SOUTH KOREA 2016: Credit Card or Philippine Peso

February 2017

This post has been edited for accuracy. Added a sample computation at the bottom!

Since I am from the Philippines, I will be writing this topic with perspective of the Philippine Peso (referred to as PHP later in this article).

During my first trip to Seoul in April 2013, I had a hard time exchanging my then US dollars (USD) to Korean won (KRW). My province does not have many KRW users, apparently. I didn’t want to go to Manila just to exchange my money so I settled with what small conversion I got, and just brought a few hundred USDs to exchange in Seoul.

Generally, USD conversion to KRW is better than PHP if you already have USD on hand. But a few cents or pesos might/will be lost if you go PHP->USD->KRW. My Dad is an OFW at that time so it’s a bit easier for me to get USD. But when he retired in early 2015, I sort of refused to exchange my PHP to USD at money changers when we planned for our October trip.

A few weeks before our trip in October, however, I got very busy with work and school and before I know it, I have only five more days before the trip and Zero KRW. My Mom had a friend who frequents Korea so she tried to exchange some (this friend however just requested to return the KRW as is after the trip). I didn’t want to convert my PHP because the exchange rate at that short time frame was ridiculously low (0.045PHP for a KRW is crazy!).

We only had 50,000 KRW, 20,000 PHP and 115USD for two people when we boarded the plane to Seoul. I still need to pay the guesthouse in cash.

So how did we do it? For some people, this is already a huge amount. But we were supposed to stay in Seoul for 6 days. Shopping was also on the list (we didn’t buy anything before this trip because we want to shop in Seoul).

Credit Card

I am not a huge fan of credit cards before I started working. I only use cash and debit cards because I don’t want to be buried in debt. But credit cards are convenient in buying tickets online and, sometimes, huge purchases have rebates and freebies from partner organizations.

With that said, during my second trip to Seoul, I slashed my credit card at almost all stores that accept it – which is almost all stores. Only street stalls don’t accept them; every establishment is pretty much a bait for credit cards. Plus I don’t need to carry big amount of money around. Not that it’s unsafe, but you just know how it is.

I use a supplementary BPI Gold (again, because I’m not a huge fan, I never applied for one that’s my own). I asked my Mom to activate the card for international use at our bank before the trip. I also requested to increase the limit because I don’t want to risk a rejected credit card in the middle of the trip – remember, I didn’t bring enough cash with me.

When my bill arrived, I was surprised because it has the best conversion I’ve seen. I never did like computing for conversions, so my standing point is, the closer it is to 25KRW/PHP or higher, the better. My bank’s conversion was 23.84KRW/PHP. This is a good enough conversion.

Now you won’t usually see this conversion in the Philippines. I’ve only seen this in Incheon Airport when I convert PHP to KRW. In the Philippines, we’ll go with cents.

The standard conversion in cents is 0.040 PHP for every 1 KRW. This means you have to go as close to 0.040PHP or less for a good conversion. Your PHP is more powerful in that sense. BDO for example sells KRW for 0.0398PHP (June 7, 2016). BPI sells it at a whopping 0.050PHP (June 6, 2016). My purchases were more or less converted at 0.0419PHP/KRW.

My last trip in May 2016 gave even better conversions! They’re still not at my target of 0.040PHP or lower, but I was close. For some strange reason, my purchases all vary in their conversion.

EDIT: On average, my December 2016 Korea Trip was at 23.539KRW/PHP or 0.0425PHP/KRW. To be honest, this was worse than my previous trip, but with the USD, you pretty much know why.

Cash

In terms of cash, as I have mentioned, the Money Exchange near my house sells it at 0.045PHP per 1KRW. This is too expensive for me, so back in 2013 I only exchanged a few and sold my USD for KRW in Seoul. In 2015, I completely let go of converting with them. And in 2016, let’s just say I didn’t even think about converting my money before flying out.

My friend however suggests buying at BDO as they have a good selling price. But I do not have an account at any BDO branch (I’m thinking of opening one eventually) so I’m not sure if I can just walk in and buy. Any of my readers know?

There’s also Czarina. But there’s no branch near my place and I don’t plan on visiting a farther city during work hours or on weekends just to get a decent conversion.

Upon arrival at the Incheon Airport, there are mini banks right before the exit and you can exchange your PHP there. Korea Exchange Bank (KEB) is right between Exit 9 and 10, and Woori Bank is between Exit 3 and 4, and near Exit 9. If I remember correctly, in 2015 the better conversion was at Woori Bank, but in 2016, KEB has a better conversion at 22.75WON/PHP vs Woori’s 22.71WON/PHP. You can get better conversions at their branches in MyeongDong though. But I’ve only converted dollars there. Next time I visit, I’d be sure to check those out.

Outside these banks, you can also convert at Money Changers. But there are only few branches that buy PHP. One Money Exchange that I have returned to was in MyeongDong: from exit 6 (Migliore) or 7 (Uniqlo), on the first street to your left, right before the Line Friends Store. They sell KRW for 23KRW/PHP – which they say is the best conversion. This may be true at least in the area, because I’ve certainly seen 22.16WON/PHP near my hostel.

EDIT! During my December trip, there was another one. From this money changer, go to the 2nd street on your right. There’s a money changer there that buys PHP.

With these in mind, you now are not forced to convert you PHP to KRW in the Philippines. If you lack the time, or there simply isn’t a good conversion around you, know that you can also exchange your precious money in Seoul. It may not be the best conversion, but they still got you covered. I am still searching for the best one so I’ll be sure to update you!

