How to open a bank account in Thailand or transfer money to friends

Open a Bank Account in Thailand.

Opening a bank account in Thailand can be recommended to foreigners,

  • who visit Thailand regularly or for longer stays
  • who regularly support others like a girl friend, a boy friend or a family
  • who permanently rent a house and have to pay monthly rent, etc.
  • who want to work in Thailand with a work permit
  • who want to stay in Thailand as a retired pensioner. To get the long term O-A Visa they also need an account to proove a deposit of 800,000 Baht.

Opening a bank account at a bank Thailand by foreigners can be easy or difficult according to the bank, branch or type of account needed. In the year 2000 the Bank of Thailand issued guidelines for the banks against money laundering including "recommendations" to grant only foreign applicants with a working visa or permanent residence an account. However long stay pensioners having no working visa need a local bank account too, etc.. So these recommendations are not practical and often not in practice while banks or their branches have different rules for opening an account:

  • To show your passport with a valid visa is always a must of course. This is often sufficient to open the account, especially for the "savings account" - see below.
  • Some banks or branches will demand a valid working permit or a certificate of residence from the immigration office. If you don't have such documents, just go to the next bank around the corner and apply there.

There are three major kinds of bank accounts in Thailand:

  • a "savings account" in Thai Baht. Most Thais use a savings account for all their banking needs. And most foreigners will get along with this option well too: You can transfer money to and also checks can paid into a savings account. You can also withdraw money from the ATMs with your banking card or at one of the branches of your bank. And you can transfer money via the ATM Terminal for example to pay phone or electricity bills. See more below.
  • a bank account in Thai Baht. This account is more in use as a business account for which you also can write checks. Here you may need other legitimation documents - look here for the conditions of Bangkok Bank as an example where a difference is made between a normal bank account for foreigners requiring a work permit or a certificate of residence and a non-resident Baht account requiring "... a letter of recommendation from your bank abroad. This must be a bank which is acceptable to Bangkok Bank and sent to Bangkok Bank via SWIFT or a letter of recommendation from a person acceptable to Bangkok Bank such as an existing customer of Bangkok Bank." It should not be too difficult for you to find another customer of Bangkok Bank recommending you to the bank in wrting or let your bank at home sent a recommendation for you by SWIFT to Bangkok Bank. 
  • a foreign currency account. A foreign currency account allows you to keep your money coming from abroad in one of the major foreign currencies without having to change them into Baht. The deposits of these accounts are mainly used for payments abroad or to avoid currency fluctuations in Baht.

Summing up: It will be more easy for you to establish a savings account plus an ATM card plus online option at first. And that is all you probably will need at all (except you run a limited company of course). For the opening of a bank account in Thailand no strict rules seem to apply but rather possibilities or restrictions. This you will find out locally. If you experience difficulties when applying you better look for the next bank around the corner and ask there.

"Savings Account" plus "Friend Card" as a VISA Card: The Ayudhya-Bank as Example

The branches of Ayudya-Bank offer foreigners as non-residents a "saving account" when showing their passport with a valid visa. Keep in mind that the savings account in its meaning in Thailand is more a bank account for everyday use. After half an hour the account had been established while a starting payment was paid into the account because there must always be a deposit on it. The customer receives the "Passbook" in which the customers name and the first payment is printed. At later visits at a branch office the later account movements are printed in the booklet so the customer has a document of the accounting.

 

The "Friend-Card" of Ayudhya-Bank is also a VISA Card!

It is important to apply for the „Friend-Card“ together with your savings account. Everybody receiving a savings account will also get this card which is combined with the Baht deposit of the savings account. Only in combination with the Friend Card you have a comfortable service: It is a debit card and a VISA card too. So you can withdraw money not only in thailand but from all ATMs worldwide showing the VISA or PLUS sign. Sparkonto-Inhaber erhalten kann. With the card numbers you can do online payments worldwide make online hotel or car reservations in Thailand or elsewhere. And you can pay with the card in shops, restaurants or supermarkets as far as debit or credit cards are accepted there.

