Nora Tamba writes for consumers about banking in the Philippines.
Best Bank in the Philippines
BDO, Metrobank, Landbank, BPI and PNB are the five biggest banks in the Philippines. They're all trillionaire banks, and all are universal banks. Landbank is government-owned, while the four others are stock corporations.
BDO has been the fastest-growing bank since BDO was acquired from its original owners by the SM Group, the biggest shopping mall operator in the country.
BDO's owners leveraged their mall assets by putting one or two BDO branches in each of its many malls throughout the country, serving customers up to the early evening, all days of the year. They fulfilled the banking needs of mall goers and OFW families who receive their remittances through banks.
Based on total assets as of December 2019, the top 20 banks in the Philippines are:
- Security Bank
- Robinsons Bank
What Should You Look For in a Bank?
For ordinary people like me, the best banks are the ones that:
- Offer various banking services for free or at low costs
- Offer convenience to customers, such as lots of branches, ATMs and longer banking hours
- Offer safe investment opportunities
- Give back to the community
- Contribute to the stability of the country's banking system
Because not one bank offers all the services that we want, we usually have accounts in more than one bank. These banks offer a lot of services, including Internet banking, investment options and private and corporate banking, but we'll mention only some services that interest us or are unique to one bank.
What We Like About BDO
- Longer banking hours
- Open on Saturdays, Sundays and most holidays (for branches located in SM malls). Several branches not inside SM malls are also open on Saturdays.
- Lots of branches and ATMs—Has more than 1,300 branches in the Philippines, more than 4,000 ATMs, nearly 400 in-branch Cash Accept machines and 20 remittance and representative offices worldwide as of December 2019.
- 2 full-service branches abroad: Hong Kong and Singapore
- The first Philippine bank to offer online money transfer from a BDO account for Cash Pickup at popular pawnshops (Cebuana Lhuillier, MLhuillier, Palawan Pawnshop, Villarica Pawnshop and RD Pawnshop), partner rural banks and SM Business Centers.
- One of the few Philippine banks that partner with global money transfer companies like Xoom and Moneygram and US bank Wells Fargo*. For Xoom transfers, you can get your remittance in US dollars as long as you have a BDO account and your money was sent in US dollars.
*Remittance partners of Xoom: BDO, Metrobank, RCBC, BDO Network Bank, Cebuana Lhuillier, MLhuillier, LBC and SM Business Center or Forex
*Remittance partners of Wells Fargo: BDO, BPI, Cebuana Lhuillier, MLhuillier
The location of BDO branches in SM malls evidently helped speed up BDO's growth. Because a great number of Filipinos go to the mall often, they choose to open BDO accounts so they can bank and shop at the same time under the same roof. It's also very convenient for OFW families to receive remittances from abroad. Certainly, it's safer withdrawing money inside the safety of the mall, including exchanging dollars, pounds or yens.
How BDO Gives Back to the Community
The BDO Foundation runs:
- A partnership with Gawad Kalinga
- An SME entrepreneurship program
Read More From Toughnickel
BDO's majority owner, the SM Group, runs the SM College Scholarship program.
What We Like About Metrobank
- One of only 2 Philippine banks that have a branch in New York City and the US and that have branches in many countries. The other is PNB.
- Offers a Zero-Fee credit card—Its M Free Mastercard is "Forever Free" of an annual fee. This is significant as most credit cards typically charge 1,400 pesos or more for an annual membership.
- Has more than 950 domestic branches, more than 2,300 ATMs, more than 170 Cash-Accept machines and more than 30 foreign branches and offices as of December 2019
- One of only three banks that releases Xoom US-dollar remittances in US dollars to recipients
How Metrobank Gives Back to the Community
Metrobank Foundation runs the following programs:
- Search for outstanding teachers
- Metrobank scholarship program
- Outstanding policemen in service
- Outstanding Philippines soldiers
What We Like About Landbank
It's one of a few banks that still offer an ATM savings account with a maintaining balance requirement of only 500 pesos.
