For me, the Banking System in the Philippines is a little bit outdated. Even in the age of computers and Internet, it is not possible to make a money transfer from one bank company to another. If you enter a bank, you will usually receive a number which tells you how many people are already waiting to be serviced and can guess how long you have to wait.
Once I had to make a simple money transfer of 2500,- Peso to our daughter and it took Five Hours(!) before we could hand the voucher to the lady behind the counter. We entered the bank at 10:00 am, drew what I call a "lucky number", and noticed, that we had 120 or so people waiting before us.
So we went shopping first and came back at 2:00 pm and still had to wait another hour before our number appeared on the sign board. In the end, the service charge for this simple transfer was 50,- Peso(!). Even back home in Germany a money transfer like this would cost a service charge of only 0.13,-€ (8 Peso).
No wonder that other private companies like Western Union Bank or the Lhuillier Pawn Shops took over those money transfer services and doing well on it.
This situation has gotten a bit better now, after the major banks opened up branches in most shopping malls and the people now have more options to do their banking business. The waiting time was clearly reduced.
"Traveler Cheques" seem to be another unknown word to bank employees. You can exchange Traveler Cheques only at some rare Travel Agencies or maybe in some foreign owned resorts or at some smart Indian Money Changers but not in a bank.
Opening a Bank Account in the Philippines
You can easily open a bank account as a foreigner in the Philippines and they will also give you an ATM Card, that allows you to pick up money at ATM machines nationwide. Some banks will ask you now an "ACR" (Alien Certificate of Registration), before you can open an account. You can get that at the nearest Immigration Office.
If the bank does not ask an ACR in the first place, you will need to present another proof of an fixed address in the Philippines. This might be an official electric or water bill issued on that address but not necessarily on your name. In my case, when I opened an AC at the BPI, the proof of address was a water bill issued on the name of my wifes father. No ACR was needed.
Please be aware that you always have to keep a positive balance of about 3000 Peso on your account otherwise 300 Peso will be deducted every month until nothing is left and the account will be closed automatically.
Some of the bigger Banks also offer Online Banking to their customers, like the PNB, Philippine National Bank or the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI). But what can you do there with your online banking? You can view your account balance and make a money transfer within the company and that's it. At BPI, if you want to pay some bills or load your cell phone over your bank account, you'll have to register that companies or cell phones in your account first.
Free Visa Card
If you have a monthly income from abroad, I would recommend to look for a Free Online Account with a free VISA Card that enables you to withdraw money at Philippine ATM machines free of charge. We have some online banks in Germany which offer that service but you have to look in your country.
ATM Limits & Transaction Charges at ATMs
If you want to withdraw money at ATM's in the Philippines with other credit cards which are not free of charge, be aware that the maximum payout per transaction on most machines is 10,000,- Peso or less. So you will have to pay your service charge for every transaction you have to do.