Money & Banking in Thailand
Like the rest of the world, Thailand’s economy was hit hard by the recent/ongoing global financial crises. With demand for Thailand’s many exported goods dropping severely.
As we look to the future, things are looking bright for Thailand and its economy. With investment continuing to come in from all over the world Thailand’s economy seems secure… for now. Whether you are an expatriated resident, an investor or you holiday in the kingdom regularly, getting to grips with the banking system in Thailand is paramount.
It’s no good expecting you are going to be able to use your current overseas bank account while in Thailand and there are two reasons for this; firstly foreign commercial banks are not allowed to open sub branches. If you are lucky there may be a single branch in Bangkok’s financial district. Secondly you may have trouble using your foreign credit or debit card in Thai ATMs some won’t allow you withdraw and others can swallow your card for no reason (speaking from experience).
In this guide we will give you an overview of banks, bank accounts, currency exchange, credit cards, transfers and charges. We will try our hardest to cover everything but if you think there is anything we are missing, get in touch.
Current Exchange Rate
The currency of Thailand is the Thai Baht (THB). It is subdivided into 100 Satang. Like the British Pound, The Thai baht was originally a unit of mass, more specifically silver. Until 1902 the baht was fixed on a purely silver basis, with 15 grams of silver equal to one baht. Post 1902 the baht took on the coin and note form that we use to this day.
As of March 2017 the exchange rate on the Thai baht is as follows;
1 British Pound —> 41.94 THB
1 US Dollar —> 33.73 THB
1 Euro —> 36.89 THB
1 Aus Dollar —> 26.11 THB
After the Asian financial crisis of 1997 the Thai Baht has steadily increased against many of the major currencies. The days of value for money in the land of smiles could soon be a thing of the past.
NB: We recommend that you change your money into Baht once you arrive in the kingdom. The exchange rate is much more competitive once you are in the country.
Commercial Banks in Thailand
Thailand has a wealth of banking chains, some are more foreigner friendly than others. When we say that, we don’t mean they don’t want your money, it’s just that some banks are more user friendly if you are from overseas in terms of their literature and there services.
Here are the banking chains you will find in Pattaya:
—> Bangkok Bank —> Krungthai Bank
—> Bank of Ayudhya —> Siam Commercial Bank
—> CIMB Thai —> Thanachart Bank
—> Kasikorn Bank —> TMB Bank
You will find that the bigger banks such as Bangkok Bank, Krungthai and Kasikorn are the most popular amongst foreigners because they are easy to deal with and offer the widest variety of services.
Generally all banks are open from 9:00am til 5:00pm, Monday to Friday excluding public holidays.
Opening a bank account in Pattaya will require the applicant to have a work permit or long-term visa before the application can be processed. Check with the different branches as there requirements are all different. If your application is successful you may need a work permit if you wish to access all the internet banking features.
Non-residents are, however, allowed to open foreign currency savings accounts, subject to Thailand’s foreign exchange regulations. As with all bank applications, you will be required to provide personal identification, which typically includes a passport and residency or work permits. A letter of reference from an employer, in addition to a letter of reference from your existing bank, along with recent bank statements, can all help to support your application.
There are four types of bank accounts available to foreign customers:
—> Current account
—> Savings account
—> Foreign currency deposit account
—> Business account
Your current account is the same as any current account you would set up back home. Used for everyday banking, offering access to your funds, internet payments and they come with a debit card.
Savings accounts offer you a very reasonable rate of interest compared to current accounts, but you have limited access to your funds.
Foreign currency accounts offer the lowest rates of interest. Access to funds before the account matures is limited, so deposit accounts should be viewed as a long term savings account.
ATMs in Pattaya
ATMS can be found in all over Pattaya, along with ATMs located at bank branches. As with credit cards, if you are using a foreign bank card, or a card in a machine outside of your banks network, then a charge for using the service may be applied (if it works at all). The majority of ATMS in Pattaya provide both English and Thai instructions for customers.
International credit cards such as American Express, MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted at large stores and restaurants in Pattaya and other main cities. In tourist areas you will also find bureau de changes. Your credit card will work in ATMs for making cash withdrawals, but charges may apply. You should apply caution when using credit cards in smaller establishments, as charges applied to transactions can be high.
Money transfers in Thailand
Foreign currencies can be transferred or brought into Thailand without limit. Any person receiving foreign currencies from abroad is required to sell such foreign currencies to an authorised financial institution or to deposit them in a foreign currency account with an authorised financial institution within 360 days of receipt, except for foreigners temporarily staying in Thailand for no more than three months, foreign embassies, and international organizations including their staff with diplomatic privileges and immunities
Any person, who brings into or takes out of Thailand an aggregate amount of foreign currency exceeding USD 20,000 or its equivalent must declare it to a customs officer.
The majority of Thai bank accounts do not incur a monthly fee, but interest rates offered are low, and any additional services or facilities that are requested from a bank, such as money transfers, are likely to incur additional charges.