16

I was briefly in Bangkok last year and as usual tried to withdraw cash from an ATM. It said it would charge me a local fee of 200 Baht for the transaction. I cancelled and went to the next ATM which had no fees.

I'm now in Chiang Mai and all ATMs here charge the 200 Baht fee. An internet search revealed that all ATMs in Thailand charge 200 baht except for three Citibank branches in Bangkok.

For small withdrawals 200 Baht is a lot, is it cheaper to bring foreign cash or travelers checks and exchange them in Thailand?

Of course some home banks charge additional fees for ATM use abroad.

  • 3
    I don't think an answer would be any different to what you'll find on expat/travel forums: (1) most ATM's charge 200 Baht fee; not all, however, there's no pattern; I've seen ATM's from the same bank that do charge extra and that don't; (2) try withdrawing several thousand at once and carry cash, especially in non-tourist places; (3) try not exposing your card in unreliable places. – bytebuster Feb 27 '16 at 21:18
16

All ATMs in the Thai Bank Pool charge the 200 baht fee*, the two exceptions are Citibank (no fee, but only in Bangkok) and AEON who charge 150 baht (neither are technically banks which is why they are outside the pool). A traveler really needs to pull the max amount of baht allowed to keep the fee more minimal in terms of percentages. Older machines limit you to 20 notes, or 20,000 baht, the newer machines will dispense 30 notes or 30,000 baht.

You can go inside the banks and get a Visa or MasterCard cash advance. Some banks like Bangkok Bank do it without any fees, some others add a 2 or 3% surcharge. But you need to use a Visa or MC debit card, not credit card, because credit cards charge you interest from the moment you get the advance, there is no 30 day grace period as you get on purchases. You also need to ask for an amount greater than the ATM allows or the teller will point you to the ATM machine outside.

Travelers checks carry fees to exchange as well so aren't really any cheaper, plus only a few brands are accepted these days because too many counterfeits were circulating.

Cash is, of course, the best in terms of no fees, but adds the worry for some folks about carrying that much cash around. With cash you need to make sure you have crisp new notes, banks are finicky about taking old tattered notes. You also need to consider that some currencies like the US Dollar, the rate you get depends on the denomination of the note, ie: you get a better exchange rate using $100 bills, than using $10 bills.

*The ATM fee is scheduled to increase to 250 baht in August 2016 (as of Dec 2016, the increase has not been implemented but apparently still in the plans)

  • Citi charged me 200 as of Dec, 2016. It was an ATM in a Citi branch near Asok station, for your information. – Blaszard Dec 31 '16 at 13:04
  • @blaszard - were you using a Citibank card or another bank's card? – user13044 Dec 31 '16 at 16:26
  • 1
    I didn't notice this comment; it is another bank's card. – Blaszard Feb 14 '17 at 5:05
5

As all ATMs of Thai banks seem to have the 200 Baht fee, it seems to be a good idea to use non-Thai banks.

In Bangkok there are the Citibank branches, but they are only in Bangkok.

While walking around in Chiang Mai yesterday I spotted a branch of ICBC, a Chinese bank which had an ATM. I tried it out and there was no fee at all.

This branch is on Charoen Muang Road between the railway station and the No.11 Super Highway. It is not very central.

There may be other branches of foreign banks in Thailand but most likely only in bigger cities.

The other thing is that the exchange rate I got at ICBC was not as good as at a Thai bank. I used a Euro based card and got 38.4853 Baht for one Euro at ICBC vs. 38.8881 Baht at a Thai bank. So a difference of 0.40 Baht per Euro. If you have to withdraw smaller amounts this is cheaper than the 200 Baht fee.

  • Tried the ICBC ATM mentioned above. It too charges a 220 Baht fee :( – Priyanka Jan 26 at 10:16
5

@Tom, @Peter Hahndorf provided good answers for ATM. I will summarize that as of this post, the atm fees for non-Thai bank issued debit cards are 200 baht 99% of the time, and there was recent chatter that this may be going up to 220 baht within a month or 2, if it has not already happened
Most Thai Bank ATMs are now ฿220 for foreign atm withdrawal [$6.50 USD :o ]

Maximum ATM withdrawal limit Thai ATMs

  • KrungSri (Bank of Ayudhya), TMB, and I think CIMB is 30 notes (30K THB max)
  • Bangkok Bank is 25 notes (25k THB max)
  • All other ATMs are likely 20 notes (20k THB max), unless proven otherwise.

This does not include the daily withdrawal limit on your card imposed by your bank.

But no one discussed other ways of getting Baht in Thailand

Travelers Cheques are now more expensive than ever for smaller denominations. 153 baht to cash PER cheque. Larger denominations might not be so bad (500,1000), but that assumes the issuing bank will issue them. Normally they will only issue cheques as a book, not individual cheques. You are looking at 1-3% issuing fee + $5 USD, which might be waived depending on your relationship with the bank.