Its mandate is to help farmers and agricultural businesses.
What We Like About BPI
- More than 800 branches in the Philippines, Hong Kong and Europe, and close to 3,000 ATMs and Cash Deposit machines as of 2017.
- The first Philippine bank to install Cash Deposit machines where one can deposit peso bills without using an envelope and with the ATM deposit instantly credited. Many of their deposit machines can be accessed any time of the day or night. Now BDO and Metrobank have their own deposit machines, but they're usually installed inside branches and not available after banking hours.
- Its subsidiary, BPI Family Bank, offers a low-interest Mastercard BPI Family Credit Card. The monthly finance charge is 2%, computed from posting date. The annual fee is 1,000 pesos, free for the first year.
*Notes: The BPI Classic Card, which offered a lower monthly interest rate and lower-cost installment and loan features, has been discontinued by BPI. BPI offered other types of credit cards to Classic cardholders to which existing BPI transferred Classic payables and retained whatever rates were given during Classic transactions until such transactions were fully paid.
How BPI Gives Back to the Community
It holds the annual Search for 10 Outstanding Expat Pinoy Children, and its BPI Foundation runs:
- Microfinance trainings in partnership with Ateneo de Manila University in major cities
- Show Me, Teach Me, SME Empowering Entrepreneurs
- BPI-DOST Science Awards
- BPI College Scholarship program
- Climate Change Project
What We Like About PNB
- PNB is one of only 2 banks that have branches in the USA. The other one is Metrobank. PNB is more active as it has many remittance offices around the US and it has a branch in Los Angeles, a branch and a sub-branch in New York City.
- PNB is also one of only 2 banks that operates in many countries. The other one is Metrobank.
Almost two million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) are currently working worldwide as engineers, nurses, teachers, seamen, doctors, dentists, physical therapists, domestic helpers, welders, electricians, machine operators, etc. Since they remit large amounts of money to their families monthly, banks have crafted special services for them.
Aside from the usual bank-to-bank transfer or remittance service to bank transfer, these banks also offer accounts designed for OFW clients and their families:
- Pamana Savings Account with Free Insurance
- Pamana Padala Account with Income Continuation Insurance
- Padala Moneyger
- BDO Kabayan Savings Account (Peso)
- BDO Kabayan Savings Account (US Dollar)
- Enrollment for Free Life Insurance Coverage
- BDO Remit Status Inquiry online service
- OFW Peso Savings Account
- OFW Dollar Savings Account
- Metrobank Remittance Inquiry online service
- Bagong Bayani ATM Account (in peso or US dollar)
Facts That May Interest You
In the Philippines, there are 541 banks (branches not counted) as of December 2019:
- 21 universal banks (6 are branches of foreign banks and 3 are government banks)
- 25 commercial banks (20 are foreign-owned: 2 subsidiaries and 18 branches)
- 48 thrift banks (includes private development banks)
- 422 rural banks (includes cooperative banks)
*The number of thrift and rural banks has decreased over the years due to closures, mergers and acquisitions.
BPI was the first bank in the Philippines and, arguably, in all of Southeast Asia. It began as El Banco Espanol Filipino de Isabel 2 in 1851 as a Spanish-owned bank. In 1907, the bank became a Philippine institution, and in 1912, it became the Bank of Philippine Islands (BPI).
Among the top stockholders of BPI as of December 2009 are the:
- Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila
- Mercury Group
The Metrobank Foundation owns the following:
- Manila Doctors Hospital along U.N.
- Manila Doctors College along Macapagal Ave.
Metrobank also owns 30 percent of Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation.
Among the top stockholders of Metrobank as of June 2010 are:
- Federal Homes
- Home Development Mutual Fund
- Insular Life Assurance Co.
Among the top stockholders of BDO as of September 2010 are:
- International Finance Corp. (U.S.)
- United Overseas Bank (Singaporean)
- Insular Life Assurance Co.
