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When I was in Siem Reap, Cambodia, I received an email from Claire of TravelingLight asking me how I manage my finances while backpacking. I gave my two cent’s worth and thought that this was a good blog entry to share to my readers.

It can be risky bringing all your cash with you inside your bag especially when you are travelling alone. Also, the possibility of spending your money frequently is bound to happen if you have it on hand all the time. Hence, I suggest setting up bank accounts and enrolling them in Online Banking so you can monitor your transactions conveniently while on the road.

backpacking southeast asia
Keeping my money safe.
When I backpacked for 9 months, I withdrew money on a regular basis and not in big bulk.

How I Manage My Money as a Digital Nomad from the Philippines

These tips are helpful especially to fellow Filipinos who have seen an opportunity in the online world and are utilizing the internet as a way to earn extra income. To the rest, these points are still helpful so you can find other options on how to handle your finances. If you have something to share, kindly share away in the Comments section as I gladly welcome ideas on how to save more money.

2 Things: PayPal & Unionbank EON Account

These two accounts are very important to me because I rely on them to handle my cash while travelling. Even now in Dubai, I still use them whenever I have clients who contact me and pay me online.

1. PayPal paypal

Set up a Paypal Account. If you do business or work for somebody online, most likely you’ve heard of this payment method. Paypal is a virtual account that is widely accepted by merchants around the world.  This is where I get paid by clients, advertisers, and employers online. I also use this to pay for my domain websites and hosting accounts as well as when I purchase items on ebay, Amazon or other shopping sites.

Note: Normally, you would need to have a credit card to set up a Paypal account. If you don’t have one, you can sign up for Paypal by applying for a savings account below.

2. Unionbank EON Savings Account unionbank eon

This is simply a Savings bank account. I’m partial to this bank because when I started in the online money business, I didn’t have a credit card to associate it with my Paypal account. This was and still is a good fix to that problem. The EON Savings is specially created by Unionbank with Paypal accounts in mind as they have this VISA Electron feature. I linked this with my Paypal and always use this to transfer Paypal funds to my bank.

With it’s VISA Capability, I use this as a debit card when going to shops that accept VISA cards even when I’m abroad. Other banks require you to activate international withdrawals and transactions by calling their customer service hotline. With this Unionbank EON, I don’t have to do anything.

My Monthly Payment Cycle

To put it simply, an employer pays me online through Paypal. I then transfer my Paypal money to my Unionbank EON Savings Account. Then I withdraw the money from my EON account using an ATM.

Online Salary in Paypal –> Transferred to EON Savings –> Withdrawn using a Visa Electron ATM

The money I withdraw is already converted to the country’s currency where I’m based. It’s convenient because I don’t have to exchange USD currencies to the local currency.

This is the cycle every month and I’ve never had any problems with this set-up at all. *knock on wood*


I also maintain 2 other accounts so I have more flexibility and options when doing business transactions. You don’t have to apply for these exact ones as these are not necessary.

BPI Savings Account

This is a regular Savings bank account. I use this for Philippine transactions wherein people send me money in Pesos. This serves as my back-up in case my EON Savings runs out of funds. You can choose any regular Savings account in your bank. I feel that BPI has more branches nationwide.

bank cards

HSBC Credit Card

When I don’t have money in my Unionbank account, and I need to purchase something online, I use my HBSC credit card. How do I pay for my credit card even when I’m abroad? I use my BPI account or EON account (when they have available funds). I do NOT strongly advise in getting a credit card especially when you’re not sure of the interest rates and billing cycles that are associated with your card purchases. I’ve been trapped before, and I don’t ever want to go back to that cycle again.

However, I still keep this account for convenience while I roll the money and buy time. If you’re planning to get a credit card, just apply for one with the most minimal interest and annual fee.

These other accounts are only optional, but they serve a great deal as back-ups. I used to own other accounts (BDO, Metrobank, Chinabank, BPI Credit Card), but I’ve had them cancelled already. No use to keep them when there’s no money in them. Hehe.


All of these accounts I’ve enrolled in Online Banking because it’s really convenient. I don’t have to call the bank hotline, go to a physical location, or wonder how much money I have by checking account balances in ATM Machines.

With online banking, I get to monitor my money over the internet, pay bills (credit card, electricity, phone, internet plans) during my free time. By managing my accounts on the net, I save:

  • MONEY – On Mobile credit for calling the Philippines for a simple inquiry.
  • TIME – I hate queuing in a bank or over the phone.
  • SALIVABy not having to explain my situation to every customer service representative.

Most banks have this facility available to their accountholders. You only need to inquire how to activate the online service.

Other Tips:

  • Withdraw only ONCE a Month – Make sure that the money you withdraw will be enough to sustain you for a longer period. There’s a charge every time you withdraw money from ATMs. If you withdraw only once, you’ll be charged only once.
  • Have a Secure Connection – Be careful when you open your bank accounts online. Make sure you have a secure connection to prevent unwanted hackers from accessing your details while on a shared network. Remember that it’s still the internet and everybody can access it.

indonesian money
Indonesian Rupiah in Bali
Lots of paper, but not worth as much.

  • Do NOT Use Cash Advance Service I have NEVER withdrawn money using my credit card. Aside from the transaction fee (of around 300 Php), it would earn interest every month if I don’t pay the full balance of my account before the cut-off date. Again, I use the credit card now as back-up only.
  • Know Your Bank Fees – Yes, always check the charges of your bank. There are other processing fees like EFT (Electronic Fund Transfer) that is deducted when you withdraw money, and I’ve tried and tested a number of Philippine Bank Accounts (e.g. Banco De Oro, BPI, Metrobank). Each have their own transaction fees, but I’ve found out that Unionbank EON has the least deduction amounts; sometimes even zero!

