If you are to be in Thailand for on a long-term visa, such as a Retirement Visa, holding a Thai bank account is required. Many Thai banks no longer allow foreigners to open an account if they are in Thailand without a non-immigrant visa. There are still some, however, that allow you to open an account even if you entered Thailand on the 30-day privilege you receive upon entry at international airports. If one branch refuses to allow you to open an account, try another branch. Remember about the inconsistency.
If you intend to retire in Thailand, but do not yet hold a Thai bank account, it can be quite a problem if you cannot find a bank that will allow you to open an account. However, if you apply for the Retirement Visa while still in your home country, provided that you are otherwise eligible, the visa will be granted without holding a Thai bank account. Once you hold the Retirement Visa you will be able to easily open an account at any bank in Thailand.
All Thai banks permit opening an account with a minimum deposit of 500 baht. Upon opening an account you will be issued a passbook. The ATM card is called Visa Electron. There is a fee for the Visa Electron card. Most banks charge 200 to 300 baht for it. When it expires, the banks charge a fee for renewal, usually 100 baht. Banks that offer interest to a foreigner’s savings account usually offer only a very low interest rate.
Thai ATMs are sophisticated and plentiful. Even the smallest towns will have ATMs. In larger cities they are virtually everywhere. If you make a withdrawal at an ATM at which you hold an account, there is no fee if you are within the province at which you opened the account. If you are in a different province, most banks assess a 25 baht fee when making withdrawals. If you make a withdrawal at an ATM other than your own bank’s machine, a 25 baht fee is assessed no matter where you are in Thailand.
The Visa Electron card also works outside of Thailand. You can make withdrawals at most ATMs anywhere in the world. Most grocery stores, department stores, restaurants, and nearly anywhere in Thailand that normally would accept a credit card will allow you to pay with your Visa Electron card. PayPal now allows you to hold an account if your bank is a Thai bank. When registering for PayPal they ask for a credit card. The accept the Visa Electron card, which means you can have PayPal deposit funds into your Thai bank account. It takes 5 to 7 days for the funds to reach your account via PayPal. PayPal does not yet issue their ATM card for Thai-based accounts.
If you go to an ATM representing your own bank, anywhere in Thailand, you can do much more than simply make withdrawals. You can do balance inquiries, even for other banks. You can pay bills, add time to your mobile phone, pay bills, and transfer funds to any Thai bank, including other banks. For example, if you hold an account with Kasikorn Bank, but wish to transfer money to a Bangkok Bank account, you can do so at any Kasikorn Bank ATM, but many banks restrict the hours in which those types of transactions can be done. The hours available for those types of transactions are usually 6:00am to 8:00 or 9:00pm, depending on the bank.
At branch locations there are usually Cash Deposit Machines available. You can deposit cash into your own account or any other account. The machine checks the cash to verify the cash is genuine, not counterfeit. In most cases the funds are immediately available once the machine accepts the cash. In some cities that service is available 24 hours per day. In other cities that service is available only during restricted hours, even when it is the same bank.
There are usually passbook update machines at branch locations.
Depending on the bank, ATM withdrawals are limited to 20,000 to 25,000 baht per day.
All Thai banks have online banking available. Some banks, however, permit online banking only if you hold a non-immigrant visa. Depending on the bank, establishing online banking ranges from quite simple to quite complicated. Once you have established online banking, you can check your balance and do transactions from anywhere in the world. Short of withdrawing cash, you can use online banking to do every kind of transaction that can be done at ATMs.
Online banking also includes bill paying services. Billers that have contracted with the bank will have their names appear on a dropdown list. You select the company to which the bill will be paid. When filling out the form you will be asked for two reference numbers. Both reference numbers appear on the bill. Banks charge a 10 baht fee for each bill paid via their bill pay services.
Some Thai banks have non-commercial branches in foreign countries. Bangkok Bank, for example, has a branch office in New York. That branch office has a routing number, which means that any funds you can receive by direct deposit can be sent to your Bangkok Bank account via the New York branch. You will normally receive the funds the same day they are deposited.
Several banks now offer mobile phone services. If your mobile phone has Internet capabilities, the banks that offer such services provide secure services and allow you to fully access your account via mobile phone. You can check your balance, pay bills, top off your mobile phone time, and transfer funds to other accounts.
Thai banks do not offer account insurance similar to the USA’s FDIC. It is advisable to be very careful when using an ATM. Make sure no one can see you enter your PIN. Change your PIN code on a regular basis, which can be done at an ATM. Do not let anyone approach you when using an ATM. If you use an ATM at night, try to use one in a well lit location with plenty of people around.
If you are a regular traveler to Thailand or stay in Thailand on a long-term basis, then holding a Thai bank account is convenient and cost effective. Nearly every Thai bank assesses a 150 baht fee for transactions and withdrawals if the ATM card being used is a foreign ATM card.
cc ThailandVisa.com 2009-2014