Moving to Thailand?
Your guide to expatriate banking services in Thailand
Thailand is in Southeast Asia, between Myanmar to the west and north, Laos to the north and east, and Cambodia to the southeast. Thailand has enjoyed a decade of strong economic growth, but the economy has suffered as a result of the global financial crisis, as demand for exports dropped significantly.
The national language is Thai, although several minority languages are also widely spoken. English is mandatory in schools, but few people outside the major cities speak it fluently.
The unit of currency is the baht (THB), divided into 100 satang. As of April 2010, the exchange rate was approximately 51 baht to £1 GBP (pound sterling).
Banks in Thailand
- Bank of Thailand
Commercial banks in Thailand
- Bangkok Bank
- Bank of Ayudhya
- Kasikorn Bank
- Krung Thai Bank (State Commercial Bank of Thailand)
- Siam City Bank
- Siam Commercial Bank
- Thai Military Bank (TMB Bank)
Bank opening times in Thailand
Banks in Thailand are generally open from 9.30am to 3.30pm, Monday to Friday. Most banks have money-changing booths and ATMs that are open daily.
Thai banking services
The leading Thai banks have their head offices in Bangkok and most have branches in the provincial towns, and offer customers a full range of retail banking services.
Foreign commercial banks are not permitted to open sub branches. They may have electronic banking outlets only on their premises.
The main types of bank account in Thailand
In general, there are four types of accounts available to foreigners in Thailand:
- Thai baht savings account
- Current account
- Foreign currency deposit account
- Business bank account
Typically, current accounts are used for everyday banking needs, and offer customers easy access to funds and a range of services, including card facilities. Savings accounts generally offer a more competitive interest rate than current accounts, but savings accounts may provide limited access to funds, and interest penalties may be incurred if account withdrawals beyond an agreed limit are made.
Deposit accounts are likely to offer the most competitive rates of interest, with many offering a fixed rate of interest in return for customers depositing funds for a fixed period of time. Access to funds before the account matures is limited, so deposit accounts should be viewed as a long term savings vehicle.
Opening a bank account in Thailand
Many local banks will require foreigners to hold a work permit or long-term visa before an application to open an account can be processed. It is advisable to visit a branch in person and confirm their acceptance criteria, as the terms and conditions can vary between banks.
If you application for an account is successful, in most cases you will need a work permit if you wish to have access to internet banking. In addition, you may also need long-term Thai residency if you require a credit card or chequebook.
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.
Opening a bank account before you arrive in Thailand
In addition to offering tax efficient offshore banking and offshore savings options, you have the added flexibility of banking in a choice of major currencies. International accounts can be used by clients living or working in Thailand, and when travelling between international locations.
Current account passbooks
If you do have a current account, your account will generally provide an ATM/debit card. It is unlikely that your account will include a cheque facility, however, as the use of personal cheques in Thailand is limited.
Thai banks generally provide account information and records in the form of a passbook, and bank statements are uncommon. The bank book will provide account balance and transaction information, and details will be printed in your bank book. Keep clear records by bringing your bank book every time you make a transaction at the bank.
Deposits and withdrawals
Most transactions can be conducted at any branch of your bank, although some services will only be available at the branch at which your account is held. Also, it is worth noting that you can only cash cheques at the branch that originated the cheque.
When depositing a cheque, if the cheque is from the same bank that your account is with, then the money will usually be available for withdrawal as soon as you deposit it. However, if the cheque is from a different Thai bank, then it may take two days to clear.
When you are filling out deposit and withdrawal forms, be sure to use carbon-copy forms. If there are no carbon-copy forms, fill out two identical forms. The teller will keep one copy, stamp the other and give it to your for your records along with a computer receipt.
ATM services and facilities in Thailand
ATMS can be found in most of the major towns and cities, 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. The majority of ATMS in Thailand provide both English or Thai instructions for customers.
International credit cards such as American Express, MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted at large stores and restaurants in Bangkok and other main cities. In tourist areas you will also find bureaux de change. 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
Rules and regulations relating to money being imported or exported into Thailand is subject to change, and it is advisable to check with the Bank of Thailand for latest regulations.
As of April 2010, the rules regarding currency are;
- 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 authorized financial institution or to deposit them in a foreign currency account with an authorized financial institution within 360 days of receipt, except for foreigners temporarily staying in Thailand for not 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 to a customs officer
(Reference: Bank of Thailand – http://www.bot.or.th)
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.
Banking in Thailand – other information
If you have any complaints or issues with a bank in Thailand, contact the Thai Ombudsman. http://www.ombudsman.go.th
More information on banking with Barclays Wealth International
To find out more about the benefits of opening an International Bank Account before you move to Thailand, speak to Barclays Wealth International on +44 (0) 141 352 3902.
Alternatively, find out more about the overseas banking services available to expats and international clients by visiting Barclays Wealth International.