Best Ways to Take Money to the Philippines in 2023
The Philippines has plenty of tourist attractions, and as one of the largest economies in Southeast Asia, it’s also a popular place for Australians heading abroad to work or study.
No matter whether you’re heading to the Philippines for work, leisure, or a mix of the two, you’ll still need to pay for things while you’re there. This guide covers 4 popular ways to take money to the Philippines, so you can pick the one that suits you best.
Best ways to take money to the Philippines
In this guide we’ll walk through 4 of the most practical and popular ways to take money to the Philippines, including our top picks for providers to look at, pros and cons. Here are the common ways to pay overseas that we’ll investigate:
Prepaid travel cards to use in the Philippines
Ideal for: secure spending and cash withdrawals in PHP, with the option to lock in exchange rates in advance
You can get a prepaid travel money card online or in person, to add money in AUD and switch to PHP to lock in the exchange rate and set your travel budget. Some cards also let you leave your money in dollars for automatic conversions whenever you buy something or make a withdrawal.
Depending on the card you pick, you’ll usually find you can also convert and hold a selection of other currencies - the Wise card, which we’ll look at in more detail in a moment, lets you hold, send, spend and exchange over 40 currencies conveniently with just your phone.
Prepaid travel cards are popular for convenience, and for low cost foreign currency spending - but they’re also a smart move from a security perspective, as your card isn’t linked to your everyday bank account. If you’re concerned about security or if your card is misplaced, you can just freeze it, without impacting your normal bank account or card.
Learn more about our picks for the 6 best prepaid cards - there’s more on our top choice, Wise, next.
Wise - our pick for prepaid travel card
With this card:
- Hold and exchange 40+ currencies in your linked Wise account
- No annual or monthly fees to pay, and no minimum balance requirement
- Currency exchange uses the mid-market rate with no markup
- Some free ATM withdrawals available every month
- Virtual and physical cards available
|Wise card pros||Wise card cons|
|✅ Currency exchange uses the mid-market rate
✅ No foreign transaction fees apply
✅ Free to hold and spend 40+ currencies
✅ Receive payments to your Wise account in a selection of global currencies
✅ No minimum balance or ongoing fees
|❌ 10 AUD fee to get a card in the first place
❌ Free ATM withdrawals are limits to 2 per month, to the value of 350 AUD. Fees of 2% + 1.5 AUD after that
❌ Express delivery fees if you want to get your card as soon as possible
Pros and cons of taking money to the Philippines with a prepaid travel card
- Some cards support holding PHP, which means you can convert from AUD in advance and lock in the exchange rate
- Safe to use, as your prepaid card isn’t linked to your main everyday account
- Cards are available with no minimum balance or ongoing fees to pay
- Currency exchange may have better rates than a bank will offer
- You’ll be able to re-use your card for your next trip - often dozens of currencies are supported
- Not all cards support PHP for advance exchange
- Exchange rates may include a markup on the mid-market rate
- ATM fees may apply, depending on the card you pick
- Some cards have inactivity fees which apply if you don’t use them regularly, or cash out fees if you close your account
Travel debit cards to use in the Philippines
Ideal for: spending and making cash withdrawals, with no need to worry about running up a surprise bill
You can use a travel debit card much like any other debit card you might have, but you’ll usually find you get some extra benefits such as complimentary insurance or airport lounge access, plus low or no foreign transaction fees. As with prepaid travel cards, if you get your travel debit card from a specialist service rather than your bank, your card isn’t linked to your everyday account, which is good for security.
Usually travel debit cards come with a digital multi-currency account you can use to add money in AUD and switch to the currency you need. You’ll be able to review your account, add more money or convert funds with just your phone via the provider’s app, which makes it a convenient option when travelling.
We’ll go into more detail about our top pick for a travel debit card - Revolut - next, and you can also read more about the best travel debit cards in Australia here.