EDIT:

Here’s a manual conversion I did to make the computations easier:

20170214_183257_hdr

Have you had conversion stories in Seoul? Let me know in the comments! Share the love and info!

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14 thoughts on “SOUTH KOREA 2016: Credit Card or Philippine Peso

  1. Pingback: SOUTH KOREA 2016: Travel Tips | My Little Heaven on Earth

  2. Hi maam. Ask ko lang po if tanda nyo yung money changer’s name sa myeongdong? Or kung may alam kayo sa Busan Area? Na nagcoconvert ng PHP to KRW.. Mejo panicky na po kami dahil kulang ang naipalit namin sa Pinas at wala kaming USD na dala 😥

    • Hi! Sorry I don’t remember the name of the money changer. If you can find Line Friends in MyeongDong, magkatabi lang sila. 🙂 Haven’t been to Busan, pero I would think meron sa airport. Or sa Busan Station?

  3. If exchanging from peso to won, shouldn’t we be looking for a lesser conversion rate instead of higher so that we can get more value for our money?
    Sorry i had to ask, i got confused because you said “If I remember correctly, in 2015 the better conversion was at Woori Bank, but in 2016, KEB has a better conversion at 22.75PHP vs Woori’s 22.71PHP. “

    • Hi Cheska, thanks for asking this question! I always get confused whenever I convert my Peso to Won. These amounts if stated like this and not in decimal (like 0.04 or 0.038) should be higher because these are multipliers, not divisors.

      For example, I have P10,000 and I convert this at Incheon Airport. They’re going to show that they sell their Won for P22.75. This is significantly higher than the P22.71.

      I do it this way:
      P10,000 x P22.75 = W227,500 (higher Won)
      vs
      P10,000 x P22.71 = W227,100

      But if I buy Won in the Philippines, they’ll give me say P0.038 or P0.039. In this case, we need to choose the lower value because this is a divisor. So:

      P10,000 / P0.039 = W256,410.26
      vs
      P10,000 / P0.038 = W263,157.89 (higher Won)

      I’m pretty sure there’s a deeper mathematical explanation for this, but since I only need to get my money to convert at the highest possible amount in Won, I’ve settled for this type of computation. The key thing I always remember is that my Won should always be in thousands. If it’s not in thousands, I’m not converting correctly. I hope this makes sense? HAHA.

      Jae

      • I think the confusion lies in the currency used for the conversion factor. The 22.71 or 22.75 should be in Won (or Won per ph peso). In that way, the higher the numerical value is, the better the trade.

      • Yeah that’s it! I never noticed the unit used because it was usually just the flag beside the figures. Let me do an infograph on this to clear things up. Thanks for pointing it out.

        Jae

      • Sure thing Jae! Thank you for sharing this info on the web. It helped gave me an idea for my trip to S. Korea tomorrow. 🙂

  4. Hey Jaepooh!
    I’m so glad I found your site! I’m travelling to Korea in two weeks and I’m super bad at math. I’m planning on shopping a lot and is going to stay there for quite a while, therefore I would be hanging to a lot of cash. I want to get that all converted but I’m scared holding that amount of cash is dangerous. I have a KEB here in my country. I was wondering in your experience if I should open an account and exchange the money when I get into the country. Or I should bring the money and do it in myeongdong. I know you have experience with all these places or have studied them at least, I was hoping if you can give me some advice on what I should do.

    • Hi Stephanie, thanks for dropping by this site. First, check if the money you are holding does not exceed the Cash Carrying Limit of your country. Then, check the Cash Carrying Limit of Korea. I think it’s about $10,000; if the cash you are carrying exceeds that, you’ll have to declare it at Customs.

      Here are a few alternatives I can think of since I generally do not carry around big cash amount wherever I am – even my own country!

      1. Bring in a good week’s amount of money. Bring your ATM and credit card (if you have one). Credit cards are for emergency purposes. Just make sure your ATM and credit card are activated overseas.

      2. You can withdraw the cash from your local bank at ATMs in Korea. Just make sure that the ATM you’ll be using is activated for withdrawal overseas. You can arrange this with your local bank. 😉 Check the fees for overseas withdrawal and the withdrawal limit per day. The withdrawal will be in local currency so you might also want to check the conversion rate. (TIP: This varies per location as well!)

      3. Inquire with your local KEB. I have not experienced withdrawing money from the same bank in two different countries so I really can’t say much about this. I think this will be much easier, just make sure your overseas account will be recognized in Korean branches. Don’t forget to ask which banks can speak English (or any language you can speak) if you can’t speak Korean. Technical bank terms may lead to misunderstandings. 😉

      That’s all I have at the top of my head. Let me know if you have other questions or if you have problems with the alternatives above. 🙂

      Jae

  5. Heyyy thanks for this informative tip! Very useful! Aside from credit card, do you think they also accept debit cards with mastercard/visa on it for payment? Withdrawing money from the ATM there would incurr charges too so just to save money! 🙂

    Thanks a lot!

    • I suppose so, as long your debit cards has the fund and the features of a credit card. Just remember to fund it well. Also, JIC, read your card’s terms and conditions, especially on overseas use. There will probably be a transaction fee (as is in BDO debit cards) so be sure to read on that thoroughly. Lastly, if you can already have your purchase converted to PHP, that would be helpful in managing your funds.

      Thanks for reading and remember, there are instances where you don’t need to sign or key in your pin. Contactless payment are very popular these days. So take extra care in safekeeping your cards!

      Jae

  6. Hi, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar one
    and i was just wondering if you get a lot of spam feedback?
    If so how do you reduce it, any plugin or anything you can advise?
    I get so much lately it’s driving me insane so
    any support is very much appreciated.

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