Philippine Currency Guide: History, Exchange Rate, and Transfers

Last updated on March 6th, 2024 at 10:30 pm

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A pile of Philippine currency

Do you need to send or exchange Philippine pesos?

Maybe you plan to travel to Southeast Asia sometime soon and want local cash when you arrive. Or maybe you need to send money home to your parents or friends. Regardless of your reason, there are many ways to buy Philippine pesos or wire money abroad.

But Philippine currency is more than just local money: It’s also a part of the nation’s history.

Keep reading for more information on Philippine currency, including its history, interesting facts, and how to get the best Philippine peso rates.

An introduction to Philippine currency: The peso

A close up of a Philippine peso

Printed by the Central Bank of the Philippines, or Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Philippine peso, locally called the piso in Tagalog, is the national currency of the Philippines. A peso is divided into 100 sentimos, similar to how one U.S. dollar (USD) divides into 100 cents.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Philippine currency, here are some quick facts about the peso:

  • Currency code: PHP
  • Abbreviation: ₱
  • Coin denominations: 1, 5, 10, 20 pesos and 1, 5, 10, and 25 sentimos
  • Banknotes: 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1,000

History of the Philippine peso

Like the United States dollar and several Latin American currencies, the modern-day Philippine currency  originally came from the Spanish peso. But before the Spanish introduced the peso, Philippine communities used gold bits, a currency known as salapi, or the rupya, silver coins from India and Indonesia.

Even after the Spanish peso became the primary currency in 1565, island residents continued using the salapi, which the Spaniards branded as a half-peso coin. Although the Spanish peso underwent several changes, it remained a common currency in the Philippines until the early 1900s.

Everything changed in 1898, though, when the Philippines achieved independence from Spain. During this time, the new government introduced the centavo coin, which would become a subdivision of the peso.

While the centavo coin is used today as sentimo, it temporarily fell out of use during the American colonial period.

But after two world wars and Japanese occupation, the Philippines regained its independence in 1946. The Central Bank of the Philippines, now called the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, was founded in 1949 and took over the responsibility of designing and printing a new Philippine currency, the modern peso.

The Philippine peso exchange rate explained

Philippine currency: A collage of images of people, a cellphone, and the Remitly logo

At the time of writing in May 2022, 1 USD equals around 52 PHP. For the last 180 days, according to OANDA’s historical rate charts, the exchange rate hovered between 1:49 and 1:52.

Why is there such a gap between these two currencies? It comes down to the differences between the government and economies of the United States and the Philippines.

Several factors can affect the trading value of a currency, including:

  • Trade relations
  • Economic growth
  • Government stability and freedom
  • Demand

Since the United States dollar is generally more stable and in greater demand than the Filipino peso, it tends to be valued more highly in the global currency market.

However, this isn’t true for the peso in all markets. The difference is much less between other common currency pairs, like the Malaysian ringgit (1 ringgit equals around 12 PHP) and the Saudi Arabian riyal (1 riyal equals almost 14 PHP) at the time of writing.

Meanwhile, if you want to trade your Filipino pesos for Indonesian rupiah (IDR), you’ll have a better rate, with 1 PHP equaling around 277 IDR at the time of writing.

Here are some of the current conversion rates between other global currencies and the peso:

  • 1 Swiss franc (CHF) = 53 pesos
  • 1 pound sterling (GBP) = 65 pesos
  • 1 Australian dollar (AUD) = 37 pesos
  • 1 Hong Kong dollar (HKD) = 7 pesos
  • 1 United Arab Emirates dirham (AED) = 14 pesos
  • 1 Japanese yen (JPY) = 0.5 peso

5 facts you might not know about the Philippine peso

A mountain reflecting in water and surrounded by palm trees

The peso has a long and storied history in the Philippines. After nearly 500 years of circulation, there are so many interesting facts about the Philippine currency, but these are our top five.

1. The Philippine currency comes from the Spanish “Real of 8”

The peso came from the Spanish dollar or the “Real of 8,” which was a silver coinage.

The Spanish “Real of 8” came in 1/2-, 1-, 2-, 4- and 8-real coins and was recognized across the globe.

2. Filipino pesos used to be tied to gold and the U.S. dollar

When the United States still held control of the Philippines, it passed the Philippine Coinage Act of 1903. This tied the value of the peso to a gold coin, which was worth half of one U.S. dollar.

After achieving its independence in 1946, the Philippines dropped this standard.

3. There used to be a subset of the Philippine peso called Culion currency

In 1906, the island government minted separate pesos for those suffering from leprosy in the Culion colony.

At the time, the government mistakenly believed that leprosy could be transmitted through exchanging money. Although printed in Manila, the Culion currency was prohibited outside of the colony for fear of spreading disease.

4. During WWII, special pesos were printed to undermine Japanese occupation

Known as “guerrilla pesos,” this currency was used by the local government to defy Japanese occupiers, who attempted to circulate their own version of the peso. In fact, until 1944, it was illegal to possess or use guerrilla pesos.

5. An error in 2005 created rare peso notes for collectors

About 78 million 100-peso notes printed in the early 2000s had a major typography error: President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s surname was misspelled as “Arrovo.”

Only 2 million of these notes ended up in circulation, but today, they’re considered a rarity for currency collectors.

Currency converter for the Philippine peso

Planning to visit the Philippines? You can find current PHP exchange rates in the Remitly app or on our website if you need to calculate how your currency will convert.

You have a few options for converting your money into Philippine currency, but each comes with pros and cons. Whichever route you choose, be sure to plan ahead of your visit so you have enough cash for your stay.

  1. Exchange money at the airport: Airport exchanges are convenient, but they can be pricey.
  2. Take out pesos from an ATM: ATMs are easy to use in major population centers, but they come with international transfer fees, and they’re hard to find outside of the Philippines’ main cities.
  3. Order pesos from your local bank before you arrive: This option can help you avoid pricey fees once you land in the Philippines, but there’s always a danger to traveling with a lot of cash. Plus, you’re only legally allowed to bring 10,000 pesos into the country (currently less than $200 USD).
  4. Use your credit cards: Credit cards are generally accepted in major tourist destinations and cities like Manila, Cebu, and Boracay. But you’ll want cash in most other areas.
  5. Buy pesos at a foreign exchange counter at an SM Mall: Usually, SM Mall or department store branches in the Philippines have a foreign exchange counter where you can buy pesos. To do this, you’ll want to use crisp, new USD. Additionally, you should request 500 peso notes or less. Larger bills, like the 1,000 note, are often harder to break.

Send money to the Philippines

A closeup of a hand holding Philippine currency in front of a laptop

Maybe you don’t want quick cash for a tourist trip, and instead, you need to send Philippine currency to friends or family. Or perhaps you plan to stay in the country for an extended period and need a reliable method for transferring money before you leave.

In both cases, you may also need to send large sums of money. And the last thing you want to do is pay hundreds of pesos in fees.

International money transfer apps like Remitly make it easier to send money quickly and affordably to the Philippines. We offer a flat, transparent fee when sending to the Philippines from the U.S., which at the time of writing goes down to zero when you send $1,000 or more using your debit card.

Not only that, but your loved ones can receive the money in a variety of ways. Send money to a Filipino bank account, a mobile wallet account like GCash, or pick up cash from thousands of locations around the country.

Visit the homepagedownload our app, or check out our Help Center to get started.