Curiously, in all three banks' Lists of the Top 100 Stockholders, Non-Filipino Philippine Central Depository Nominee Corp. shareholders account for the biggest number of shares.
- For BPI, non-Filipino PCDNC shareholders ranked No. 1 as of December 2009.
- For Metrobank, non-Filipino PCDNC shareholders account for 28.55 percent of the total and ranked No. 1 as of June 2010.
- For BDO, non-Filipino PCDNC shareholders account for 20.47 percent of the total, and third in ranking behind SM Investments and Filipino PCDNC shareholders.
This could mean, though, that Philippine banks are seen as strong and stable by foreign investors. Besides, PCDNC shareholders don't grant their voting rights to PCDNC.
Of course, many know that:
- BDO is controlled by Henry Sy Family's SM Group
- BPI is controlled by the Ayala Group
- Metrobank is controlled by George Ty Family's group
- PNB is controlled by Lucio Tan, owner of PAL and Fortune Tobacco.
- China Bank is controlled by Henry Sy Family's SM Group
- Security Bank is controlled by Frederick Dy and Japan's The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ. SSS also owns 2.65% of the bank.
- Union Bank is controlled by the Aboitiz Group (Aboitiz Equity Ventures). Insular Life and SSS own around 16% and around 12% of Union Bank, respectively.
- Eastwest Bank is controlled by Andrew Gotianun Family's Filinvest Group
- Bank of Commerce is controlled by San Miguel Corp.
Top 23 Banks in the Philippines, Based on Assets, as of December 2019
|Rank||Bank||Total Assets, as of Sep 2018 in Pesos|
China Bank Savings
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Roy Velasco on August 15, 2020:
Hi, Would you know if I can use/add my BPI Family Savings Bank account to the BPI app? Thanks
Nora Tamba (author) on July 21, 2020:
Jennifer, Angelica, Red, Jun, Erwin, Romeo and Standing: Thank you for all your comments about BDO and BPI. Just like you, I also have accounts in both banks, and I also have observed where they are good and not good.
1. About seats inside the branch: Now, BDO has increased the number of chairs or benches, as they now need to enforce social distancing. I'm sure BPI has also adjusted theirs. But it's true that prior to the pandemic, BPI has more seating offered to waiting customers. I heard that BDO wants customers standing so the tellers, seeing so many customers in line, are prodded to complete transactions faster. I heard from one teller that their common ailment is UTI because they often control their urge to go to the restroom so they can serve more customers.
2. About Jun's complaint. That's super bad. The guards at the BDO branch in Molito Mall on Madrigal Ave near Ayala Town Center in Alabang are attentive. They're constantly looking at how customers can be served faster, and they always help seniors, PWDs, pregnant women and moms with babies. If the branch doesn't train its guards or assign a "watcher for the day" for managing client flow, then the manager is missing something. I hope you emailed BDO about it or commented on their FB page.
3. About investments in the banks' stocks: Thak you, Erwin, for your advice. For those who have no time learning about stocks, I think investing in the banks' mutual funds or UITFs is a good option.
4. About BPI's over the counter customer service: Yes, there are branches where transaction processing is slow. The technique is to know where all the BPI branches are in your area. One time we went to BPI at the corner of Acacia and Alabang-Zapote Road and saw the long lines, so I thought maybe there were a lot of people there because it's along two main roads. We drove a few minutes from there (walking distance, actually) to the branch in the middle of buildings, and we were able to transact quickly.
5. Cash accept machines: To my knowledge, it's BPI which introduced cash deposit machines first in the Philippines. It was helpful. I wondered then why BDO and the other banks were not in a hurry to install their own machines. I'm glad now many banks have their cash accept machines.
Nora Tamba (author) on July 21, 2020:
Hi Kris, yes, in cases like that, banks always assume there was no unauthorized withdrawal, that it was authorized, or that your card was stolen and used by another person, so sadly, and it's really frustrating, it's upon the consumer to prove it was unauthorized. Think of something, even a small detail, that can prove to BDO that it was unauthorized.
