Banking and opening a bank account in Thailand

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Last edited: August 03, 2023 at 08:41:36



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When you live in Thailand it's useful to have a Thai bank account for easy daily life transaction. Although Thai banks have made the switch to QR code payments and other modern digital payment ways, you will soon notice that that's just a facade behind an outdated infrastructure that can easily fall apart and provides limited safety. If you take sufficient precautions, however, it doesn't need to bother you too much and the benefits of using the Thai banking system outweigh the disadvantages.

Withdrawing money in Thailand by ATM

With most international ATM cards, you can withdraw money from all major banks in Thailand, at some costs, depending on your own bank and the Thai bank.
To save costs, you can witdraw a larger amount per each time. Most bank ATMs typically allow for a maximum withdrawal of THB 20,000, however some (in particular Bangkok Bank or Krungsri) allow for THB 25,000 or THB 30,000 withdrawal per each time. So that saves you on fees per money withdrawn.

Exchange rate for ATM withdrawals from your foreign bank account

Another important thing to pay attention to when withdrawing money by ATM from your foreign bank account is the exchange rate use for conversion.
In general, it is better not to accept the proposed exchange rate (I) by the Thai bank but rather to choose the other option (II) offered, which is the exchange rate of the day.
Typically, the ATM machine will show a message stating: your THB xxx will be converted from USD xxx (or in the currency from the bank account of your card). Normally, this rate is not very beneficial and the second rate (the official rate of the day, which you cannot see at that time!) is a few percentage points better for you.
Many foreigners choose to accept the proposed rate by the bank because what you see is what you get, the second rate is unknown.
If you choose the first rate (I) you could be about 3-5% better off.

Finally, never use your credit card to withdraw money from an ATM because that will cost you a few percentage points more.

TIP: Some foreigners suggest that the ATM of Bank of China offers the best ATM rates in town, without the usual 200 baht withdrawal fees. It's hard to confirm that, because you'd have to withdraw money at the same time from various bank ATMs to compare the conversion rate. But Bank of China seems pretty straightforward with a reasonable rate.
The cash exchange rate at a money exchanger such as SK is still better, though, but if you are not able to bring foreign cash, then this is one of the cheaper options.


Thai ATMs first issue the money before returning the ATM pass. The risk of this sequence is that you walk away after taking the money and forget to take back your ATM pass. You won't be the first person to forget this, this happens to both foreigners and Thai, probably on a daily basis. After you have taken the money (and have left) the machine ask if you want to continue with another transaction. If you're not there to answer but someone else is, this person is able to empty your complete bank account.
From a customer perspective and to reduce the risk of abuse, the proper sequence for an ATM machine is of course to issue the money last and the ATM card first. But banks in Thailand (and in China, by the way), didn't figure this out yet.

Exchanging money

Another way to get Thai baht is to exchange your foreign currency in cash at a bank or an exchange office.
The exchange rates you get at the major banks are similar and are typically a bit less good than those at specific exchange offices.
The best commercial exchange rates in Chiang Mai you can get at S.K. Money exchange and Super Rich. An even better rate you can get through CM Locator by using peer-to-peer transfer at a rate of 0.1%. This is even cheaper than WISE or any other provider.


How does peer-to-peer exchange work?

You let us know when and how much THB cash you want to receive in Chiang Mai and where you bank. We match you with someone who wants to send money out.
We set up a meeting in Chiang Mai where the cash is show to you and ready to be picked up. You make the transfer from your bank in your home country to the bank account number of your match, after the transfer is confirmed, you receive the cash minus 0.1%.
This mostly works for countries in which our members have a bank account: Europe (SEPA zone), US, UK, Hong Kong and sometimes China.

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Banking in Thailand

How to open a bank account in Thailand

If you stay in Thailand longer than a few months, it is easier and cheaper to work with a local bank account.

Official rules and regulations that allow a foreigner to open a bank account differ amongst banks, often a work permit or a non-immigrant (retirement) visa is required, but in the end like everything in Thailand, it doesn't really matter what the rules are, it matters who enforces the rules and so you may be rejected in one branch and be accepted in another (even within the same bank).

Your best chances to open a bank account in a certain branch are when:

  1. you go to a branch of a certain bank where the manager or staff are known to be welcoming new accounts for all kinds of foreigners opening, even those on a tourist visa;
  2. you have a work permit;
  3. you are introduced by a relation of the bank;
  4. you have a 1-year non-immigrant visa

ad 2. If you don't have a work permit, it may be useful to show a recommendation letter by your Embassy, your house book registration (if you have any), a Thai driving license, or a marriage certificate with a Thai spouse.

If you're American, it's more difficult to open a bank account, due to requirements from the American side.

Simple strategy: if you get rejected in one bank / branch, simply try another until eventually you will get approved somewhere. Although there are general rules, every application is evaluated by a manager on a case-to-case basis.


Advantages and features of having a Thai bank account with a Thai ATM card

  • ATM withdrawals with the same bank and within the same geographical area are free of charge.
  • ATM withdrawals with another bank in the same geographical area are often free (for a limited number of times) or charged at modest fees of THB 10-30 or so.
  • ATM withdrawals or transfers to another geographical area are usually charged at THB 20-40 or so.
  • Sending foreign currency over from abroad into your Thai bank account will give you better exchange rates from that currency into THB then when you would exchange those currencies abroad.

    The ATM card only costs about THB 200-250 per year or sometimes per issuance (depending on the bank)

Banking in Thailand explained
The overabundance of ATM machines in Thailand seems an advantage to customers
but it is actually a sign of total inefficiency

Preferred banks in Thailand

Especially Bangkok Bank, Kasikorn Bank and Siam Commercial Bank are preferred by many foreigners.
Bangkok Bank because it has a large international network and you can send money at very low costs from the USA to Thailand, using a special service in their New York branch.
This is also a great tool if you get income through Paypal in the US, it will get your money here at the lowest costs possible.
Bangkok Bank has staff trained to deal with foreigners and is more focused on foreigners. You can also easily open a FCY (foreign currency) account here in USD or EUR. Finally, Bangkok Bank has a very attractive accident insurance.

