How to Get Cash in El Nido

This post was last updated in December 2015. If you travel to El Nido and find any of this information out of date, or find new ways to get cash in El Nido, please post a comment below. I’ll update the post with the new information.

You cannot use an ATM to get cash in El Nido.

Let that sink in a bit. Don’t brush it off like I did. I assumed people were being dramatic, or that the information was outdated. They weren’t and it wasn’t.

Update: It appears this has changed! See Ben’s and Christopher’s comments below regarding new ATMs as of late October 2015. Others please comment and let us know if these ATMs are working consistently.

ATM in El Nido

A working ATM in El Nido! Big thanks to Ben from Abra for the update and photo.

Back to our story from December 2014…

The funniest part was I had specifically researched ATM locations in El Nido before we left Puerto Princesa (where we could easily get cash). I found one by searching Google: First Consolidated Bank in El Nido proper. We didn’t want to carry more cash than necessary up to El Nido, and assuming the ATM I found would dispense cash to us we didn’t worry about it.

But when I showed up I quickly realized that the ATM only accepted First Consolidated Bank cards. Fail. To become a First Consolidated Bank cardholder you need a local El Nido address with some proof of residency, so no work-around there.

We tried to use credit cards to pay for things and stretch our cash but few places take cards and most of those that do charge a fee of about 5%.

Halfway through our 3 weeks in El Nido we ran out of money. We needed to find a way to get some cash.

We discovered several work-arounds and will share them with you here in case you find yourself in a similar cash poor situation. Here’s some ideas for getting cash in El Nido:

Petron Gas Station

The Petron station by the port at the west side of town will charge your credit card up to 10,000 pesos and give you cash back.

You need to bring a passport and the service is only offered from 2 to 4 p.m. The store charges a 6% fee for providing this service.

Update: Seems like the Petron station is hit or miss. Mark found they had stopped offering the service in June 2015, but Alex was able to get cash from them in October 2015 (see comments at the end of the post).

Petron | Getting Cash in El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

The Petron station near the port offers cash for a 6% fee.

Little Shop on Real and G. del Pilar

There’s a small store selling a variety of knick knacks on the corner of Real and G. del Pilar in the center of town. They will provide a similar service as the Petron station but for a hefty 10% fee. Ask for April or Amy.

Update: It sounds like restaurants along the beach offer a similar service now, also for a 10% fee (see the great comment from Alex below).

Getting Cash in El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

Looking across G. del Pilar, the store is on the right side of the photo. Note the municipal buildings on the left (behind the plastic bottle Christmas tree when we were there), they’re a good landmark on Real St.

Change Cash at Art Cafe

Art Cafe in town offers exchange of many foreign currencies into pesos. However, the poor exchange rates they offered while we were there would have resulted in the equivalent of about a 6% fee for the transaction.

Henry LHuillier Pawn Shop

No, you don’t have to pawn your possessions. What you should do is Western Union yourself money online.

You can use a credit card on the Western Union website and the whole transaction takes just a few minutes. Western Union charges $6 and the exchange rate is a little worse than the real rate (but better than Art Cafe). The pawn shop charges a tiny fee (ours was less than $1 on $500).

The total “fees” for our transaction came to about 4% – the best of our options.

Update: When we got our credit card bill for this period we learned that our credit card company treated the Western Union transaction as a “cash advance” – resulting in more fees, bringing the total fees for this transaction to about 5%.

 

Update #2: Christopher reports that the LHuillier Pawn Shop is no longer accepting Western Union transfers in late November 2015 (see comment below). Can anyone else confirm if this is permanent?

LHuillier Pawn Shop | Getting Cash in El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

The LHuillier Pawn Shop was our savior.

Pre-Pay Accommodation

Not exactly getting cash in El Nido, but reducing the need for it.

We paid for the first half of our accommodation at Telesfora Beach Cottages in advance via a bank transfer to Telesfora’s account. This was actually pretty easy to do – we got cash from an ATM outside a bank in Boracay, walked into the same bank, and arranged with the teller to deposit the cash into Telesfora’s account.

Booking your accommodation ahead of time on a site like Agoda would also work just as well.

If you’re confident of your dates and where you will be staying you could use this strategy to pay for some or all of your accommodation ahead of time, eliminating the need to find cash for that once you’re in El Nido.

We did end up paying the balance of our accommodation expenses at Telesfora with a credit card and paying the 5% fee for that transaction.

Best Option for Getting Cash in El Nido

The best option? It depends on how long you plan to stay, how fast you spend money, and your risk tolerance.

If you don’t plan to stay too long, will not spend too much, and can live with the chance that you might lose whatever cash you have on hand then just bring whatever you need with you. This way you don’t have to pay any special fees to get cash in El Nido.

If you are staying longer, living extravagantly, or can’t stand the idea that you may lose your cash then it may be worth it to you to pay the premium and use one of the services outlined above to get cash while you are in El Nido.

If you do decide to get cash in El Nido, we recommend the Western Union option as it worked out the cheapest for us and was very easy to do.

Update: See our note above about extra fees from our credit card company for the Western Union transaction, and potential end of Western Union transfers to the LHuillier Pawn Shop. The best option for you will depend on how your credit card company handles this transaction (and if you can find another Western Union destination). For us, the Western Union approach was still our best option even with the extra fee.

 

You may also be able to just use the new ATMs! See Ben’s and Christopher’s comments at the bottom of the page for more info about location and fees for the ATMs.

Visiting the Philippines? Find cheap Philippines hotels on Agoda.

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Author: Matt

Husband to the lovely and talented Kat. Father to Aurora, Jasper, and Piper – the smartest, cutest, funniest, and most adorable minis on the planet. Traveling the world with all four. Overall a pretty lucky guy.

