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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 or Discover cards 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 US dollars for local currency once you arrive, or you can use an ATM to withdraw cash. Just keep in mind that using an ATM comes with fees.
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With a decent travel card, you can avoid paying unnecessary fees and save money in the long run. If you don’t have a travel card, consider getting one so you can avoid foreign transaction fees.
Potential credit card fees in the Philippines
When you use your credit card in the Philippines, you may incur fees, such as:
- Foreign transaction fees. A fee of 3% per transaction may apply depending on your credit card. That’s up to $90 in fees for $3,000 spent with your card. It may not seem like much compared to the amount spent, but that’s the annual fee for some credit cards.
- Currency conversion fees. Sometimes, a merchant will offer to accept payment in US dollars instead of the local currency. This is known as a dynamic currency conversion (DCC) and often comes with higher fees than if you paid in local currency.
- Hidden fees. Some merchants add up to 10% commission when you pay with a card.
Can I avoid paying these fees?
Yes. You can get a travel card without foreign transaction fees, decline DCC if offered and always ask the merchant if there are any hidden fees before you pay.
Which credit card issuers are 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 or Discover cards either.
If you need cash and you have an Amex card, look for Banco De Oro (BDO) Unibank ATMs. For a Discover card, go for the same BDO bank, or look for Citibank or SB Card ATMs.
US Dollar to Philippine Peso Exchange Rate
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 accommodations. You could get cash from an ATM, but this usually comes with cash advance fees — up to 5% of the transaction for many cards. You’ll also likely incur a cash advance APR as soon as you make the withdrawal, and you could pay ATM fees of up to $4.
One way to avoid paying the cash advance fee and the APR is to get a debit card. Debit cards usually come without these fees.
Do taxis in the Philippines accept credit cards?
Unfortunately, no. But if you want to pay with your credit card, download the Grab rideshare 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 an ATM within a bank. If the ATM holds your card for some reason, you’ll be able to quickly request help. ATMs that are within banks are also less likely to have card-skimming devices attached to them by hackers.
- Take two credit 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 traveling 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 or Discover 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. Debit cards are a great choice for cash withdrawal, as they usually don’t have a cash advance fee or cash advance APR.
- Inform your bank that you’re traveling 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.
Top travel card to consider if you frequently travel to the Philippines
If you travel to the Philippines often, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® could greatly lower your costs. You’ll save money on your first checked bag, pay no foreign transaction fees and earn miles on your purchases. Those miles can then be redeemed for flights to the Philippines.
American Airlines is part of the One World alliance. The alliance includes airlines such as Qatar and Cathay Pacific, both of which often fly between the US and the Philippines. With this card, you can earn and redeem AAdvantage miles on these two airlines.
The Philippines is a card-friendly country, especially in large cities and heavily populated islands. To avoid foreign transaction fees, consider applying for a travel credit card.
If you travel outside of large cities or around less populated islands, you may find it hard to use your card. You’ll need to get cash for your everyday needs. Most debit cards have no cash advance fees or cash advance APRs, which makes them ideal for cash withdrawals.
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