Digital Banks in the Philippines, plus Digital Accounts

The BSP said it will approve up to 7 digital banks in the Philippines! Application deadline was August 31, 2021. More digital accounts or virtual accounts are being issued by long-time licensed non-digital banks.

Table of contents:
• 6 Licensed Digital Banks (OF Bank, Tonik, UNObank, UnionDigital, GoTyme, Maya)
• 2 Banks Operating as Digital Banks (ING and CIMB)
• Digital Accounts Offered by Licensed Non-Digital Banks
(Komo, Diskartech, iSave, UnionBank digital accounts)
• Pending Digital Bank Applications (PNB? RCBC?)
• Definition of Digital Banks in the Philippines
• Licensed Banks Offering Account Opening Online
• What’s My Favorite Digital Bank?

girl for digital banks in the Philippines

6 Licensed Digital Banks in the Philippines, as of September 2021

As of September 20, 2021, the BSP has approved 6 entities as the first 6 digital banks in the Philippines, based on news accounts (see references on bottom of this page).

  1. Overseas Filipino Bank (OFBank), subsidiary of Landbank
  2. Tonik (Tonik Digital Bank Inc.)
  3. UNObank (DigibankASIA Pte. Ltd.)
  4. UnionDigital, (Union Digital Bank), subsidiary of Union Bank of the Philippines
  5. GoTyme, owned by a partnership of Singapore and South Africa-based Tyme Bank and JG Summit of the Gokongwei family
  6. Maya Bank, by Paymaya, which is managed by Voyager Innovations (fintech unit of PLDT)

1. Overseas Filipino Bank (OFBank)

OFBank is a subsidiary of Landbank and now promotes itself as “Officially the 1st branchless, digital-only bank in the Philippines.” It received its digital license from the BSP in March 2021. It was formerly Philippine Postal Savings Bank Inc. until its conversion to Overseas Filipino Bank (OFBank) in 2017 through President Duterte’s Executive Order No. 44

No initial deposit, no maintaining balance, no dormancy penalty
Free funds transfers between OFBank accounts and Landbank accounts

You can open an OFBank account from anywhere you are abroad as long as your mobile phone can receive a text from the Philippines. A one-time-password (OTP) will be texted from the Philippines. Download the OFBank mobile app from Google Play or Apple App.

Offers 3 debit cards:
Visa debit card for overseas Filipinos and OFWs
Visa debit card for beneficiaries in the Philippines 18 years old and above
Regular debit card (non-Visa) for beneficiaries in the Philippines below 18 years old

When you remit money to OFBank from overseas, remember to remit to Land Bank of the Philippines, which is the parent bank of OFBank. Landbank is the one with international banking relations.
Your OFBank Account Name
Your 10-digit Account Number
Name of Receiving Bank is Land Bank of the Philippines (Why? OFBank is owned by Landbank, which has international banking operations)
Swift Code of Landbank is TLBPPHMM. If more than 8 digits are needed, Swift Code is TLBPPHMMXXX.

2. Tonik by Tonik Digital Bank Inc.

Tonik is owned by Tonik Digital Bank Inc., a BSP-licensed rural bank and is a subsidiary of Singapore-based Tonik Financial Pte Ltd.*

Tonik is unique because one account offers separate savings containers called stashes. You can have up to 5 stashes, and you can label them as, for examples, Emergency stash, Tuition stash, New car, Real estate purchase and vacation stash. You can also have up to 5 separate stashes for Time Deposits. You can also authorize your family or friends to contribute directly to your stashes.

Fund transfers is through PesoNet. Transfer within the day’s cutoff hours so your money will be transferred within the day. PesoNet does not transfer funds instantly (that’s why it’s FREE), unlike with Instapay (which has fees, although some banks still offer free transfers due to the pandemic).

