Using a credit card in the Philippines
Be on the lookout for merchants that charge hidden fees of up to 10% for paying with plastic.
The Philippines is a safe country when it comes to credit card payments. You can easily use the most popular cards, Mastercard and Visa, but in large cities you shouldn’t find it hard to pay with American Express either.
If you decide to travel around any of the 7,000 islands of the Philippines, you may need cash for everyday expenses. For that, you can either exchange your sterling for local currency or you can use an ATM to withdraw cash. Just keep in mind that using an ATM usually involves fees.
Compare cards offering fee-free transactions in the Philippines
Potential credit card fees in the Philippines
When you use your credit card in the Philippines, you may incur fees, such as:
Here’s a section of a fairly typical T&Cs document showing the charges applicable when spending abroad:
Can I avoid paying these fees?
Yes. You can take out a card with no foreign transaction fees, decline DCC if offered (that’s when a merchant offers to take payment in sterling and convert it on your behalf) and always ask the merchant if there are any hidden fees before you pay.
Is American Express accepted in the Philippines?Despite Mastercard and Visa being the most popular cards in the Philippines, you shouldn’t find it hard to pay with your American Express card either.
If you need cash and you have an Amex card, look for Banco De Oro (BDO) Unibank ATMs.
Should I use my credit card to get cash 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 and accommodation. You could get cash from an ATM using your credit card, but this usually comes with cash advance fees (typically 2%-3% of the transaction for many cards) and the cash machine provider may charge you. You’ll also usually start to accrue interest as soon as you make the withdrawal.
Do taxis in the Philippines accept credit cards?
Unfortunately, no. But if you want to pay with your credit card, download the Grab ride-share app and instantly request a lift.
Note that you can’t get an Uber in the Philippines anymore.
Chip-and-PIN credit cards
All ATMs and POS terminals in the Philippines accept chip-and-PIN cards.
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 try to:
- Use a cash machine within a bank. If the cash machine withholds your card for some reason, you’ll be able to quickly request help. Cash machines that are within banks are also less likely to have card-skimming devices attached to them by crooks.
- Take two cards. You could lose your primary card, or it may fail to work. In that case, a backup card could come in handy.
- Keep your card in sight. To avoid being a victim of card cloning, always keep your eyes on your card when you make payments.
How to prepare before travelling to the Philippines
- Get a credit card without foreign transaction fees. Most travel cards don’t have foreign transaction fees. If you don’t travel often, get a travel card without an annual fee and use it only when you’re abroad.
- Opt for a Mastercard or Visa card. They’re more universally accepted in the Philippines, though you shouldn’t have a problem using an American Express card either.
- Get a backup card. Take your primary card with you and keep your backup card in your hotel room deposit box or safe in case something happens to your primary card.
- Get some cash. If you travel outside of the large cities or around less populated islands, you’ll need to have some cash on you for everyday expenses.
- Inform your bank that you’re travelling to the Philippines. If you don’t, your bank may consider charges made abroad to be fraudulent. This could cause it to put a block on your card and land you in an unpleasant situation. It’s usually helpful to tell your bank the dates that you’ll be gone as well.
- Get your bank’s phone number. For any card-related issues you may have in the Philippines, you’ll know who to call.
The Philippines is a card-friendly country, especially in large cities and heavily populated islands. Just be careful of foreign transaction fees, dynamic currency conversion and hidden fees that some merchants impose on card payments. If you travel outside of large cities or around less populated islands, you may find it harder to use your card.
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