Opening a Bank Account in Thailand
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Opening a bank account in Thailand as a foreigner is not so difficult to do, but your experience will depend on which bank you choose, and sometimes even which branch. In general, larger bank branches located on major streets and inside shopping malls will be more likely to have staff who can speak English well. These larger bank branches should also be more used to dealing with foreign customers. If you want the least hassle, open a Thai bank account in a large shopping mall and avoid tiny, out-of-the-way bank branches.
Thailand has about half a dozen major banking companies that you could choose to open an account with. Some banks are not going to let you open an account if you’re here on a tourist visa. They may require you to have a non-immigrant visa and a Thai work permit before you can open an account.
If you have come to work in Thailand, then it makes the most sense to wait until your work permit is issued before attempting to open a Thai bank account.
The major banks in Thailand all use different color schemes for their branding, which makes finding an ATM of your bank easy.
- Bangkok Bank – Blue and Orange
- Kasikorn Bank – Green
- Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) – Purple
- Krungthai Bank – Sky Blue
- Bank of Ayudhya (Krungsri) – Yellow
There are a few others, but these are the main ones. Out of these, the three best banks for foreigners to use, in my opinion are Bangkok Bank, SCB, and Kasikorn Bank.
Bangkok Bank has two areas where it appeals to certain groups of foreigners in Thailand:
- Bangkok Bank will usually allow you to open a savings account without a work permit. A small local branch might still give you some trouble, but at every large branch it should be no problem at all. They are by far the easiest bank for foreigners to open accounts with.
- Bangkok Bank has a branch in New York. Deposits directed to that branch show up in your local account in Thailand. For US citizens this makes Bangkok Bank the easiest and cheapest way to bring money from a US PayPal account into Thailand. You simply withdraw from your PayPal balance to your Bangkok Bank account and your US dollars show up as Thai baht in your account in Thailand a day or two later. The transfer fee is small, and the exchange rate you’re given is quite reasonable. You can read more about how to set this up on the Bangkok Bank website.
Another feature available at Bangkok Bank is a “verified by Visa” debt card that can be used for making online purchases. The Bangkok Bank mobile app is also very reliable, even if it’s not the most beautiful banking app.
Siam Commercial Bank
You will probably have no luck opening an account at SCB without a work permit. They are know to be very strict about requiring it. Assuming you have a non-immigrant visa and work-permit, however, SCB is one of the best Thai banks to go with. Their ATMs are easy to find all over the country. It seems that just about every 7-Eleven has one. You can also pay for many online purchases—including Air Asia tickets—directly from your SCB savings account.
The ATM card issued by SCB has a couple convenient features. It doubles as a Debit Plus Mastercard, allowing you to pay for purchases made over the internet. You need to enable this feature first before it will work, so ask the bank staff if you need help. The other nice thing about the card is that it works across the Cirrus network. This allows you to to withdraw cash locally at ATMs in many other countries around the world.
Kasikorn Bank was originally called “Thai Farmer’s Bank.” Today, many people call it “K-Bank” for short. K-Bank has one of the best mobile apps, which users praise for being its reliability. You can even use the app to pay for cinema tickets reserved through the SF Cinema mobile app.
K-Bank also has a “K-Web” optional service whereby you can get a virtual Visa card for internet purchases. The ATM card issued by Kasikorn can also easily be used at ATM locations outside of Thailand, just look for machines that display the Plus or Visa logos.
To have the most success opening a Thai bank account bring the following to a major branch of your chosen bank:
- Work Permit (may not be needed for Bangkok Bank) or Certificate Of Residency.
- Apartment or Condo rental agreement, Yellow house book, or other proof of address.
- Valid ID (driving license, etc)
- Thai baht in cash to deposit (500 baht minimum for some banks)
Other Things to Consider When Opening a Thai Bank Account
Dressing smartly and speaking politely will go a long ways towards speeding up official business such as opening a bank account in Thailand. When you arrive at the bank take a queue number from the machine by the entrance. If it is a branch used to dealing with foreign customers they will probably have some English speaking staff assisting you soon after you step in the door. If you’ve come prepared, then you should be on your way shortly with a new savings account, ATM card, and instructions to log in to their internet banking.
One thing you’ll want to remember when banking in Thailand is that most banks charge out-of-province ATM fees even when using your own bank’s ATM. For example, if you set up an account with SCB in Chiang Mai you’ll be charged an extra 15 baht to withdraw cash at an SCB ATM in Bangkok. It’s not a lot of money, but in the long run it pays off to set up your account in the location where you’ll be using it the most.
Another fun fact when opening a bank account in Thailand is that depositing coins is a big hassle. In many other countries banks have machines to sort coins, so that you can bring in a big jar of coins, have the machine sort and count them, and quickly deposit the total in your savings account. My experience in several different Thai banks is that they only accept coins if you have counted and sorted them yourself by hand into little clear bags of 100 baht each. It’s quite a tedious process and motivates you to use your loose change more often when making regular purchases so that it doesn’t accumulate so quickly.
You’ll definitely want to set up a Thai bank account as soon as you can. It is possible to make withdrawals from your foreign bank account at ATMs in Thailand, but there is usually a 200 baht fee for using a foreign card. On top of that, your home country bank might have its own foreign transaction fee and may not give you a good exchange rate. The ATM fees add up very quickly, so it’s best to transfer money to Thailand in large sums to your Thai bank account and make free ATM withdrawals locally.