And protecting your holiday cash!
By Mark Cabrera
I was traveling in Shanghai, China for a conference a few months back when I encountered a brief financial stump. I was about to replenish my Chinese Yuan pocket money when my ATM card and credit card both never worked in the Chinese local ATM machines. This caught me off-guard because I was able to withdraw using the same card the last time I was in Hong Kong.
So, I attempted to convert some US Dollars into Yuan at several local banks. I was not successful. It was either the banks don’t offer that service or the language barrier was making it impossible for me to communicate with the local Chinese staff.
Fortunately, the conference I was attending had a currency exchange counter with English-speaking students working as operators. Whew! Lessons learned.
Speaking of lessons learned, I would like to share some “Do’s and Don'ts” when it comes to managing your finances while staying on Boracay.
Most of these tips are shared by friends who work at one of the top banks in the country. These tips will tackle spotting potential bank, credit card and ATM frauds, as well as looking for legit money changers on the island.
Hold on to your wallets and enjoy this short read.
The simplest way to do business on Boracay is with cash. The convenient and safe way to get cash is via an ATM.
Inspect ATMs for suspicious objects attached or things left lying around before inserting your card. Previous scams use high-tech devices that can scan or duplicate your personal bank details as well as your passcodes. Suspicious devices are either installed on top of the card reader, numeric keypad, cash slots, or the whole ATM interface unit. Check for signs of tampering.
Report suspicious elements to proper authorities.
Cover your hand when typing your PIN on the keypad to stop prying eyes and hidden cameras.
Count your money discretely and always collect your transaction receipt before leaving the ATM.
Avoid ATMs in poorly lit areas and go for ATMs that are in busy areas.
Avoid ATMs that are unfamiliar to you. It is recommended to use ATMs from top, legitimate Philippine banks such as Bank of the Philippine Islands, Metrobank, BDO and Philippine National Bank.
Never accept help from a stranger. If you need assistance with your transaction, go ask help from an official bank employee. Don’t worry, they speak English here.
If you feel that the ATM is unsafe, cancel your transaction and leave the area immediately.
Do Not share your passcode with anyone!
Aside from cash, another way of doing business here is thru credit cards. I normally use my credit card when going to the grocery, booking my staycations, and dining out. However not all establishments on Boracay offer this service.
Credit Card Do’s
When getting a new credit card, immediately sign at the back of your card for your security.
Check if the establishment you plan to do business with honors credit card payments before you start ordering.
Always doublecheck the amount of your bill before you sign your transaction slip. Clarify with the business establishment about service charge, value added tax, tips and other hidden charges. Under the Department of Trade and Industry’s Department Administrative Order No. 10, the credit card price is the same as cash price.
Report establishments that charges a higher price when you use your credit card.
Always ask for your transaction receipt. Some establishments don’t require signatures for credit card transactions anymore if your transaction is below PhP2,000. Your receipts will be your proof in case of disputes.
Credit Card Don'ts
Don't give out your credit card details to strangers. Fraudsters use various phishing techniques thru email or text messages with links to legit looking websites. These malicious websites will ask for your personal and account information like card number, expiry date, the CVC or CVV number at the back of your card, and log-in and passwords. Legit banks do not ask for this information, so don’t give them out.
Don't leave your credit card at establishments, such as hostels and tour operators, to prove your sincerity to do honest business. Some shady rental or activity operators ask for these to ensure you return the borrowed equipment. Present to them a disposable ID instead.
Do not give out your One-Time Password or OTP to anyone asking for it. If you unexpectedly receive an OTP even if you are not currently doing any credit card or online transaction, there is a huge chance that there is an unauthorized use of your card. Report this to your bank immediately.
Never sign a blank transaction slip… Period!
I remember the time when my Chinoyfriend and I were semi-blacklisted in money changers in Bali. The money changers would make a call and get warned about “these two dudes who are very diligent in counting their money before leaving the money changers.” They know they can’t mess with Pinoys. Hehehe.
Here are a few tips when dealing with money changers on Boracay.
Money Changer Do’s
Look for legit Money Changers that carry the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas license. As far as I know, the following Money Changer shops are accredited by the the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas: Gocash Money Changer branches in Caticlan Jettyport, E’Mall and Morning Star resort in Station 3, and VB Queen Money Changer at D’Mall. Shops that don’t have the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas license are considered illegal. However, major banks on the island also offer money changer services.
Check the updated currency exchange rates online first before you execute your transaction. This way you have a fair idea how much to expect in each transaction and choose which money changer shop offers the best rates. It is also recommended to trade $5-dollar bills and above.
Estimate how much Peso budget you will need during your stay on the island. This way you won’t waste time with repeat transactions.
Double check for fake bills and count your money before leaving the money changer. Some money changer shops in tourist areas like the one we saw in Bali have skilled staff who have magical hands. You know what I mean…
Money Changer Don'ts
Don't take all of your cash with you. Just bring enough that you need to convert into Pesos.
Don’t convert all of your dollars or foreign currency into Pesos. Converting the excess pesos back to your currency might end up being costly. Most of the shops on Boracay don’t sell US Dollars. The nearest money changer shop I know of that sells US dollars is in Kalibo airport.
Don’t trade bills that are ripped, torn or have ballpen marks on them. The mentioned shops do not honor them. They also don’t honor 1997 series US$100 bills. There are several fake bills in that series that are circulating around.
You are now good to go. Just a final note on finance management on Boracay: Stay sharp all the time when handling and spending your hard-earned money. But don’t worry too much. Filipinos are generally nice, hospitable and honest people. You will be fine.
Enjoy your stay and shop away! Cheers!