Revolut - our pick for travel debit card
With this card:
- Hold and exchange 25+ currencies
- Choose the account plan that suits your needs and spending, including some with no monthly fees
- Some no- fee ATM withdrawals and currency exchange with the mid-market rate, based on the account tier you choose
- Extra perks like accounts for under 18s, plus cash back on card spending for top tier account holders
- Travel benefits offered for some account plans
|Revolut card pros||Revolut card cons|
|✅ Hold and exchange 25+ currencies
✅ Choose from different account tiers to suit different customer needs
✅ Get some no fee ATM withdrawals every month, depending on the plan you pick
✅ Get some currency exchange every month which uses the mid-market rate - limits vary by account plan
✅ No card order fee
|❌ Ongoing fees apply for some account tiers
❌ Out of hours fees push up currency exchange costs on the weekend
❌ ATM fees of 2% apply once you exhaust your no fee withdrawals
Pros and cons of taking money to the Philippines with a travel debit card
- No credit checks and no interest charges to worry about
- Cards are designed for travel use and often have extra travel perks and low cost, or free, currency conversion
- ATM withdrawals are cheaper compared to a credit card as there’s no interest or cash advance fee
- Many cards from specialist services are linked to multi-currency accounts you can use on future trips too
- Secure as your card is not connected to your main AUD account, and can be frozen from the provider app
- Some transaction fees usually apply
- You may pay a fee when converting from one currency to another, which may be split out transparently, but which is often just rolled up in the exchange rate you get
- Some cards have monthly fees to pay to get full feature access
Taking cash in the Philippines
Ideal for: day to day spending - cash is still king in the Philippines
A recent survey found that 94% of consumers in the Philippines prefer to make payments in cash. You’ll need to be prepared to use cash a fair bit while you visit, even if your normal preference is to pay by card. Larger tourist venues and hotels may accept card or mobile wallet payments, but smaller merchants are unlikely to take anything other than cash.
All in all, carrying some cash in pesos is essential when you’re in the Philippines. You’ll be able to convert some money before you travel if you’d like, or carry AUD for converting on arrival. It’s also possible to make ATM withdrawals, which can be a convenient and safe option - particularly if you have a travel card which has no ATM fee to pay.
For most travellers, having several different ways to pay and access cash is reassuring, and means you’re unlikely to be caught out if a merchant can’t take one or other of your preferred payment methods.
Do I need cash in the Philippines?
Yes. Carrying some cash in PHP is essential. In many situations, cash will be the only accepted payment method, particularly once you get away from major cities and very touristy areas.
How to buy Philippine pesos on arrival in the Philippines?
If you’re carrying clean and undamaged Australian dollars in cash you can exchange them to PHP on arrival at currency exchange stores in cities and popular tourist areas. Generally steering clear of exchange services at the airport or your hotel is a good idea. Where there’s a captive market the exchange rates are often not great, so looking for an exchange service where there’s more competition will usually get you the best overall deal.
How to buy Philippine pesos in Australia?
If you’d prefer to be organised in advance you can also choose to exchange AUD to Philippine pesos in cash in Australia before you travel. Options like Travelex often let you order PHP online and collect your cash later in a branch. Fees and exchange rate markups may apply.
Best place to get Philippine pesos from
There’s no single best place to get your travel cash. For many travellers, carrying some PHP and AUD in cash, and making some cash withdrawals as and when needed offers both security and convenience.
Pros and cons of taking cash to the Philippines
- Major providers like Travelex sell PHP you can get delivered to your home
- In many situations, cash will be the only accepted payment method
- Convert in advance so you know exactly what you have to spend
- Use travel debit cards to make cash withdrawals when you can, which often offer better rates than buying cash
- Carrying a lot of cash isn't particularly safe
- You’ll struggle to find exchange services in many more remote locations
- Exchange rates vary widely and usually include a markup - an extra fee
Travel credit cards to use in the Philippines
Ideal for: convenient spending where cards are accepted, often with options to earn rewards, miles or cash back
Travel credit cards often come with extra benefits aimed at tourists, like low or no foreign transaction fees or extra reward points, cashback or miles when you spend in foreign currencies. If you prefer to spend on a credit card, getting one which has specific travel features can be a good plan - but bear in mind that there will also be costs, including annual fees in many cases, interest and cash advance charges.
Cash advance charges are a particular concern when in the Philippines. You’ll definitely need some cash in the Philippines, but making an ATM withdrawal with a credit card can be very pricey. Generally you’ll be better off having an alternative card with lower fees - such as a travel debit card - to use in ATMs, and keeping your credit card for spending directly with merchants.Learn about the best travel credit cards in Australia here, and read on for more on our top pick.