Kris on July 21, 2020:
Bdo steals money from their customer. There was an unauthorized withdrawal on my account. And bdo doesnt care to investigate.
jennifer on November 19, 2019:
It really depends on the branch but BPI is really slow when handling trabsactions, majority that I had been to. maybe bcause of their old system,
Jun on July 16, 2019:
I both have BPI and BDO accounts.
I opened three separate accounts in BPI and two in BDO.
BDO's customer service is "pesteng yawa" --for a lack of better term. I am an orthopaedic PWD. Even with me limping and all, they still had me fall in line with the rest --and to add salt to injury, the teller vacated her position when it is about my turn, she went out the bank, without saying anything.
By the way, it is BDO's branch at SM Iloilo.
/erwin on May 03, 2019:
I love these banks as their stock price are cheap, but bpi is a bit slow in their share price appreciation, i earn dividends more than the interest rate banks give in their deposit accounts - i suggest better open a stock trading account and buy shares on these banks.... bpi bdo metrobank they have their own stock trading service (except for landbank - they only have UITF and its not listed in PSE..
Ian on April 15, 2019:
May I ask which bank is best to transfer PayPal balance to? Thanks!
romeo on March 04, 2019:
I always have problem with BDO like loading of prepaid where I did not receive the load but it was already deducted from my account and another problem with withdrawals, where releasing of money have issue. I plan to move to BPI and transfer my money.
STANDING on February 06, 2019:
I dont like BDO,,They only have 4 seats in their banks. They just let their average clients stand in long lines waiting 30 mins to 40mins before access to transaction,knowing they have 2.70 trillions 'of assets...,,how come??? Your motto says "We find ways" then find way to give comfort for those people standing in long lines...
Nora Tamba (author) on January 25, 2019:
Hi Eduardo, it seems the manager has been following you (hehe). Maybe the next time you meet, her demeanor/behavior would be different. Or maybe she has forgotten things.
Or if you can lessen your over-the-counter transactions, and do mostly online, then you'd be able to avoid her, in case she'll be moved to Abreeza.
Thanks for commenting here.
Nora Tamba (author) on January 25, 2019:
Hi Ben, thanks for your comment. But I wish you described your experiences so we or BDO can learn from them.
Nora Tamba (author) on January 25, 2019:
Hi Abel, thanks a lot for your comments and for your advice regarding using GCash. I'm currently using PayMaya, but with your glowing endorsement, I'm thinking of getting GCash too, so I can check and use the best features that each offers.
Eduardo Ibarra on January 24, 2019:
A female manager was very rude towards me at BPI Quirino Branch in Davao so I switched to Gaisano Branch and eventually she showed up there. I changed again to the BPI branch on Claveria. She is there now,. So, now I am at BPI Abreeza. I hope she does not show up there. Other than that, all other employees and managers are courteous. I do not want to close my account there but I will if she shows up at Abreeza Branch.
Ben on January 16, 2019:
BDO has the worst customer service!
Abel on January 06, 2019:
In terms of the number of branches BDO is no. 1 hands down. But for me BPI is the better bank. It has chairs where you can wait for your turn which makes me feel like I'm a client or partner not just some labor force, it has a good online and mobile platform and the mobile app's performance is superb as compared to Metrobank's app and other apps as well. I also like their BPI trade its very simple and yet effective. All you need to worry is the P500 peso maintaining balance of the account.
Their choices of debit cards are good as well. You have the option to choose either Mastercard or EPS. For me I choose EPS for my savings debit as I don't like to transact with my hard earned money with just numbers that are indicated on the card. Currently I use BPI with GCash. BPI is my vault GCash is my biller and with those two I never have to go to a ANY bank (Be it BPI or not) branch as long as deposit(except check), payments and transfers are concerned. I deposit checks to my BPI family account where lines are much shorter then i'll just transfer it to my BPI account.