The maximum withdrawal a day is 100.000 Baht (about 2.500 Euro or 3.500 US $ as of Aug. 2007) and a maximum 10 withdrawals daily. You also can diminish the maximum amount for safety reasons or change your password. Further conditions and arising fees can be found at the krungsri.com website of Bank of Ayudhya.

You will find branches which are specialized also on foreign banking services in nearly all touristic centers according to the banks special list of branches. Also Lamai und Chaweng as tourist places in Koh Samui are serviced here.

Together with the savings account and the Friend Card comes the online banking which has to be applied for seperately without any fees. You receive more information about online banking of Ayudhya bank here. Please note that a general money transfer for all bank accounts as you are used to in Europe is not available in this extent in Thailand due to the somehow different banking system. So also online banking transfers are somehow restricted towards certain groups of accounts.

Bank of Ayudhya offers also to tourists and other non residents to establish a "Foreign Currency Deposit Account".  This account might be especially useful for those who want to live more permanently in Thailand like pensioners and retaining part of their savings in other currencies. Also here you only must show your valid passport and pay in a minimum deposit to get the foreign currency account.

Recommendations for opening an account

List of SWIFT numbers, banks and branches. For a list of the most important banks in Thailand including their SWIFT codes and their Websites mostly containing a list of their local branches click here. You always need the SWIFT number of the Thai bank if you want to internationally transfer money to an account of that bank. In Koh Samui you will find the branches of the most important banks in Thailand when looking around in the main streets in Chaweng, Lamai or Nathon.

Ask Expats for their experience. Before opening a bank account you could first ask local expats or lawyers with foreign clients for their recommendations. They will know best which bank and branch should be choosen locally. Then you enter the branch office and show your passport with your valid visa. A problem is that most employees in banks only speak little English. As foreigner and their money are the driving forces in tourist locations it is stunning to see that in touristic or business centers like Bangkok, Koh Samui, Phuket, Pattaya or Chiang Mai you will find a number of Thai banks where nobody speaks more than a few words English. So look for a branch where you have someone you can communicate to. Get the business card of the person speaking English well so you can ask for the employee later on the phone if it gets necessary. Also ask about the possible transfer fees the bank charges when transfering money to Thailand from a foreign account.

 

Attention: Do not store your bank account booklet and the ATM card together at the same place. If they both get stolen, the thief could possibly take all money from your account at the bank with these documents. "To leave both documents in the house was really a mistake" explained a farang (foreigner) last year in his weblog. His account hat been robbed up to the last Baht after thieves broke into his house and took the passbook and the ATM card. It is selfunderstood that the secret four digit number for the ATM card should be kept secret to avoid misfortunes.

 

Better don't store the savings book and the bank card together

ATM withdrawals. Your ATM card of your Thai savings account or bank account allows you to withdraw cash from ATMs in Baht. The daily maximum allowances at ATMs differ from bank to bank and can be up to 50.000 Baht. Of course you must have money on your account. Overdrawing will normally not be permitted.

Fees. Banks often do not charge for keeping a savings account or issuing the ATM card. Or they charge very little for their services. Some banks also offer a small interest rate of about 1% for your deposits.

Cheques. If you want to receive cheques forms you can issue you need a bank account. For this you will normally have to show a working permit, longterm visa or other documents asked for. It could also be that you have to proove to be a good customer for a longer time before the bank will issue cheques to you.

Online banking. More and more banks in Thailand offer online banking services. You mostly have to apply extra for your online banking option. Online banking in Thailand is not yet as developed as in Europe for example. You mostly can see online what account movements  happened and the actual sum on your deposit.  Real online banking is only starting. So watch for developments like the Bualua ATM card of Bangkok Bank. If you get a real online banking option you will be able to manage your Thai bank account also at times when you stay abroad. You could initiate money transfers to other accounts in Thailand online. Should your account not offer real internet banking you still can transfer money electronically to other accounts in Thailand using your ATM card at ATMs in Thailand.

 

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