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20 Comments

  1. Nice post, this is a necessary and informative post! When we were in El Nido we also ran out of cash and went from place to place trying to figure out how to get it! Each restaurant and hotel that claimed to charge cards for cash claimed they stopped doing it and directed us to someone else.

    Eventually it was our favorite restaurant, Marber’s, that charged out card and gave us cash. It did have the 5% fee, but finally being able to get cash was a lifesaver!

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    • Hi Katie! Thanks for sharing the info on Marber’s – it’s good to have more options! I could tell by the looks I got when asking for ways to get cash that many people find themselves in this situation.

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  2. We were facing the exact same problem a few days after you were, so the post was very helpful. We decided to take the Western-Union road. One extra advice: don’t wait for the last day to get your cash. We couldn’t get our cash because the pawnshop couldn’t connect to WU twice. Maybe bad connections are also the reason there’s no international ATM in town yet?

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    • Hi Luke, thanks for writing. Sorry to hear you had problems with the transfer!! By the way, we just learned that our credit card company treated the WU transaction as a “cash advance” resulting in extra fees. Did the same happen to you?

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      • Actually I don’t know, because finally we cancelled the whole thing. When I tried to get the cash in Puerto Princesa, there was some ‘misunderstanding’ about my first name and/or second names in my passport. Again: no cash. No worries too, by the way.. As you know, there are plenty of ATM’s in PP and the kind people of Telesfora (yep, your recommendation) helped us out while we were still in El Nido.

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        • Glad Telesfora could help! They’re awesome folks.

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  3. Great article with much needed advice. The petrol station has stopped offering the service until further notice (as of June 2015).

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    • Thanks for the news Mark. I’ll update the post.

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  4. Thank you very much for all the information!
    I have to say that I was panic totally when being in el nido running out of cash but after looking at your post I started looking up around the town.
    Actually there are plenty of places (restaurants) by the beach where they give cash back without a problem. However I went to the petrol station and got cash from them at 6% which is the best in town. The rest of restaurants charge at 10%. So yes, petrol station is giving cash back again now on october 2015!

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    • Alex, glad it was helpful. Thanks so much for writing with current info! I’ll update the post.

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  5. Read your article with trepidation after running short on cash in El Nido. Good news though – an ATM’s just opened near the municipal hall located near the main town.

    There are two ATMs side by side actually. Spoke with the staff nearby who said both just came online 2 days ago and are available 24/7 except for blackouts.

    Fees were normal, which is to say, high. The ATM charged 200 pesos to withdraw from my US Citibank card. I checked my online bank account and saw 15,000 pesos cash withdrawal deducted $335 from my bank — an exchange of 44.78 compared to the Yahoo rate of 46.88.

    Including Citibank’s foreign bank ATM fee (usually another $10 on $300 withdrawn), I will probably end up paying a total of about 7%.

    I might as well have used the credit card workarounds described at this site!

    Insanity.

    But I’d bet a better solution is coming soon 😉

    Post a Reply
    • Hey Ben, good stuff! Thanks! You should check out the Charles Schwab Investor Checking Account. No fees or minimum balances to maintain the account, and they will refund 100% of all ATM fees worldwide. Even better, no foreign transaction fees. We have no affiliate relationship with Schwab, just sharing what worked great for us.

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  6. It is Friday 27 November 2015 and I am presently in El Nido and have been for the past three days. I can confirm that the current situation in respect of withdrawing cash is as follows:

    There is now an ATM which accepts all major debut and credit cards as far as I could tell. Upon my arrival in El Nido, it was of course out of service and so of no help but I can confirm that it is currently operational again. Hearsay suggests that it regularly runs out of cash and so cannot be relied upon as the sole source of cash.

    However, there is a viable alternative in that the seafront restaurant called Seaslugs is offering a card charge service. They charge a good 10% fee which, given the limited alternatives –  that consisting of a single, often out of service ATM – is fairly reasonable.

    The ATM is located close to the big plastic Christmas tree, which I appreciate is only a temporary landmark. However, the locals all seem to know of its whereabouts, and there’s a tourist office in town that can point you to it also.

    LHuillier Pawnshop is neither charging cards nor accepting Western Union at present.

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    • Thanks for the great comment! You should be able to do better than 10%, even without the ATM, but good to know Seaslugs is another option.

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  7. My husband and I are in El Nido right now and almost out of cash.. We tried the ATM but it won’t accept our Mastercard, VISA or credit card. We were told to come back later as there may be a better connection. We’ve also been sent to the church, Sea Slugs and OMP to get cash but with no luck. The gas station said they will give us cash as long as we have our passport, but we have to come back tomorrow as they didn’t have any cash today.

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    • Oh no! Assuming you worked it out eventually… what finally worked?

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      • Sorry for the extremely late reply. We ended up going back to the ATM later and eventually got cash from it.

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  8. Today, none of these locations had any cash, but we could “try again tomorrow”. Hotels accepting credit cards are fully booked. Hard to figure out how everything is full, but there’s no cash floating around the economy. Ended up sending money via Western Union online to First Consolidated Bank and that worked. Basic fees are not bad, but they also give you a worse exchange rate, so you pay about 6% plus any credit card fees charged by your bank. Not sure why the bank was unable to just do a cash advance from credit card directly. Also – be careful of Worldremit, you can only cancel the transaction within 30 minutes of entering it, even if it is not picked up at the other end. We waited over 30 minutes for the transaction confirmation and didn’t get it, yet are still fighting with them over email to cancel it.

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    • Thanks for the update. Sorry to hear of the hassles!

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