For those who will argue that some banks have the functionality of GCash and BPI in one app. I don't prefer to have it that way. For me for every convenience that is implemented there is a potential security threat added. I actually got worried when BPI introduced the mastercard debit and mastercard all access but thankfully you i can still choose the eps carrier.
Note: This is a bank topic but you guys might want to check GCash. It currently has a lot of features now including credit, investments and a ton of billers.
Gcash can also pull funds from any Visa or Mastercard debit cards. If in case your payroll doesn't have e-pay which allows you to transfer to any bank at the cost of 10 peso per 50k transfer. You can pull it via gcash then utilize gcash's epay to transfer it to your savings account regardless if it's BPI or not. Gcash epay fee is waived :)
Nora Tamba (author) on December 19, 2018:
Hello Elle and Bitsy Boy, indeed BDO's online banking has more useful features compared to that of BPI, and yes, Elle, BPI's requirement to submit a printed copy of online enrollment at any BPI branch is not convenient. I think BPI was the first bank in the Philippines to offer atm services and cash deposit machines, but it became conservative in offering online services.
I think both BDO and BPI have branches that don't have enough tellers to serve customers quickly. The same with Metrobank and the other banks. All of them are controlling costs. What I do is I go to a different branch near our place each time I need to do something over the counter, so I can see where I can complete my transaction the fastest, and go to a bank on non-peak days and times. The busiest are Mondays, Fridays, 15th and 30th, last business days of the month and last business days before holidays. Busiest times are lunch times, especially in office areas.
Bitsy Boy on December 18, 2018:
Long time BPI account holder here. Never had to go to my branch for online banking. You just need to go the ATM? BDO has more to offer with its online banking but it's not worth it for the terrible customer service.
Elle on December 16, 2018:
BPI is sooo Jurassic. For online banking enrollment, you need to go to the branch to verify it. Stick with BDO even if it's annoying, you can truly experience but at least you can truly experience the essence of online banking.
Nora Tamba (author) on November 09, 2018:
Account opening charge? There's no charge to open a regular savings account. ATM cards are free for regular accounts. ATM cards are only paid if you're opening certain cash cards or no-maintaining-balance acounts like the BPI Kaya account.
Monthly charges? In the Philippines, monthly maintenance fees are not charged; instead, penalties are charged if your account's average daily balance for the month goes below the maintaining balance requirement. Even if they're called and processed differently, maintenance fees and below-maintaining-balance penalties achieve the same purpose, and that is to pay for account maintenance.
Charge for each money withdrawal? Most regular accounts do not charge for atm and over-the-counter withdrawals, but there are some banks that charge interbranch over-the-counter withdrawals. You'll pay fees if you withdraw from the machines of other banks. Some no-maintaining-balance accounts are charged minimal atm withdrawal fees.
Charge for international transfer to your account? It's the remitter/sender that pays for transfer of funds to your account. You might be charged though for about 100 to 200 pesos to pay for inward remittance, depending on the bank's agreement with the remittance company.
Exchange rate? Usually, the exchange rate used by banks is lower than that used by money changers. Try to use remittance companies that guarantee the peso amount you will receive, like Transferwise--
https://transferwise.evyy.net/c/361817/26105/985 (I'll earn something if you use this link, thank you)
Or open a foreign currency account that will receive your inward foreign currency transfers.
Nora Tamba (author) on November 09, 2018:
Hi candyobrix13, it's sad but the interest rate for savings accounts is too small, so your goal will be just to save, and not expect much from interest. Rural banks and cooperatives give better interest rates, but some of these might no last long in business, so I'll recommend bigger savings banks like BPI Family, PSBank Savings, PNB Savings and the bigger rural banks like One Network Bank.
In order that it will be easy for you to make deposits, choose a bank near your home. You can google "top savings banks in the Philippines" and choose from the list.
