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Banking for Expats in Thailand

Submitted: August 2014

Opening an account is something that expats should plan for several weeks in advance. In practice, it is largely worthwhile to spend half an hour browsing the websites of Thai banks to have a look at what they offer.

In Thailand, you should select very carefully the bank branch you are going to open an account with. This is because some services may be available only in person at that branch.

US expats are more exposed to difficulties with their Thai bank because the FATCA makes it more costly for non-US banks to accept US clients. As FATCA is still recent, its practical on US citizens in Thailand is still unclear.

Accounts are available in Thai Baht (THB) or in foreign currency. Foreign currency accounts for Thai residents are subject to a USD500,000 cap unless the foreign currency:

  • Originates from abroad, or
  • Was purchased from a Thai authorised bank in order to meet future obligations (e.g. a loan repayment).

 

Thai banks and non-residents

It is possible for non-residents to open an account in Thailand, though not all bank branches may accept to take non-resident clients. Under the Foreign Exchange Regulations, non-residents are allowed to open:

  • A Non-Resident Baht Account (NRBA)
  • A Non-Resident Foreign Currency Account
  • A Non-Resident Baht Account for Securities (NRBS).

Usually, the bank will require at least the following documents:

  • Letter of recommendation from the embassy of your home country in Thailand
  • Proof of address in Thailand and in your home country.

The requirements may vary from one bank to another, and some may be happy to collect other documents instead of a letter of recommendation.

Opening an account as a non-resident may have to be done in person, and possibly at the head office of the bank only. Once the account is opened, however, you can keep it even if you are not residing in Thailand.

 

Opening an account for residents

As far as paperwork is concerned, what you need to open an account can vary from one bank to another.

In general, you need at least:

  • Passport and, if applicable, work permit
  • Proof of address

Some banks – but not all – require that you have a work permit. If you are an expat in Thailand without work permit, you might wish to enquire at your prospective bank branch if there is any such requirement. If there is, feel free to get to the next branch.

If you are going to open a foreign currency account, a letter of recommendation from the embassy of your home country may be needed.

 

Products available

In Thailand, the basic bank account is a savings account, not a current account. The difference between a savings account and a current account is that the latter will give you a cheque book, the issue of which is not necessarily free.

In practice, a savings account can be opened by virtually anyone in Thailand. For current accounts, however, the bank is likely to ask more questions. A current account would also involve a higher initial deposit requirement (e.g. THB10,000).

Account management fees may apply, though they may be waived if you satisfy a minimum balance requirement (typically THB2,000).

As far as interest rates are concerned, you could expect to get 0.5% on a basic savings account. This can rise to about 2.5% on a term deposit.

Bank deposits are currently guaranteed by the Deposit Protection Agency up to THB50m. This will decrease to THB25m from 11 August 2015, and to THB1m from 11 August 2016.

 

Where to apply?

It is strongly advisable to shop around before selecting a bank. Feel free to compare the fees, the interest rates, the customer satisfaction rates, and the account opening process.

Reputable names among Thailand’s local banks include: Bangkok Bank; Bank of Ayudhya; Kasikornbank; Krung Thai Bank Public; and Siam Commercial Bank. Some foreign banks are also licensed in Thailand.

All banks are regulated by the Bank of Thailand (BoT). Banks are typically open from Monday to Friday, from 8.30am to 3.30pm. Some banks may be open on Saturdays.

 

Day-to-day account management

Do always check if you are paying a fee for something you don’t need, for banks make a lot of money from the charges.

Once opened, a savings account will come along with a “pass book” and an ATM card.

The pass book is a book that is designed to work like a bank statement. As you make your transactions, the pass book has to be updated to reflect your most recent transactions. This update can be made through dedicated printing machines at any branch of your Thai bank (keep your passbook flat during the update to avoid damage). If you fail to update your pass book regularly enough, your past transactions may be aggregated into one single line.

The self-service machines may be available 24/7, and they can also be used for:

  • Bank transfers within Thailand
  • Bill payments
  • Deposits, whether cash or cheques

The ATM card, on the other hand, is designed for cash withdrawals from any ATM in Thailand. Cash withdrawals are free if you make them from an ATM at a branch of your bank in your province. Otherwise, an ATM fee would usually apply.

Online, mobile and telephone banking services are widely available from Thai banks. Such services are usually available in English and in Thai. However, some banks may require that some operations be made only at the branch where the account was opened. If in any doubt about this, check with your bank.

Traditionally, bank statements are not sent through the post. Nevertheless, though your Thai bank may offer this service through a special savings account.

 

Means of payment

In Thailand, cash is the No 1 means of payment. Accordingly, you should always carry some cash with you.

Cheques and credit cards are not commonly used. This is why a basic savings account can be enough.

Common problems with credit cards include:

  • Theft risk, e.g. where someone walks away with your card for any reason
  • Thai shopkeepers who can charge you extra if you pay by credit card

 

Contribute

We value input from our readers. If you spot an error on this page or have any suggestions, please let us know.

 

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