What You Need to Know About Currency Exchange in the Philippines

Traveling in the Philippines
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- By: Jason Garcia

A popular tourist destination, the Philippines boasts rich biodiversity, stunning scenery, pristine beaches, and rich cultural and historical heritage. In 2016, the country hosted 5.9 million international visitors. If you are one of the many tourists eyeing the Philippines as your next destination, you will want to include currency exchange in your travel planning. Here are helpful tips.

Run to airport currency exchange kiosks for your emergency needs

Airport currency exchange kiosks offer relatively poor rates, but they come in handy for emergency needs. They are especially useful for a traveler who has just arrived in the country, and has no local currencies for immediate needs. You will find several currency exchange facilities at the Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport. As the rates in these facilities are not very attractive, it is best that you convert only the minimal amount you need to cover immediate expenses like paying for your taxi ride or your first few meals.

Airport Currency Exchange
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Use ATMs to connect with your home bank

ATMs are one of the best options for currency exchange anywhere in the world, the Philippines included. You will generally get a good deal, as your withdrawals will be based on wholesale exchange rates. In larger cities like Metro Manila, you will be able to find international bank ATMs from top institutions like HSBC and Citibank. If you find one that is from your home bank, you get to save on ATM charges and foreign transaction fees. You may check with your bank for available options before taking your trip. If you do have to pay for the fees, make sure that you make a few larger transactions to spare yourself from paying too many charges.

Banks in the Philippines
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Go to banks and credit unions for more security

If you feel more secure doing in-person transactions, credit unions and banks are great options. They provide reliable and secure service at relatively good rates. Some good options are Philippine National Bank (PNB), Metrobank, Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), and Banco de Oro (BDO).

Most banks have a chart that display their current exchange rates. You will find them either on the street window or on the international teller's window inside the bank. Make sure you are looking at the bank’s buying rate, not the selling one. If you are looking at two columns of numbers, the lower amount is the “buy” value. You can refer to this value when comparing bank rates. Do factor in possible commission fees. This may come in the form of a flat fee, or it may be 2% to 10% of the total amount of cash you are exchanging.

Do take note that there may be times when a less attractive exchange rate that comes with a flat or lower commission fee can be a better deal that those with better rates but with higher commission fees hiding in the fine print. This would all depend on how much you are exchanging, and will require doing your math.

Philippine Peso
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Transact with a money changer for the best exchange rates

Money changers, also known as currency exchange dealers, are another great option. There are a myriad of these dealers, resulting to a fierce competition and more attractive exchange rates for clients. Exchange rates offered by money changers are definitely better than what you will find in banks and credit unions. Take note that better rates can also translate to higher risks. You face the possibility of getting ripped off. You can easily avoid this by choosing only established currency exchange dealers. You will never go wrong with choosing the trusted money changer brands in the Philippines. Some, like the Palawan Pawnshop, has grown to be a household name in the Philippines. You will find a Palawan Pawnshop branch in almost every city or town, if not corner, of the Philippines. Exchange rates may vary according to branch or location. Rates are usually cheaper in Metro Manila and other bigger cities.

Scams
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A few reminders on how you can keep your money secure

It is important to take note of some of the dangers you might have to deal with. One thing you must be wary of is the possibility of getting fleeced by people who are adept at counting cash so that it looks like you have the right amount, only to find out later that you are short by a few bills. These sleight-of-hand scams are commonly carried out by smaller, fly-by-night currency exchange dealers. Do not get lured by the attractive rates and run to the more trusted ones instead. Also, do get into the habit of counting your bills on the spot before walking away.

Be especially wary of those who walk up to you, offering to change your currency into Philippine peso. There are cases of unwitting tourists who follow strangers into some dark corner or alley, as they get baited by the lure of attractive exchange rates. Many end up getting robbed. Always keep in mind that the few extra pesos are never worth the risk.

Yet another scam worth noting is that of counterfeit bills. This is how it usually works: you hand your cash over to the money exchanger, who tells you something along the line of “Allow me to check the exchange rate with my boss.” This person then returns to tell you that his boss did not approve the rate. He returns your money, only to find out later that they have now been replaced with counterfeit money. Victims usually only find out once they have tried doing an exchange somewhere else. The lesson here is to always hold on to your cash until the actual exchange is conducted. Do not let anyone disappear with your money. Or better yet, always deal with trusted institutions.

No matter where you choose to have your money exchanged, always ask how much local cash you will be receiving in exchange for your currency before handing over any of your money. Once you have received your cash, make sure to count it before leaving the vicinity.

About Jason Garcia:
Jason Garcia is a blogger and Business Manager
www.InvestmentDad.com
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