How to open a bank account in the Philippines: A Full Guide 2024
If you travel often to the Philippines – or if you’re planning to head there for an extended stay, or even as a permanent relocation, you’ll probably be wondering about how to open a bank account to hold, spend, receive and exchange PHP payments.
While major local banks have a great range of account products, opening a bank account in the Philippines probably means visiting in person – or at least providing a Philippine proof of address for verification purposes. That means it’s tricky to get started before you arrive. If you need to open a PHP account before you travel, you might be better off with an online PHP account from a specialist service like Wise or Revolut. We’ll take a look at how to get started with a bank in the Philippines, and with alternative account providers, in just a moment.
What documents do I need?
To open a bank account in the Philippines you’ll usually need to provide:
- A photo ID document – for foreigners, this is usually a passport
- Your local address in the Philippines – proof of address may be required
In some cases, 2 separate pieces of identification are required. Check with your bank what’s acceptable – usually there’s a very long list of possible documents, but many of these won’t be available to foreigners.
Save the paperwork with alternative solutions like Wise or Revolut
Banks in the Philippines usually need a proof of local address there, such as a utility bill, or a bank statement from another local bank. If you’re new in the country – or if you’ve not moved there yet – finding this paperwork can be a headache.
Instead, if you want to open an account in the Philippines in advance to make spending in pesos easier on arrival, you may be better off with an online and digital provider like Wise or Revolut. You can create a Wise or Revolut account online or in an app, before you head to the Philippines, using your New Zealand ID and address.
Both providers have accounts which offer international debit cards and multi-currency accounts which you can use to hold and exchange PHP alongside a selection of other currencies including NZD. We’ll look at these options in more detail a little later.
How to open a bank account in the Philippines as a foreigner
The actual process for opening an account does vary between providers, so you’ll want to check with a few to see which offers the best service for your needs. Bear in mind that as a foreigner you may need to provide some additional documents – such as a valid visa – so asking what’s expected in advance is a good plan.
Some banks in the Philippines offer online account opening you can manage through a video call. That still means you’ll have to have a local proof of address, and you’ll need to make an appointment to talk to a staff member online – but it can be a whole lot more convenient than having to physically head out to a branch.
Whether you’re able to open your account online or need to visit a branch in person, the steps are similar:
- Choose the perfect account for your needs
- Get all your documentation ready
- Apply online, by video call, or in person
- Submit your documents online or in a branch
- Once your account is verified you’ll be able to start transacting
If you’re opening an account in a branch you might be able to get your debit card and all the account details on the same day. Online opening processes may mean you have to wait a few days for your card to be mailed to you.
What do I need to know before opening a bank account in the Philippines?
Major banks in the Philippines have pretty good websites which have most of the information you might need for your account opening. However, it’s worth double checking with your preferred bank if anything extra is needed to open your account as a foreigner. Bear in mind you’ll also usually need to deposit a fixed amount in the account to complete the opening process. If you open your account by video call, that’ll mean you need to make a digital or physical payment, in a branch or through an ATM, to get full access to your account.
Can I open a bank account in the Philippines only with my passport?
Exactly what’s needed to open your account in the Philippines will depend on the bank and the account type. Usually proof of address is required, as well as a photo ID like a passport. If you’re opening a non-resident account you may be able to proceed without a local address – but even in this case, you can expect to need proof of your New Zealand address to get started.
Which account is best in the Philippines for foreigners?
Let’s compare a few account options, looking at both large banks, and online providers with multi-currency options. There’s more detail on each of these options coming up later.
|Available to customers in many different regions
|Legal residents of countries including New Zealand, the EEA, Australia, the UK and US
|Legal residents of the Philippines
|Legal residents of the Philippines
|PHP and NZD account options
|No – accounts are usually offered in PHP and USD only
|No – while some foreign currency accounts are offered, NZD is not supported
|Open before you arrive in the Philippines
|Philippine address is required
|Fall below fee
|1,000 PHP for peso accounts
|300 PHP for PHP checking account
|Varies by account tier – Standard accounts have no monthly fee
|Online international money transfers
|Low, transparent fees and the mid-market exchange rate
|Costs vary by destination, value and account type
|For payments to new Zealand: 5 USD + 15 USD cable charge + 20 USD for correspondent charges if you choose to cover this rather than have the beneficiary pay for it
|10 USD + 20 USD cable charge if you choose to cover this rather than have the beneficiary pay for it
*UnionBank account referenced above is the regular checking account. BDO account profiled is the peso checking account – alternative account options are also available
Wise multi-currency accounts can hold and exchange 40+ currencies including PHP and NZD, and come with a linked debitcard for easy spending. Wise currency exchange uses the mid-market exchange rate and low, transparent fees from 0.43% whenever you switch currencies in your account, or spend with your linked Wise international debit card.