Annual interest rate for Solo Stash is 4%
Annual interest rate for Time Deposits:
6 months’ term — 6.00%
9 months — 4.50%
12 months — 4.75%
18 months — 5.00%
24 months — 5.25%

*Tonik Financial Pte. Ltd. operates in Singapore, Philippines and India. Its top investors are Southeast Asian financial investors: Sequoia, Point72 Ventures, Insignia Ventures Partners, Altara Ventures, Oak Drive Ventures Inc. and Camerton Holdings. The founder of Tonik is Greg Krasnov, who has lived in 8 countries, but now based in Singapore (according to LinkedIn account).

3. UNObank by DigibankASIA Pte. Ltd

UNObank is backed by Singapore-based DigibankASIA Pte. Ltd. It has not yet launched. It has one year from date of receipt of its digital banking license to launch, according to BSP Circular No. 1105.

UNObank says that UNO means ‘one’ and will offer one app and one card to enable anyone anywhere in the Philippines to save, borrow, transact, and invest easily and fast.

4. UnionDigital by UnionBank

UnionDigital, or Union Digital Bank, established by Union Bank of the Philippines, has received its license to operate as a digital bank in July 2021.

And I’m happy about this kahit wala namang akong UnionBank stocks. Pag successful ang Union Bank, maganda para sa SSS as it owns around 15% of UnionBank.

Based din sa aking memory, UnionBank talaga ang the first ever Philippine bank to offer a digital bank account, yong Eon digital account, or Eon Visa debit card. Yong mga first blog posts ko about this Eon card eh. I remember noon sa office namin dati na ang dami naming nag-open kasi ang daling mag-open ng account. Yon yong time nag-start pa lang ng popularity ng usage ng Internet sa atin. So Cheers to UnionBank! And please do your best to offer the best features you can that are most favorable to consumers.

5. GoTyme by JG Summit and TymeBank

GoTyme got its digital banking license on August 17, 2021. It’s owned by JG Summit of the Gokongwei Group and by Singapore- and South Africa-based TymeBank. It will launch in the second quarter of 2022. The plan to launch GoTyme kiosks in Gokongwei-owned Robinsons’ malls and stores could speed up its growth.

6. Maya Bank by Paymaya, operated by PLDT’s fintech unit Voyager Innovations

Maya Bank got its digital banking license on September 20, 2021. It’s owned by Paymaya, which is operated by PLDT’s fintech unit Voyager Innovations. Maya Bank will use the platforms and networks of Paymaya and Smart Padala and other innovations. It will focus on small businesses and underserved consumers like the youth, seniors, and women.

Maya Bank plans to offer products like credit, insurance, savings and investments.

Banks Promoting Themselves as Fully Digital Banks in the Philippines:

Based on these banks’ own marketing, ING Bank and CIMB are the first fully digital banks in the Philippines. Their digital accounts can be opened and activated fully online. Each of these banks has only one physical office where they manage their digital operations.

ING Bank

I’m now checking my ING account on my phone and the 4% per year interest rate is still there. It says it’s 4% until the end of the year. Then it returns to 2.5%. They post interests earned every end of the month.

ING Bank claims it was the first bank in the Philippines to offer a fully digital banking platform. It launched in November 2018.

Features of an ING account:

  • No maintaining balance
  • No minimum to earn interest
  • No holding period (you’re free to move your money anytime)
  • No transfer fee. Free to transfer money to another ING account or to another account in another bank.
  • You can deposit a check. Just take photos of your check using the app. Check amount should be less than 500,000 pesos.
  • No fee to pay bills or buy online. Currently, there’s a promo — you get a cashback when you use ING Pay.

CIMB

I opened my CIMB via GCash, as I’ve been using GCash for a while before GCash launched its GSave account partnership with CIMB. If you like, you can directly open your CIMB account by downloading the CIMB app.

Features:
No annual fees.
No maintaining balance requirement. No initial deposit.
Offers 3 account products: GSave, UpSave and Fast & Fast Plus

GSave is an account offered in partnership with GCash. Interest rate of 3.1% per year. Promo rate of 4% per year ending on Dec 31, 2020. You can open and maintain your GSave account on your GCash app.

