I recently received a letter from UnionBank of the Philippines, saying that my savings account is now dormant and will soon be closed. I’ve almost forgotten about this account, which was opened when I got their EON Visa Debit Card. I stopped using it two years ago because there are better options available.
To its credit, it was easy enough to apply for an EON — I simply filled up the online application form, went to a UnionBank branch, presented one government ID, paid the annual fee, and voilà, I got the card. As such, I have recommended it in the past to folks who don’t have a credit card to pay for their visa application or travel insurance online.
I already had a credit card back then, but I got an EON so I can easily withdraw money from ATMs abroad with the Visa logo. I like to travel, and using the EON was preferable to getting a credit card cash advance, which incurs much higher fees plus interest.
I also had the BPI Express Teller Card (which I recently canceled), but it only had the Cirrus logo, which is not as widely accepted by ATMs overseas. (I remember my husband W. and I going to an island in Vietnam which only had one working ATM with just the Visa logo.) The last thing I wanted was to be cash-strapped in a foreign country because I couldn’t find a Cirrus ATM.
The EON was useful in my travels, but I soon discovered better alternatives. Shortly after I got the EON, I opened a savings account with Metrobank, which came with a regular ATM card. Much later, I learned that I could actually get the ATM card converted for free to a debit card with the Mastercard logo, which is as widely accepted as Visa by ATMs abroad.
Once I had upgraded to the Metrobank Debit MasterCard, I zeroed out the UnionBank savings account connected to the EON and used the Mastercard exclusively to withdraw money overseas. As for the EON, its Visa feature expired after three years (although it can still be used locally in the Philippines as a regular ATM card), and I never renewed it.
When it comes to fees, I find a regular debit card more preferable than EON — the former has no annual fees and comes free with your savings or checking account; all you have to do is keep your deposit above the maintaining balance. I understand that some folks have difficulty complying with this, which makes the EON attractive with its lack of initial deposit and maintaining balance requirements. EON’s downside is its myriad insidious fees; they even charge you for withdrawing locally from their own ATM (greedy much, UnionBank?). If you have the means to maintain the required minimum balance, I definitely recommend a regular debit card.