Sunday, August 9, 2009
Exchanging Currency in the Philippines
The question that I get asked by those who are on the way to the Philippines and those who have just arrived in the Philippines is where is the best place to exchange dollars for Pesos?
The number of Pesos that you can get for your dollars varies widely and it is worth your while not to be in a hurry to exchange any quantity of your dollars to pesos until you bear some of these suggestions in mind.
Most banks in the major cities in the Philippines would be more than happy to take your dollars for Pesos, but you may not like the exchange rate, which are generally a few pesos lower than the exchange rate that you will receive at an accredited foreign currency kiosk located in one of the malls.
M. Lhuillier Pawn Shops which are quasi-financial institutions all over the Philippines. If, you find yourself a bit of a distance from any major city, there is a good chance that you can probably find a M. Lhuillier Pawn Shop within a short travel distance.
The exchange rates at M. Lhuillier Pawn Shops aren’t that fantastic and are maybe a few pesos better than the Western Unions located in the Philippines, but it may be your only choices, depending where you are in the Philippines, when you need to do an exchange.
For those who are relatively new or in-country for the first time, I generally tell them to go to accredited foreign currency desks within the shopping malls, such as Ayala Malls, SM Malls, Gasiano Malls or the Robinson Malls, the Greenhills Mall, to name a few.
Wherever you find a rather large population of Westerners, you will find more than a few folks looking to seek their reward, and you have to be aware that some of them make their living off of cheating foreigners out of their money, so heads up!
As a general rule, you will get better exchange rates if you are exchanging $100 bills than you would if you were doing $20, $10 or $5 bills.
Always count your money at the counter, sheltering what you received as best as you can in front of you—no matter, the urgency of the exchange teller asking you to step aside in order to take the next person behind you.
Once you leave the teller window and there is a problem with the amount and you step back up to the teller, be advised that even though you are in the Philippines, you are still in Asia and the concept of saving face applies, so don’t get into a personal and loud confrontation. You may not like the outcome.
Try to limit the number of times that you have to exchange dollars to pesos, because no matter what the exchange rate is, you are going to lose money over time, due to the foreign exchange service fees.
If, you are going to be in the Philippines for more than six months at a time, it probably would be a better deal to set up a dollar and/or pesos account with one of the banks in the Philippines. You’ll need an address and the appropriate visa from the immigration for this, but you’ll benefit in the long-term.