:
- Which cards should I take? Carry at least one Mastercard or Visa card and have at least two credit cards with you.
- Did I inform my bank? Unless you want to deal with the possibility of a blocked card, inform your bank before you head overseas.
- Will I pay extra fees? Check if your current credit card charges foreign transaction fees. If it does, consider applying for a card that charges no foreign transaction fees.
- Where will I get money from? Use your debit card to withdraw cash from an ATM – avoid using your credit card unless it’s an emergency. You can also consider converting Canadian dollars to Philippine pesos or cash in travellers’ cheques.
Using a credit card in …
Frequently asked questions
More guides on Finder
RBC Cathay Pacific Visa Platinum card review
Earn Asia Miles for every purchase you make and get 40,000 bonus miles when you sign up.
Float card review
Earn cashback, pay no FX fees and track your receipts and spending all in one place with the innovative Float business card.
Jeeves credit card review
Earn up to 4% cashback, pay no foreign transaction fees and get online rebates with this multi-currency business card.
HSBC Travel Rewards Mastercard Review
Get a decent array of travel insurance and earn accelerated rewards for travel purchases with this fee-free credit card.
HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard review
Get a generous welcome bonus and earn accelerated cashback when you shop online with this fee-free credit card.
Walmart Rewards World Mastercard Review
Earn Walmart Rewards Dollars and get a decent welcome bonus when you sign up for this fee-free card.
Neo Card with Credit Builder review
Start rebuilding your credit score and earn cashback when you spend with this secured credit card.
Neo Secured Card review
Rebuild your credit and earn cashback with this fee-free secured credit card. Start by making a cash deposit to secure your balance.
BMO AIR MILES World Elite Business Mastercard review
Sign up for this premium business card to earn AIR MILES and get access to travel insurance and virtual health care.
BMO World Elite Business Mastercard Review
Earn BMO points on every purchase and take advantage of travel perks and virtual healthcare with this innovative business card.
Ask an Expert
You must be logged in to post a comment.