RT Cunningham


Debit Cards and Credit Cards in the Philippines - I Only Need One

debit credit Getting debit or credit cards isn’t too difficult, right? It isn’t in the United States but in the Philippines, most people can only get one or the other attached to bank accounts in Philippine pesos. That is, if they even have bank accounts.

Trying to get either kind of card for dollar accounts locally is something that I have yet to attempt and frankly, it doesn’t matter. Anything purchased in dollars causes the pesos on debit and credit cards to automatically convert to dollars anyway.

United States Dollar Accounts, Debit and Credit Cards

Back in 2009, I checked with the bank I did business with back then, Philippine National Bank (PNB). I could get a secured credit card for my dollar account, but no debit card. That was understandable because most businesses dealt with pesos only. ATMs in the Philippines dispense pesos only. I think I can get a regular, unsecured credit card now but I only need a debit card.

I checked almost every Filipino bank that had a website in 2009. Debit and credit cards for dollar accounts didn’t exist. Even the Bank of the Philippine Islands, the oldest bank, didn’t offer them.

UnionBank of the Philippines

While I was searching, I came across references to the EON CyberAccount offering from UnionBank. I eventually opened an account and obtained a VISA debit card. It’s a peso account, but everything gets converted to the right currency when I buy something.

The EON VISA Electron Card is the debit card you can attach to the account. There are instructions at the website for how to open an EON CyberAccount, how to get the card and even how to use it with PayPal. Everything is pretty straightforward.

Why do I Need a Debit Card?

The answer is simple, really. I need at least one debit card attached to a local bank account so I can order things online without getting the card locked out due to fraud alerts.

This is the main reason I no longer wanted any debit or credit cards from the United States when I moved here. I can’t count how many times I had to call my former bank after attempting to use a local ATM. I also needed an account I could use with PayPal, that I had access to in the Philippines.

My UnionBank debit card is for purchasing online more than anything else. When I pay my monthly web hosting fee, it will automatically be deducted unless I don’t have enough money in the account. When that happens, I manually pay the fee through PayPal.

If I’m trying to pay for something that only accepts PayPal and it’s short a few dollars, the rest will automatically be pulled from the bank account. Since I keep track of how much is in PayPal and in UnionBank at all times, I never have any issues.

My monthly pension is the only payment going directly into my BDO dollar account (I switched from PNB to BDO). After I withdraw dollars from BDO, I’ll usually deposit some pesos in UnionBank when I expect to buy something online.

I’ve repeated these routines since around December of 2009. Since there are some places that don’t accept anything but debit or credit cards, I keep a running balance at UnionBank.

Originally published in August of 2013. Updated for readability and minor corrections.

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By RT Cunningham
January 8, 2018
Personal Finance