What Singapore Bank gives the best rate when withdrawing from a Philippine Peso ATM account?

On my 5-day to Singapore and Legoland Malaysia, I made two ATM withdrawal transactions using my Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) Peso ATM (Debit) Card. The first was with an OCBC Bank ATM in Esplanade – Theatres by the Bay and the second was at a DBS Bank ATM in VivoCity Mall.

I have yet to know the rates of other banks in Singapore but for reference I investigated and compared exchange rates and fees that were charged on my account when I withdrew from OCBC and DBS Bank ATMs.

My BPI ATM card has the Cirrus logo on it (no Mastercard or Visa logo) and I made sure to withdraw only at ATMs with one also. Using ATM cards issued by other banks in the Philippines might incur different charges and fees.

The Evidence: OCBC vs DBS

  • Withdrawal #1 – OCBC Bank
    • Amount Withdrawn: SGD500
    • Details on ATM transaction withdrawal receipt:
      • No PHP withdrawal equivalent posted
      • No exchange rate posted
    • Details on my BPI account statement:
      • Withdrawal PHP equivalent (may include international withdrawal fees): PHP18,047.86
      • Currency exchange rate charged: 1SGD = PHP36.096
    • Wholesale Exchange Rate (from XE.com) – PHP35.077


  • Withdrawal #2 – DBS Bank
    • Amount Withdrawn: SGD300
    • Withdrawal details on ATM transaction receipt:
      • PHP withdrawal equivalent: PHP11,070.18
      • Exchange Rate: 1SGD = PHP36.901
    • Details on my BPI account statement:
      • Withdrawal PHP equivalent: PHP11,371.13
      • Currency exchange rate charged: 1SGD = PHP37.904
      • Difference between PHP equivalent shown on receipt and actual bank statement: PHP300.95 (or a little more than SGD8)
        • This could be a bank fee charged on every (international) withdrawal.
      • Currency exchange rate charged minus the withdrawal fee: 1SGD = PHP36.9006
    • Wholesale Exchange Rate (from XE.com) – PHP35.077
      • No historical exchange rate on the actual date posted. So I indicated the rate one day before the transaction.

In addition, four items/withdrawal fees were separately indicated on my account statement: The first three each amounted to PHP22.09, and the last one was PHP44.17. These were fees charged for every international withdrawal transaction (most probably by BPI). PHP44.17 (or USD1) was charged for every successful withdrawal and PHP22.09 was charged for an unsuccessful withdrawal that I made when I tried to withdraw more money that was allowed (more details on this near the end of this post).

The Verdict: OCBC wins

Both banks charged a higher rate than the wholesale exchange rate (PHP35.077), which was expected because ALL banks do this. I don’t know how accurate the historical rates are in XE.com but I checked the rates on the same date range and there was no significant changes to justify any sharp differences. Another factor to consider when making comparisons is that banks in Singapore may use USD exchange rates first to convert PHP to SGD (PHP -> USD -> SGD).

Overall, I found that OCBC Bank charged a significantly better rate than DBS Bank judging from the amount that was actually deducted as posted in my bank statement. DBS Bank had a less favorable exchange rate in addition to an automatic fee of PHP300.95 for the transaction.

When withdrawing, the ATM let me chose between using the bank’s exchange rate or Mastercard’s exchange rate. I chose the bank’s exchange rate because my card didn’t have a Mastercard logo on it and didn’t want to risk being charged higher fees.

Travel date — 2014

Additional Notes

International Withdrawal Activation

Before the trip, I had to activate the card for international withdrawals at the BPI branch where I opened my account. It’s allowed to do it at any BPI branch or by phone. I made sure not to miss this step because I’ve had an inconvenient experience before, on a trip to Thailand. I didn’t activate the card and had to call BPI’s Thailand hotline to activate the card. I then had to wait another 24-hours so I could make a withdrawal. Thankfully, it happened in Thailand, not a less popular country where BPI didn’t have a hotline number, and I had some Thai Baht stashed from my previous trip plus USD bills for emergencies.

Maximum Withdrawal Limit

On my first attempt, I tried to withdraw an amount that went over my maximum withdrawal limit. I’m not sure how much it was for Singapore Banks but with BPI, the maximum daily withdrawal limit was PHP20,000 or around SGD550+. I was charged with a not-so-significant PHP22.09 (or USD0.50) for the failed transaction.

I suspect the same charge is applied to balance inquiries. If you just want to view your balance and avoid the charges by checking online instead.

Why use an ATM instead of bringing Cash?

I used to bring USD bills and then have them exchanged to the local currency for sanity’s sake of not having to stress over my ATM not working in other countries. When I started traveling longer in multi-country trips, it was much more convenient, and not to mention safe, to use an ATM card and then withdraw money in the local currency.

I mostly used my BPI Dollar ATM account to be safe but I found that using a Peso ATM account is also doable. A dollar account probably gives better rates… but don’t exchange your peso to dollar just for the sake your travel.

BPI’s savings account ATM has the Cirrus logo on it, which was not as popular as Mastercard or Visa, but most major cities were littered with ATMs that had the Cirrus logo, so it was not a big problem. Even small towns in developing countries (like Laos) had at least one.

You can find the detailed itinerary of my trip to Singapore and Legoland here.