Anybody who has lived in the Philippines, or traveled here extensively will know this, but for the advantageous of those who are less experienced here, it’s important to know that in the Philippines, cash is always king.
Although since the first time I came here, some 17 years ago, the acceptance of things like Credit Cards has really made a lot of progress, it still is not something that you can count on 100% of the time. Back in the US, and probably in almost all developed countries, credit cards (or debit cards) are used for nearly everything. Want to buy a coke at 7-11? Whip out that plastic! Need something at the drive-through window at McDonalds? Heck, they even take credit cards there these days! Well, credit cards are not quite that ubiquitous here in the Philippines. Basically, any of the large chain stores and such take credit cards, but smaller local stores are just as likely to be “cash only” in most cases.
Even in those larger stores that accept cards, from time to time you may have trouble using it. Especially if you are wanting to use a foreign issued card. For example, a couple of weeks ago, my Mom was shopping at SM Department Store and had a rather sizable number of items to purchase. She was getting an early start on her Christmas shopping for her grandkids here in the Philippines. When she was at the checkout and pulled out her credit card to pay for the purchase, things didn’t work out as she had hoped. The clerk swiped the card in the machine and it was declined! Now, I can assure you that my Mom had plenty of available credit on the card, so the clerk called the authorization center. The people there even talked to my Mom on the phone and she went through all kinds of trouble trying to get the card authorized. After about 40 minutes of numerous tries, the card was finally declined! Well, the clerk held the purchase and Feyma and Mom went to the ATM machine, and took out cash on the same card. Worked fine, so they went back and used the cash to pay for the purchase.
When my Mom came home, she used my Vonage VOIP phone to call her Credit Card company in the States. They said that there had been no request for approval that ever reached the USA. Apparently the card had been declined here in the Philippines without even checking with her card issuer.
So, what I am saying here is that the only thing that is 100% reliable in making a purchase is cash. This is actually true anywhere in the world, not just in the Philippines. I would say that you will have problems (particularly with a foreign card) here more than in your home country, though. The thing is, always try to keep some cash on you to cover your purchases, just in case it is needed.
Back in the States, we would often pay for things with checks. So far, I have never seen a store here that will take a check! If you are a long term customer, maybe you can make a special arrangement with the store, but that is unlikely, I’d say. Now, for things like paying your power bill, phone bill, etc., a check will work just fine. Not for shopping, though!