Cash is fine. But there are better rates for larger denominations like $100/50 vs $20/10/5/1 notes. NO COINS accepted. And make sure the notes look new. Any rips, tears, creases, or markings on the bill and the money changer may instantly decline to change it.

So if by best, you mean cheapest as a % of total withdrawal for nearly all amounts < $500 USD, it will be the Bangkok Bank ACH/ETF method. This requires bank account in thailand.

Cheapest + a few days wait = private transfer service like TransferWise (need Thai bank acct) Cheapest + fastest = ATM in most cases for self-service.
Cheapest + fastest (large amounts >$2,000 USD) = Swift Wire transfer. (requires Thai bank acct)
Fastest = Western Union / Money gram.

1

TL;DR This answer suggests opening a local bank account. This is a good option if you visit regularly, which is to say that you're going to visit the country at least a few times over the next five years (less than that is probably too much of a hassle of getting and renewing the accounts, just that or more and it's already a good idea to save money).

The longer your stay, the easier it is to open a bank account. There don't seem to be many restrictions on it from the bank's point of view, so searching the internet for the most up-to-date information will pay off when you're not sure if you meet the criteria.

Using a local account

The cheapest way when you visit semi-regularly is to have a Thai bank account and wire the money in there directly from your foreign account.

The reason this is the cheapest is that you'll either pay no surcharge (ATMs from the bank that issued the card in the same district) or a much smaller surcharge outside the district or at another bank's ATM (20 THB at most looking through some of my transactions). In addition to that, you can use the card in many stores without any charge (though I don't know specifics and this may vary per bank and store).

The card itself also costs money, in my case (Bangkok Bangkok) it's 15 THB per month which is just taken from my account automatically. On a yearly basis, that's still less than the 200 THB charge for withdrawing cash using the foreign card.

Opening the account

The difficulty lies obviously in getting the account in the first place. As it turns out, it's not that hard, apparently businesses are quite happy to take your money and maybe give some of it back later providing they can take some of it (all those charges).

This one you'll mostly have to research yourself, but from what I read online the banks really are easy when it comes to opening accounts. Note that the rules vary per branch and maybe even per person at the desk, so the best way to get it is to know beforehand which branch to go to and what you need.

This blog on askchiangmai.com lists a work permit, a letter from Immigration with your Thai address or a letter from the embassy confirming the validity of your passport as requirements (only needing one) to apply for an account. They also recommend bringing as much items confirming your connection with Thailand (e.g. local Student cards, longer term visas, utility bills, etc.) as that might make it easier.

In my dealings with those behind desks (officials and employees) in the country, I've found that it's also a good idea to make a lot of copies. Whenever you're with an official (at a desk, not at the immigration booth at the airport ;) ), you can ask them to stamp it and add a little signature (just show them a picture of a stamp on your phone and make a stamping kind of motion on your copy) and they'll probably be happy to help out. Just make sure to stay friendly and smile, even if they can't help.

If you are eventually successful in getting the bank account, you're set. ATM cards are generally valid for 5 years and you get a little booklet that you can pop into machines similar to an ATM to update your transaction log (as it were). Just make sure to keep enough money on it for the fees and you can always pop in to the same branch that issued your card (not sure about others, best to go to the same branch) to renew it.

Putting the money in the account

Getting the cash in there is easy. You can either use a Swift payment, easy using internet banking from your own account / assisted by your own bank, but possibly with a bad exchange rate (because your bank can set the fee and we saw earlier that they like taking your money).

A better way is to use an online payment provider that's clear about the rates they provide. An example I used in the past is TransferWise where you just enter the info of the destination account, say you want to transfer money to yourself (important because of laws and such) and then you pay using one of the many ways you'd normally pay online.

0

It's best to take USD cash to Thailand. They may give better rates for 100/50 dollar bills. Of course if you are staying long it may not be possible to take all the money you need. If you are traveling outside the country, for instance to Cambodia, you can fill up on USD there (Maybank has free ATMs). If you must use the ATM, find out which Thai ATM will give you the most cash and call your home bank to raise the maximum amount in necessary to get as much as possible in one transaction.

  • How about the cost of exchanging cash? I have never yet found an exchange office or bank that worked out cheaper than using an ATM even when having to pay a fee. – Willeke Dec 7 '16 at 16:48
  • @Willeke; SuperRich was always the best value for exchanging cash, but they're not everywhere. Their rates are also much better in Bangkok than in other branches, but even those have better rates than anyone else. At least this was true in late 2015 when I was last in Thailand. – hippietrail Jul 18 '17 at 5:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.