28 Degrees - our pick for travel credit card
With this card:
- Order online and start spending with your virtual card instantly if approved
- No annual or monthly fees
- No foreign transaction or currency conversion fees
- Make ATM withdrawals overseas - fees apply for this service
- Unlock perks like discounts on travel bookings and internet roaming packages
|28 Degrees pros||28 Degrees cons|
|✅ No annual or monthly fees
✅ No foreign transaction fees - your payment is converted to AUD using the Mastercard exchange rate
✅ Repay your bill in full monthly to avoid interest or penalty fees
✅ Travel perks and partner discounts available
|❌ Cash advance fee of 3% or 4 AUD (whichever is greater), plus interest, when making an ATM withdrawal
❌ Interest charges apply if you don’t repay your bill in full monthly
❌ Subject to eligibility and credit checks
Pros and cons of travel credit cards to the Philippines
- Cards are a convenient and safe way to pay
- Earn rewards and discounts, or get travel perks - depending on the card you pick
- Some cards have low or no foreign transaction fees
- Credit cards are useful as a payment guarantee in some situations
- Cards aren’t always accepted in the Philippines
- Interest and fees usually apply if you don’t pay back your bill immediately
- Cash advance fees and interest mean that using your card at an ATM is expensive
- Eligibility rules apply
Travel requirements from Australia to the Philippines
If you’re travelling to the Philippines with an Australian passport you’ll usually be able to enter as a tourist for up to 30 days with no visa. Some Covid precautions remain at the time of writing, which may mean that you need to show proof of vaccination or a clear Covid test to enter the country.
Entry requirements can change rapidly, so checking before you travel is always advised. Check the government’s Smart Traveller website to learn more.
Does the Philippines accept Australian dollars?
No. You won’t be able to spend AUD anywhere in the Philippines. If you’re carrying dollars with you you'll need to exchange them for Philippine pesos when you arrive.
Best currency to take to the Philippines
You’ll only be able to spend in Philippine pesos in the Philippines, so you can choose to either carry AUD in cash with you and convert on arrival, or to order your travel cash in Philippine pesos before you leave. Bear in mind that exchange offices will be hard to find in more remote areas.
How much money do I need per day in the Philippines?
Your budget for the Philippines will largely be determined by how much you want to pay for accommodation. You’ll be able to find everything from cheap hostels to five star luxury, so you can design your trip to suit the amount of money you want to spend.
The great news is that many things in the Philippines are pretty cheap. To give a flavour, a 3 course lunch for 2 will set you back just over 30 AUD on average, a cheap lunch for one will be around 5 dollars - and a domestic beer about 2 dollars.
Do some detailed research to see how much things are likely to cost based on your plans and where you’re headed, so you can set your budget. Get more detailed cost information by city, from Numbeo.com.
How much does it cost to fly from Australia to the Philippines?
Flight costs vary widely depending on where in Australia you’ll leave from and where you’ll visit the Philippines. At the time of writing (September 2023), you can find flight deals starting from about 525 AUD return flying direct from Melbourne to Manila, for example. Some other destinations in the Philippines will involve at least one stop along the way.
Generally, whether you’re heading to the Philippines or anywhere else in the world, having a variety of ways to pay is definitely the smartest move. That means that if one card is declined, or you come across a merchant which will only accept cash, you’re covered.
For the Philippines in particular, bear in mind that you’ll definitely need some PHP in cash. Often cards aren’t accepted for smaller purchases, tipping, or when you’re in a more remote area. However, as carrying lots of cash isn’t a smart move for safety, taking one or more travel cards to make ATM withdrawals as and when you need to makes sense.
Picking up a travel card - such as a prepaid travel card from Wise or a travel debit card from Revolut - can mean you get a good exchange rate, plus many have some free ATM withdrawals overseas. They’re also a safe option as you won’t have to carry too much in cash at any given time, and can always freeze the card if you run into problems.
Use this guide to decide which option to take money to the Philippines will work best for you, based on your own preferences and needs.
FAQs - Best ways to take money to the Philippines
Should I exchange money before I travel to the Philippines?
You’ll need to have some cash in the Philippines, so you can exchange in advance or make an ATM withdrawal on arrival at the airport. Using an ATM can also be cheaper than advance exchange, particularly if you have a travel card from a provider like Wise or Revolut.
Can I withdraw Philippine pesos from a local ATM?
You can’t withdraw Philippine pesos at an ATM in Australia, but you can use a travel card to make an ATM withdrawal on arrival in the Philippines. This is often one of the most convenient ways to arrange your travel cash for the Philippines.
Are prepaid travel cards a good way to take money to the Philippines?
Travel prepaid cards from services like Wise are a safe way to spend when abroad. With Wise you’ll also get mid-market exchange rates and low, transparent fees which can bring down the costs of your trip.
Can I use cash in the Philippines?
Yes. Cash is unavoidable as it’s the only payment method accepted by many smaller merchants.Carry a small amount of cash at all times, and make ATM withdrawals as and when you need to so you never run short.