A while back, I knew a fellow who had just moved to the Philippines. Everything went very well for him regarding his move, but he had a few little funny incidents about adjusting to life here. I think that is true for all of us who move here. We have to sort of “learn the ropes” if you know what I mean, before we can settle in and just enjoy life.
Well, one day, my new friend had just been here for less than one day, and he decided to take a taxi to the mall. When he arrived at his destination, the driver told him that his fare was P103, which is what the meter said too, so everything was good. My friend had a pocket full of coins, so he decided to lighten up the load a bit by paying the entire fare with coins. He proceeded to pull out a total of 7 coins: 4 coins that were marked “25” and 3 coins that were marked “1”. Let’s see, 25 times 4 would be 100, plus 3 times 1 would take care of the “3”. So, that’s P103. Right?
The taxi driver stood there looking at my new friend with his mouth wide open, jaw dropped. My friend couldn’t understand what the problem might be. Finally, the cabbie was able to utter the words… “Not enough”. My friend decided to give a P100 bank note instead, with the 3 peso coins. This made the driver quite happy, but left my friend confused! After my friend entered the mall and we got together there, he asked me what had happened. As I listened, I got a big smile on my face and explained it to him.
For anybody who is not already well aware of what the problem was, let me explain. Those “25” coins are not for 25 Pesos, no, they are worth 25 Sentimo, or 25 Centavos. In other words a fourth of a Peso! So, by offering 4 of the 25 coins and 3 Pesos, my friend was trying to pay just a total of 4 Pesos to cover his fare of P103. The taxi driver was understandably not too happy with that! 🙂
A simple money primer
So, today, I thought that I would offer a very simple explanation of the money, both coins and bills, available in the Philippines. Let’s have a look.
There are a total of 7 different coins currently in circulation in the Philippines. I mentioned earlier that the coin marked 25 is worth 25 Centavos or 25 Sentimo. They are both the same. The coins themselves are marked “Sentimo” although when talking most people say “centavo”. The difference is only the language. Centavo is the Spanish word for these denominations. The proper word in Filipino is “Sentimo”. In practice and usage, the amount is exactly the same. The words can be used interchangeably and would be universally understood throughout the Philippines.
Let’s have a look at the different Philippine Coins that you will see on the street. First, the denominations worth less than 1 Peso.
The smallest denomination of a coin is 1 Sentimo. These are really not seen very often, few stores have them, and they are not widely used. Can you imagine that in order to pay a paltry sum of just 1 Peso, you would need to produce 100 of these coins? No wonder they are not widely used in daily life!
The 5 Sentimo coin is worth 1 twentieth of a Peso. This is the smallest coin that is widely used in daily life, although I never use it myself. It is worth so little that I consider it only a bother and not worth carrying around in my pocket. You will receive these in your change in stores regularly. The 5 Sentimo Coin is easily recognizable as it has a hold in the middle.
The 10 Sentimo coin is worth 1 tenth of a Peso. Again, for me, in daily life this coin is fairly worthless, as it is so low in value, and I consider it a hassle to even deal with. When I get any coin worth less than a Peso, I usually just give it to kids that I see at the mall or the store, just to get rid of it and to put a smile on a child’s face. The 10 Sentimo coin falls into this category for me.
The 1, 5 and 10 Sentimo coins are all copper in color.
The 25 Sentimo coin is the lowest denomination that is brass in color. Still, to me, as it is worth less than a single Peso, it is a hassle coin, and not worth messing with. I mean, if my friend that I mentioned above wanted to pay his taxi fare with this coin (as he tried to) he would have needed more than 400 of these to pay a simple P103 taxi fare! That’s just a hassle. When you shop in stores, though, this coin is widely used in making change and such. I see them often used for paying jeepney fare as well, but other than small things like this, the 25 Sentimo is not widely used.
1 Peso Coin
Now we are getting into the meat and potatoes of Philippine Coins! The 1 Peso coin is the mainstay of Philippine life. This coin is used every single day by just about anybody living in the Philippines. For many (like me), if you are paying any bill, you just round up to the next peso and pay, not worrying about any change due that is less than a peso. The 1 Peso coin is certainly a mainstay in the life of Filipinos, it is used either as a mode of payment or part of your change for virtually every cash transaction the you will make. It is the workhorse of Philippine Money!