Whether you are backpacking long-term or short-term, or even if you’re not travelling but you’re doing transactions online, it’s good to know where your money is going. These are tips based on my experiences handling different bank accounts, and these are what works for me.

Here’s a blog article from another traveller, Paul of WalkFlyPinoy shares tips on how he manages his finances on the road:

How This Backpacker Handles Finances while on Long-Term Travel | WalkFlyPinoy

Do you have other tips to share? Would love to learn more. Let’s all spend wisely.

Check out my other Money & Travel Tips articles here:

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soloflightEd.com is a travel blog by Edcel Suyo. He enjoys performing headstands and crazy stunts during his trips in the Philippines, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. Now based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and working to earn a living, he takes time to enjoy the city and travel during weekends.
For updates, Like his page on Facebook or Follow him on Twitter.
For questions, advertising, and other concerns, shoot an email to ed@soloflighted.com.

23 comments… add one
  • Very practical tips 😀 Sa ngayon yung EON lang meron ako. Planning to get the BPI one. Medyo alanganin pa rin ako mag-credit card :))

    • No worries about the credit card Mica. No need if the EON has funds inside. 🙂

  • Poi

    I so love the EON of Unionbank. It’s truly a “blessing”. When I’m abroad, I prefer swiping with this EON rather than exchange Philippine money to other currency, it has a reasonable conversion and minimal fees, compared to other debit cards. 🙂

    • Thanks Poi! plus 2 na sa EON. Very convenient indeed. The thing is, my EON’s going to expire this July so I have to find a way to get another card. My back up now is my HBSC credit card. Won’t be back in the Philippines for quite some time pa.

  • great tips! Whenever I researched “Backpacking Southeast Asia” ikaw mugawas! haha So yea I guess it wont be much of a problem in my part as I have verified paypal, eon and bpi… and withdrawing once in a month is a lovely tip!

    Xoxo, Shugah

    • haha thanks shugah! yes, these are the essentials basically to simplify our online freelancing life! We need to pay less fees and earn more as every peso counts! 🙂

  • Hey Ed, agree on never ever using a card when traveling, even when i was so broke and tempted i didn’t use my card! (because ummm, i lost my wallet at the airport) haha! + a really cool thing i learned from my Mom was to use Western Union to send money to ourselves when traveling– it avoids currency fluctuations and it’s really cheap too, plus it’s also safer because we can get the money when we are in a safe location unlike having to carry it all the way from the airport- while finding our hotel etc. 😀

    • that sounds like a great tip lauren! maybe ill try it out one of these days. that is if I’ll be travelling long-term again. 🙂

  • WOW! I have been figuring out how to transfer my Paypal funds to a bank account as Paypal only allow US banks. I am transferring it to my Mashreq CC but that doesnt feel like real money (or i use it to pay online, hosting-domain etc etc). Thanks for the EON tip. Maybe we can use any Visa debit card right?

    BTW, just realizing that you are based in Dubai now, it would be great to meet with you. I have this project called the traveling journal project (check it out instagram @thetravelingjournalproject.com), I am setting up a blogsite for that aside from my personal blog http://www.kennethsurat.com and I would like to ask your advise/s about this. Thank you.

    • Hi kenneth. Where did you set up your PayPal account? Cause I’ve been withdrawing fund using a Philippine bank account ever since I set up mine. Much more convenient and you have actual cash with you. Not sure about other debit cards, I know in the Philippines PSBank has a paypal option. I use the “Withdraw using Bank Account” option when I withdraw funds. 🙂

      Ey you’re in Dubai too. Lapit na din ang leave ko so sure. we can meet up one of these days. 🙂

      • dito ko sa Dubai sinet up.hhhhmmmm maybe yung ang problem? I can withdraw it though using my credit card.
        Let me know when are you free so we can set it up! looking forward to meet you.


        • Yep, probably that’s the issue. If you have a Dubai account, it’s a different process. The thing with credit cards, I think there’s a fee for every withdrawal so sayang din.

          Sure sure! I’m on vacation now. PM me your phone number. 🙂

  • Thanks a lot for this very detailed and informative pass. Will these payment methods also work if travelling outside Asia or the UAE?

    • Hi Stella, what do you mean? Which payment methods? Paypal is online so you can get paid anywhere so long as you have internet.

  • Mae Dhebz

    Im wondering if I can withdraw money using my EON card in another country having Paypal converting it to the countrie’s currency?

    • Hi, i don’t understand your question. You need to transfer your Paypal credits to your bank account (You can use EON). The EON card can be used as a regular savings card. I have used and withdrawn money form other banks in other countries (it will be converted to the currency of the country where you withdraw the money).

      • Mae Dhebz

        oh i see. so if thats the case, i can withdraw money via ATM in other country as long as the money is transferred to my union bank account.
        Its like paypal to union bank account (EON) to any ATM amachine in any country=cash.

  • Manilyn Obal

    Thank you so much for this. Knowing real life experiences can give confidence to newbies. Continue sharing!

  • Manilyn Obal

    Btw, can you share specific ATMs abroad that you have used (mentioning specific ATM in Macau or Hong Kong would be a great help)? I am worried about foreign bank or network surcharges. Also, how much is Unionbank’s charge? I just sent them an email, still waiting for their reply. I want to compare their response with your experience. Thanks in advance!

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