SCB is probably Thailand's best bank, with professional services and more advanced than other banks, however it it not always easy to open a bank account here.

Other major Thai banks are: Krung Thai Bank, Krungsri, Thanachart Bank, TMB Bank and CIMB Thai.
You can also consider an international bank such as Standard Chartered or IBCC.

Opening hours of Thai banks

Most Thai banks open during weekdays at about 8:30 or 9am and close at about 3:30pm. However, branches inside the big shopping malls are usually open longer and also during the holidays.
Note also that the bank book machines don't operate after 10pm and that internet banking is sometimes suspended during the night.

Safety of banking in Thailand

If you go to an ATM and withdraw money, even late at night, it's probably more safe than in most places in the world, you won't often be robbed.
However, online banking is generally considered much less safe, as many online banking programs don't close your access properly after you have logged out already! So don't use that in internet cafes.
Also, something to be aware of is that in Thailand when you withdraw money with an ATM card, the machine will first give you your money and after that return your ATM card.
If you don't pay proper attention and you walk away with the money but you leave your ATM card inside the machine, someone else has a short window of opportunity to go to the machine and continue to carry out transactions. Many people, including local Thai people lost a lot of money this way, because the next person in queue wasn't honest and withdrew all the money in the account.
We know it's not logical to first issue money and to issue the ATM card later, but hey it's Thailand so things aren't logical here and you better pay attention.

Credit cards in Thailand

You can apply for a credit card in Thailand with all major banks. Conditions differ, often you need a minimum of THB 200,000 or so in your savings account (tied up). In other cases, you can apply for a credit card that officially charges if you spend less than a minimum amount per year (say about THB 200,000 or so), but after you call the call center these fees can often be waived, so practically it can be free.
Some companies, such as HomePro and AirAsia, also have promotions that offer you a credit card.

The advantage of using a Thai credit card compared to using a foreign credict card is obviously that there are no exchange rate charges. In addition, many bigger shops have ongoing promotional offers with creditcards, so that you will get some discounts or money back when you pay with a specific credit card.

Banking in Thailand
Banking in Thailand is in fact very inefficient. Banks don't cooperate and every bank has it's own system.

Other things to note about banking in Thailand

Thai banks are rather old-fashioned and inefficient in their operations and by far not as up-to-date as international banks, despite the modern appearances with QR code payments and other digital payment forms. Behind the modern facade hides an extremely outdated system infrastructure that brings inefficiency, inconvenience and lack of safety to customers.

To give you a few examples:

  • Information about and instructions about your account can often only be give provided and arranged by the branch where you opened the account. For example, if you have a foreign currency account with Bangkok Bank, the call center won't be able to help you with anything.
  • The websites of most Thai banks are almost antique and definitely lack safety.
  • The ATMs spit out your money first before returning your ATM card, risking that you forget to take it from the machine.
  • Most banks works with antique bank books that have to be updated with a magnetic strip. If you loose it, you have to report to police.

Online banking in Thailand
On the last day of the month, some bank apps can't handle the volume

Expect some surprises when you deal with banks in Thailand. Things may take longer than you expect, or you need a ton of signatures.

On the positive side, there are nearly no main streets in Chiang Mai without an ATM machine, and often in front of malls or main shops you'll find several ATMs right next to each other. Though convenient for you as a customer, this is actually is a clear sign of inefficiency between the banks, and will simply be paid by all customers in higher bank fees.

Thai bank accounts still work with bank books that you put in a machine to update the balance. If you don't update it regularly and there are more than about 15 or 20 transactions pending, all the transactions that are above the maximum number that the system can store will be added in one single line, so you won't be able to see the individual transactions above a certain number (say number 16, 17 etc.).

It's advisable to keep the bank books in a plastic folder so as to protect the barcode strip, else you may get barcode reading errors sometimes.

Banking in Thailand
Banking in Thailand still happens with bank books. Keep them in a plastic folder to protect the barcode strip.

Also, due to privacy laws in Thailand, you cannot see the account number of the sender, so when someone sends you money through your bank account, you cannot verify the source. The sender will have to inform you rightaway that exactly so and so much was sent, to identify the payment.

Some Thai businesses therefore add 01 or 02 satang to the balance to be transferred, so as to more easily identify the payment.
All this makes doing business in Thailand much more inefficient, but as a long-term resident or tourist it should be okay.

Read more about making international banking transfers - wiring funds from or to Thailand

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What do you think about this article?

Lin Posted on August 24, 2023 at 05:26:43
I'm Cambodian. I want to know if i can open account bank in chiang mai
Samnang Toeng Posted on September 23, 2017 at 05:06:21
Dear Sir/Madam,

I am an employee and a businessman in Cambodia, but i would like to open Thai bank account, KASIKORNBANK, so how is the processing to apply?

Yours Sincerely,
Mark Posted on September 03, 2015 at 17:40:27
Dose it work to transfer to Thai bank if my paypal account is not Thai account? My paypal is signed up in UK and has UK address.
Simon G Posted on September 03, 2015 at 13:08:45
Never ever convert foreign currency into Thai baht before sending it here. You'll loose about 10% on the normal rate!
Katie Posted on August 29, 2015 at 07:23:06
Very useful information. Thank you!
Darrin F Posted on August 29, 2015 at 07:00:16
Banking in Thailand is hopelessly outdated. They lost my cheque and couldn't find it for weeks. Finally they had to ask the sender to send a new one