5 Peso Coin
Five Pesos? Now we are getting into some real money! Ha ha… just joking. But, in terms of coins, the 5 Peso is getting more substantial. The 5 Peso coin is a different color, it is a sort of brass color, although I have only rarely seen a bright and shiny 5 Peso coin, they seem to lose their shine quickly, probably because they are so commonly used in transactions, thus they get a lot of handling.
10 Peso Coin
Now we are getting into the good stuff! The 10 Peso coin is the king of coinage in the Philippines in terms of value! This is the largest value coin being minted in the Philippines at the time of writing. I am sure that it won’t be too long in the future before some larger denomination coins come out, but for now the P10 coin is the king. The P10 coin is a combination of silver and brass in color. There is an outer ring of silver, with the center core of the coin being brass in color, so it is easily identifiable.
Paper Money of the Philippines
Now, let’s look at the paper money in the Philippines. There are different styles of paper money in circulation. About 3 years ago (at the time of writing in 2014), the Philippine Government issued new bills with brighter colors and new pictures on them. Have a look at the right (click on the photo to see it larger), these are every one of the current paper denominations being issued in the Philippines.
The bills in current circulation are:
This note is very widely used in every day life. It is used for bills small and large. For large purchases it is not used as the main part of the payment, but simply for the nominal amounts when you are “almost there”. Used very often for paying jeepney fare, although the drivers prefer payments using coins, especially in the morning when there are a lot of passengers and the driver is sill building up a reserve of coins to use for the day. The P20 note is orange in color.
Another widely used note in the Philippines. A little more substantial than a P20 note, but still small enough that most vendors have change if you use a P50 bill to make payment. This note is red in color. Ever since the new currency was issued a few years back, I often have trouble distinguishing between the P20 and the P50 notes when just looking at the color. I have seen others make this mistake as well. The red color tends to fade a bit with use, making the orange and red colors look very similar.
In terms of the amount of use, the P100 note is the king of Philippine currency! P100 notes are really the mainstay of the Philippine economy, they are used in almost any kind of situation – from paying for your jeepney ride, paying street vendors, or paying your bills. The P100 certainly must have the largest number of bills in circulation of any notes in the Philippines. The P100 is purple in color, and can be confused relatively easily with the P1,000 note.
I suppose that the P200 note is kind of the “ugly duckling” of Philippine currency. I am not saying it is not a pretty note, but I call it the ugly duckling because it is not widely used. For Americans, think of the $2 bill and how widely used that is (not). The P200 bill is similar. I have noticed, though, that in recent years the P200 is being used a bit more. I kind of like them, because it is twice as much as the P100 and in a single bill. Usually, it is still small enough that vendors have change if you use one to pay, but not too big either. I believe it will continue to increase in use in the future. This bill is green in color, and easy to identify because there is no other bill that is similar in color.
This bill, along with the P1,000 bill are the bills most commonly given at the banks. However, in terms of everyday use, they can be hard to spend, because smaller stores, street vendors and such just don’t usually have change if you are paying with a P500 bill, unless the amount you are paying is nearly the entire value of the bill. If you are at a large store like at a mall, or if you are paying bills, the P500 is easy to use, though. I always recommend to people that if they are at a mall store or such, pay with the largest bill you have, because that way you get smaller bills that you can use in places like sari -sari stores and such – the places that just never have enough small change. The P500 bill is gold in color, like the P200 it is easy to identify only by color because the color is unique with no other “imitators”.
This is the King of Philippine Currency! There is no type of Philippine currency that is larger than P1,000. These are what you will generally get in most ATM transactions (but P500s too), but they can be very hard to spend, because nobody ever has change! They can be spent easily, though, in grocery stores and malls, so unload them there and get change for your daily transactions elsewhere. If you ever tried to use a P1,000 note for a Jeepney or even a taxi, you will put the driver into a frenzy trying to figure out how he can possibly make change for you!
So, this wraps up a look at the money of the Philippines. I hope that if anybody was confused on what denominations are available or used widely, this will help clear it up!
Spend wisely! If you have any large bills and are not sure what they are, feel free to send them along to me, I will be happy to spend them for you! 🙂