I’ve had a habit for quite some time when it comes to settling debts or transferring funds among friends. I would usually first ask them, “may bank account ka ba, pwede ko na lang ba i-transfer dun?” (“do you have a bank account so I can just transfer the funds there?”) Then the next thing we’ll be asking for is each other’s bank account numbers, assuming we’re on the same bank. Tough luck if we don’t have a common set of banks. I’ll pay in cash instead.

It’s a sad reality though that for majority of Filipinos, they’d still rather pay using cash, forgoing electronic methods because, it seems, it’s not trustworthy enough. I know of a handful of people who would still rather line up in bayad centers to pay for their utility, telco, or water bills — even though nowadays almost every bank has their own e-banking or online banking site. Similarly, for payments, people would still rather line up in bank branches to do over-the-counter (OTC) deposits to pay obligations to other people (i.e., debts or payment for items bought). In this day and age where e-banking is accessible on computers and smartphones, it should be less of an issue to do these transfers in a cashless way. Do I even need to emphasize how bad queues can get inside bank branches? #MayForever sa loob ng bangko!

Now, the problem is when you and your contact do not have the same bank. It goes back to that queue nightmare! Thankfully, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) recently introduced InstaPay.

InstaPay fund transfer logo Philippines


Interbank Fund Transfers

Ever heard of the term inter-bank fund transfer (IBFT)? As a former programmer in a local bank, I thought it was possible before. Well technically, it was, but it came at a very hefty fee because transferring money across different banks didn’t come cheap. With InstaPay, the same idea is now not only generally cheaper (“generally” — more on this later), but it’s also instantly credited as well! Like real-time!

Before InstaPay, if one reeeeeally had to deposit money to another bank account (i.e., to a bank where she isn’t an account-holder), she could ask another friend of hers for an arrangement where she transfers money to his account, then he transfers the same amount to that other bank at which he is an account-holder. This is an alternate option for those who absolutely abhor waiting in banks; however, it would only work if your friend is cool with that kind of arrangement.

instapay AUB online banking menu

InstaPay Benefits

With InstaPay, it makes the entire process a lot shorter by bypassing the friend and you making the transaction directly from your own bank account! Not to mention that you can do the fund-transfer (FT) at your most convenient time, and also, you won’t be limited to just transferring funds to banks that your friend has accounts with (read: your friend isn’t a millionaire).

It also allows you to top-up virtual wallets (e-money) like PayMaya in case you don’t have time to drop by outlets that support topping up. And just like your preferred loading station, the transfer is done as soon as your bank e-banking app confirms the transaction!

You can transfer up to 50,000 per transaction. You can do this multiple times, although do remember that your own bank probably also maintains its own maximum transfer limits (per day).

There’s just a couple of downsides though. For one, since it has only just recently launched (April 2018), not all Philippine banks support it just yet. So far, only a handful of local banks are able to send and receive funds from participating banks. However, there’s a dozen more institutions that are able to receive funds, for now.

Banks and institutions where InstaPay is supported

Supports sending and receivingSupports receiving funds only
Asia United Bank (AUB)
Chinabank Savings
Philippine National Bank (PNB)
Security Bank
EastWest Bank
Philtrust Bank
Robinsons Bank
Sun Savings Bank
Yuanta Savings Bank
Reference: BSP InstaPay Fact Sheet
Update: More
banks available as of 17 July 2018

Also, be aware that InstaPay doesn’t come for free (unfortunately). Just like withdrawing money from other bank ATMs, these banks supporting sending via InstaPay charge a fee. From what I gather so far, these banks’ InstaPay fees vary, and can vary quite widely!

Some of the above-mentioned banks have made their fees known, as indicated below. Keep in mind that InstaPay fund transfer fees are only charged against the sender — the recipient gets the entire fund without any deductions.

InstaPay service fees per bank

  • AUB: ₱10
  • BDO: ₱100 50
  • Chinabank: ₱10
  • PNB: ₱30
  • PSBank: ₱10
  • Unionbank: ₱10

The BSP has said that they will not dictate the maximum amount that each bank chooses to charge for each InstaPay transaction. So we’re pretty much at the mercy of the participating banks, especially if they’re the bigger ones. Personally, I can tolerate a ₱10-charge as it is not so different from a typical ATM withdrawal. It would run quite counter to the BSP’s goals of financial inclusivity if banks will charge a high fee for this — what’s the point if you will not entice your customers with a low enough fee? Then they would just stick it out by doing “the usual way” of OTC deposits and the like.

Going to a cash-lite economy

With the help of the BSP, initiatives like InstaPay can influence Filipinos’ banking habits. We have grown accustomed to queueing everywhere, but “going digital” can change the way we do things. I wish that banks take this as a challenge for them to ride along the change so all of us can benefit, hopefully soon!