Remember to maintain your maintaining balance requirement so you won't be penalized.
candyobrix13 on November 09, 2018:
what is best bank here in the philippines for interest-earning deposit. i am a student who wants to open an account in order to save for my college fees..thank you very much
For Mr. Romnick Rocero on November 08, 2018:
I need some detailed information.
Charge to open the account, including ATM card?
Deposit required to keep the account open.
Charge for each money withdrawal?
Charge for international transfer to my account, and the exchange rate?
Thanks in advance for your help
Nora Tamba (author) on July 29, 2018:
Hi jeff A, it's great that you like EastWest Bank. I like it too since it has 2 branches inside Festival Mall, which I frequent, and which is also owned by the EastWest owners. It also has deposit accounts for those that can maintain lower balances.
Lately also, their US dollar-peso exchange rate has been competitive with Czarina. There were also times they have rates higher than those of Czarina.
I noticed that they now have hired the Salonga siblings for their advertising. Must have seen the impact of cheerful celebrities on the growth of banks, just like that of Megan Young on the growth of Security Bank.
jeff A. on July 29, 2018:
I have experienced opening an account with several banks and the best bank for me is East West bank not only in term of service but also for choice of investment and higher interest on time deposit.
Pachomius on June 21, 2018:
Thanks for an informative piece.
Do you know which of the three biggest banks gives its clients the best investment choice, which to my mind is that your investment funds with the bank return you a monthly amount of cash for you to meet your monthly living expenses.
Angela Bellen on April 24, 2018:
BPI literally has the worst customer service. It seemed that 30 mins of waiting for a representative to cater to my call is not enough. Whats more, even people at their branches seem incompetent. I'm losing patience with the bank and I'm switching to another.
Nora Tamba (author) on January 18, 2018:
Hi wen, if you send NT dollars to your peso accounts in BDO or BPI through a remittance company, BDO or BPI will automatically convert your NT dollars into peso before depositing your money into your account because your account is in peso. Yes, your family will be able to withdraw in peso because your account is in peso.
Nora Tamba (author) on January 17, 2018:
Hi Jenny, thanks for your comment. Indeed I missed including some relevant info. The local BPI credit card I mentioned, the burgundy BPI Classic card, was discontinued by BPI. I think it was in 2016. Its finance charge was 2.75%, lower than the usual 3.5%.
BPI's subsidiary BPI Family Bank offers a Mastercard credit card that charges only 2% per month. Annual fee is only 1,000.
Nora Tamba (author) on January 17, 2018:
Hi sarra, thanks for giving me the idea that I should also compare their foreign exchange rates. I missed comparing foreign exchange because I usually use money changers to convert my dollars into pesos. Top changers are Czarina and Sanry's. They have branches in malls where it's safer. It's nice that I live near a mall where there's a Czarina and a BPI cash deposit machine. I exchange my dollars at Czarina then deposit my pesos into the cash machine nearby. Some Czarina clients take advantage of Czarina's deposit-to-account service for bigger amounts.
The rates you mentioned I think are for over-the-counter exchanges. Their exchange rates for deposit-to-account remittances are different, and are even lower. I hope you have your account in euro so you can withdraw and exchange over the counter.
Yes, you're right. That's a big big loss. It's right that you're comparing and finding ways to get the best rate.
By the way, where did you get the 62.15 conversion? The exchange rate at nailasmoneychanger.com (which I usually check before going to Czarina's, as they usually give the same rate, with Czarina's rate just a bit higher sometimes) at this time is 61.70.
The BSP reference rate as of Jan 17 is 61.89.
Jenny Tuzon on December 25, 2017:
Hi there, this page is about comparison of the banks, why don't they show the real fees so people can really compare which one has lower offer for example the fees when account user will receive from bank to bank transfer and vice versa, etc..
It is also written:'offers a local credit card with a lower interest rate and lower-cost installment and loan features..', how can you say that they offer lower if you never precise the rate of the other bank?
Student learning how to make a financial plan on December 02, 2017:
Hi! We have this business idea in school I wa