Looking for more from your PHP-NZD account? With Wise you’ll also be able to send payments to 160+ countries, and get local bank details for up to 9 foreign currencies to get paid conveniently by others.
How to open an account with Wise
Open your account with Wise online or in the Wise app, by adding your personal and contact information and uploading your ID and address documents. The process shouldn’t take long, and there’s no minimum balance required to set up your account.
Recently launched in New Zealand, customers can now open a Revolut account which you can use to hold and handle aselection of currencies including NZD and PHP, and spend with a linked card.
Revolut intends to offer several different account tiers in New Zealand, which are likely to come with options to budget, invest, save and exchange. Initially, the Revolut offering is limited to Standard plans only, which have no ongoing fees – but it’s worth keeping an eye out for more services and accounts coming soon.
How to open an account with Revolut
To open an account with Revolut you’ll need to download the Revolut app, register using your personal and contact information, and upload images of the required ID. You’re guided through the process using onscreen prompts.
UnionBank offers a broad range of PHP accounts but does not usually support NZD account balances. You’ll need to be legally resident in the Philippines to apply, but once your account is up and running it can be used easily online and in the UnionBank app.
There are a few fees you’ll need to know about when operating this account, which may not be the same as the charges you’re used to. Read through the terms and conditions carefully before you sign up.
How to open an account with UnionBank
You can only open an account with UnionBank in a branch. You’ll need to double check in advance which documents you need in your own personal situation, then schedule a meeting in your local branch.
BDO Unibank has a range of checking and savings accounts. While they do offer some foreign currency account solutions, NZD is not offered as a standard option. Some accounts can be opened online through a video call with the bank’s services staff as long as you have a local address- and you may even be able to schedule a meeting online with a staff member who speaks a range of languages if you need translation support.
You’ll be able to sign up for online and digital account management tools, plus a linked debit card to make it easier to spend and make withdrawals from your account.
How to open an account with BDO Unibank
If you have the right ID documents to hand you can open an account with BDO Unibank digitally. You’ll need your valid ID, your selfie and a photo of your signature, plus all the completed application forms. You’ll then schedule a video call with a member of BDO staff to show your paperwork and set up your account. Once your account is open, you must add your minimum deposit amount to be able to use it.
What is a bank account in the Philippines needed for?
If you’re moving to the Philippines, or if you’re a frequent visitor, a bank account in PHP can be handy for:
- Receiving payments from others in pesos
- Avoiding the need to exchange between NZD and PHP too frequently
- Spending conveniently with a local bank card in the Philippines
- Accessing other financial services in the Philippines like credit cards or loans
Benefits of opening a bank account in the Philippines
Once you have a bank account which can be used to hold and handle PHP, you can send, spend and receive pesos without needing to exchange from or back to NZD every time. That can bring down the costs of transacting overall, and means you don’t need to worry so much about exchange rate changes and fluctuations.
Can I open a bank account in the Philippines before arrival?
To open an account with a bank in the Philippines you’ll normally need a local address. That makes it tricky to get your account set up in advance of arrival.
Instead, you may be better off looking at multi-currency accounts from popular providers like Wise and Revolut, which you can open from New Zealand and use at home and abroad in a range of currencies.
Can I open a bank account online?
Some banks in the Philippines do offer an online account opening process, but you’ll still need to be a local resident already, and then schedule a video call with a member of staff. Bear in mind also, it may be trickier to arrange online opening as a foreigner without documents issued in the Philippines.
As an alternative you could consider an account from a non-bank provider like Wise or Revolut, which have accounts you can open entirely online, which can hold and exchange PHP, NZD and a selection of other currencies, too.
How long does it take to open a bank account in the Philippines?
How long it takes to open a bank account in the Philippines will depend on the specific bank and account, and whether you have all the required and expected documents when you apply. Ask the bank you’re hoping to use what their timescales for application, onboarding and verification are, so there are no surprises.