Upsave account offers a free life insurance with a minimum average balance of 100,000. No medical check-up. Upsave is also a zero-annual-fee account. Offers 3% annual interest rate.

Fast and Fast Plus accounts. You open a Fast account if you’re looking to open an account super fast. Upgrade to a Fast Plus account so you can maximize features. You can get a free Visa payWave ATM debit card when you deposit a total of 5,000 in your account.

Upgrade your account so can enjoy promo offers and apply for a CIMB personal loan.

You can get a free CIMB debit card by cashing in a total of 5,000 pesos and having your document verified.

Digital Accounts Offered by Licensed Non-Digital Banks:

The accounts described below are fully digital account products offered by non-digital licensed banks (matagal na silang licensed at marami silang physical branches).

Komo by Eastwest Rural Bank

I’ve been maintaining my Eastwest Bank account for several years because we live near Filinvest City which has several Eastwest Bank branches. Eastwest is owned by the same company that owns Festival Mall and other Filinvest enterprises.

Another reason I like Eastwest is they offer a higher exchange rate for US dollars. I don’t have to go to money changers to get a favorable exchange rate.

And now Eastwest Bank’s rural subsidiary Eastwest Rural Bank is offering Komo, a fully digital account!

Just like ING and CIMB, they also offer a higher interest rate, so I opened my own Komo account. I’m also blogging about banks, so it helps if I experience using many different accounts.

Features:

  • No maintaining balance. No annual fees. No initial deposit.
  • 3% annual interest rate
  • Free withdrawals at any EastWest ATM. Four free withdrawals per month at any BancNet ATM.
  • Free debit card and free home delivery. (I received my debit card after about one month).

Why the name Komo? Komo means “kontrol mo ang pera mo”. Okay rin hehe. Creative rin.

Warning about Komo! It CAN NOT receive international remittances or fund transfers from abroad.

DiskarTech by RCBC

DiskarTech promotes itself as “Pangmasa” and “the first Taglish financial super app sa bansa!”. RCBC says its goal is to reach the unbanked or underserved Filipinos who are mostly in the rural areas. Its ads are mostly in Tagalog and will release ads in other major local dialects soon.

  • 3.25% annual interest rate
  • No initial deposit required
  • No maintaining balance required
  • No dormancy fees
  • Free funds transfer (cash-in and send money) and bills payment
  • You can buy Malayan insurance products, buy loads, pay for telemedicine
  • You can apply for loans with partner lenders

Warning!!! Maraming complaints about face and ID verification sa DiskarTech app. Marami raw wasted time dahil hindi magaling yong verification system during registration.

Digital Accounts from UnionBank

Downloan the UnionBank app, then open an account with your ID.

Choose from 3 savings accounts:
PlayEveryday Visa
Debit Visa
GetGo Visa

Features:

  • No maintaining balance
  • Request for your card. It will be delivered to your address.
  • Pay bills and buy online. No fees.
  • Transfer or send money to other UnionBank or Eon accounts. No fees.
  • Transfer or send money to other banks. No fees.
  • Deposit checks by taking photos of your checks.
  • Annual fee of 350 pesos. (No annual fee for the 1st year. Maintain an average daily balance of 10,000 to waive the fee).

ISave from Maybank Philippines

Features:

  • No initial deposit. No maintaining balance.
  • 0.25% interest rate per year for a balance of at least 20,000 pesos
  • Withdraw from any ATM in the Philippines with no fee. It’s FREE.
  • Withdraw from any Maybank ATM in Malaysia, Singapore and Cambodia with no charge. It’s FREE.

To get your ATM card, make a one-time deposit of at least 1,000 pesos. Your ATM card and your PIN will be delivered to your address separately. You may ask your representative to receive your ATM card by showing your authorization letter and a copy of your ID.
If you need an ATM card right away, request for a no-name ATM card at any Maybank branch.