What are the types of bank accounts in the Philippines?
Major banks in the Philippines have a good selection of account products including everyday and saving accounts, time deposits, and some foreign currency services – although these are often limited to accounts which allow you to hold USD.
How to choose a bank account in the Philippines
Banks in the Philippines have varying service options and eligibility requirements, so you’ll need to shop around a little to decide which might suit you. Look carefully at the account products offered and whether or not they’re suitable for your specific situation. It’s also worth considering if the bank you prefer has good in person, online and phone customer service which you can access easily if you need help.
How much does it cost to open a bank account in the Philippines?
Different banking systems have their own sets of fees, so your account in the Philippines may have some which are a bit different to the charges you’re used to at home.
Normally there’s no fee for opening your account, but it is common to need a minimum opening balance, plus an ongoing minimum balance which you have to retain in the account to avoid fees.
It’s worth investing the time to read the account fee schedule carefully before you get started, to make sure you don’t run into any unexpected charges when you transact.
Is it possible to open a fee-free account in the Philippines?
Most standard everyday accounts require you to deposit a fixed amount initially, and may also have a fall below fee if you don’t maintain a certain amount in your balance on an ongoing basis. On top of that, you may run into transaction fees which depend on how you use your account. If you’re looking for a flexible account which has no minimum balance or fall below fee, and which has transparent pricing for services, compare the bank options you’re considering against Wise and Revolut, as non-bank services with clear and simple pricing and low costs.
What are the additional costs?
Opening your account with a bank in the Philippines may be free, but you could come across a range of other costs including:
- Account dormancy fees – applied if you don’t transact regularly
- Statement fees – if you need paper statements
- Checking fees – for ordering or banking checks
- Withdrawal fees for ATM use – at home and abroad
- International payment fees – which can include correspondent and cable fees
- Charges for receiving funds into the account – particularly for international payments
Tips for transferring money
Living overseas comes with some extra costs, including high fees for sending international payments. However, sending money overseas is usually a fact of life for an expat, so it’s important to be aware of some of the ways your fees may mount up when you use a bank:
- International payment fees can be higher when sending a payment by phone or in a branch
- Expect charges for both sending and receiving payments
- Bank exchange rates usually include a markup which is an extra fee hidden in the rate applied
- Third party costs may be deducted from the payment as it is processed, unless you opt to cover all additional charges when you initiate the transfer
A bank account in the Philippines will let you transact in pesos easily and with low fees. However, opening a bank account in the Philippines is likely to be tricky, or even impossible, if you don’t already have a local address there. If you want to get your PHP account up and running before you leave New Zealand, consider getting an account with an online specialist instead, to hold and exchange NZD and PHP side by side.
Check out providers like Revolut and Wise for multi-currency account options you can open online or in-app, using your New Zealand proof of address, to get flexible account services and a linked international debit card.
FAQ – how to open a bank account in the Philippines
- Can a non-resident foreigner open an account in the Philippines?
Banks in the Philippines don’t usually promote non-resident accounts. If you need a non-resident account from a bank, you’ll need to contact a few and see if they have any specialist products which may be able to help you. If not, why not open a Wise or Revolut account instead. These are non-bank options, but which can be opened from New Zealand and around the world, and used to hold and exchange PHP easily.
- How much do I need to open a bank account in the Philippines?
Many banks ask for a minimum opening deposit amount, with an ongoing minimum balance amount to avoid fall below fees. Check the details before you get started, to make sure you don’t run into surprise fees.
- Can I open a bank account in the Philippines online?
Some banks do offer online and video account opening options – but you’ll still need a local address in the Philippines which means this is not usually an option for non-residents.
- How to apply for a bank account online in the Philippines?
If you’ve got a local address and a full suite of verification documents you may be able to apply for your bank account in the Philippines online through a video call appointment. If you’d prefer an easier option, consider an online provider like Wise for a flexible account you can use to transact in PHP as well as NZD.
- Can I open a bank account in the Philippines before landing?
To get access to a PHP balance before you even arrive in the Philippines, check out an online provider like Wise which has PHP among 40+ currencies supported in its low cost multi-currency account.
- Can a foreigner open an account in the Philippines?
Yes. If you have a local address in the Philippines you’ll find it easy to open a bank account. If you don’t have a local proof of address you may decide to use an online multi-currency account instead.