What is Restricted? You’ll see that initially your account will be Restricted. This means you can only have a total of 100,000 pesos in your account, and you cannot receive foreign remittances.

To remove the Restriction, schedule an online verification. After verification, the Restriction will be removed within 24 hours.

Pending Applications to be Digital Banks in the Philippines

As of July 2021, these companies have pending applications with the BSP:
Voyager Innovations (PayMaya)
• An unnamed foreign entity (Most likely, it’s Tyme, a South African fintech company that has partnered with the Gokongwei family’s conglomerate JG Summit Holdings. JG Summit has acquired a stake in Tyme. It’s said in press releases that JG Summit was impressed by the success of Tyme’s digital banking operations in South Africa.)

Others with plans to apply for a digital bank license based on their press releases:
• Philippine National Bank. It’s planning to use its former savings bank subsidiary, PNB Savings Bank (now named Allied Integrated Holdings Inc.) to launch a digital bank
• RCBC

What Are Digital Banks in the Philippines, as defined by BSP?

A digital bank offers financial products and services that are processed end-to-end through a digital platform and/or electronic channels with no physical branch/sub-branch or branch-lite unit offering financial products and services.

Based on the BSP Circular No. 1105, Series of 2020

Here are other BSP guidelines on the establishment of digital banks in the Philippines, based on Circular No. 1105:

. Minimum capitalization is 1 billion pesos
. Only one head office. Required to maintain one principal/head office in the Philippines to house the offices of management, support operations and customer support. It will also serve as the main point of contact for stakeholders, BSP and other regulators.
. “Digital bank” is the 7th classification of banks in the Philippines. It is a banking violation for an entity to represent itself as a “digital bank” if it has not received a digital bank license from the BSP.
. Foreign ownership. Maximum aggregate ownership of the voting shares of stock of foreign individuals and/or foreign non-bank corporations in a digital Bank is 40%. Any foreign individual or non-bank corporation may each own or control up to 40% of the voting stock of a digital bank, provided that the aggregate foreign-owned voting stock owned by foreign individuals and non-bank corporations shall not exceed 40% of the digital bank’s voting stock.

What can digital banks in the Philippines do?

  1. accept savings and time deposits, including basic deposit accounts
  2. accept foreign currency deposits
  3. issue electronic money products
  4. issue credit cards
  5. buy and sell foreign exchange
  6. grant loans
  7. act as collection agent for non-government entities
  8. present, market, sell and service microinsurance products
  9. act as correspondent for other financial institutions
  10. invest in readily marketable bonds and other debt securities, commercial
    papers and accounts receivable, drafts, bills of exchange, acceptances or
    notes arising out of commercial transactions
  11. other banking activities with prior approval by the BSP for digital banking

Banks Offering Account Opening Online

Some licensed non-digital banks have been offering opening of accounts online. Customers fill out online forms and then wait for activation of their accounts. Some banks still require enrollees to go to their preferred branch within a certain period to sign some forms and get their ATM cards.

  • UnionBank
  • Landbank
  • Security Bank
  • Philippine National Bank
  • Bank of the Philippine Islands
  • RCBC

What’s My Favorite “Digital Bank”?

As of today, my favorites are CIMB and OFBank. They’re easy to open and they function well. CIMB scored a big win when it partnered with GCash, which is arguably the most popular financial mobile app in the Philippines, with more than 10 million downloads from Google and the No. 1 financial app on Apple Store, and has the most number of partners. Moving between CIMB and GCash is easy. CIMB’s annual interest rate for savings is still 4%, as long as you keep on saving monthly.

OFBank is a winner because it has brought its campaign abroad to reach out to overseas Filipinos, both contract workers and immigrants.

References:
BSP to issue stricter circular on ‘digital bank’ branding
BSP likely to lift cap on digital banks
BSP gives Philippines a fourth digital bank player: UnionBank

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