After enduring months of extortionate withdrawal fees in Thailand, not to mention problems with numerous ATMs not accepting my card(s), the time had come to get a Thai bank account.
I would have done this years ago, except each bank I tried – when I lived outside of Bangkok – said I needed a work permit, a different visa or some other documentation I didn't have. However, I knew from speaking to others that requirements differed from province to branch, so I kept trying…
I tried at least 5 different branches of different bank brands in Bangkok before I had success. What struck me was the differing requirements from branch-to-branch, and the fact that few bank staff knew the rules or how to deal with my enquiry. Moreover, when I pointed to requirements stated on the bank's website, I was told that things had changed, or “the manager said…”
So I knew I had to write a post to help others though this process.
I'm now the proud owner of a Bangkok Bank debit card, with access to Bualang online banking. I must say, it was a real pleasure opening the account. The staff were very efficient and the ATM card was issued on the spot, for a 300 Baht fee, I might add. The nice lady also helped me set up online banking using the ATM.
I now transfer lumps sum from my UK bank by Transferwise each month, avoiding the 150 Baht ATM charge and the 2% issuing bank charge I used to suffer each time. When my PayPal balance is overflowing I often route money to Bangkok Bank in the US , whi then send it onto to Bangkok Bank in Thailand, who duly do the conversion on this side.
How to Get a Thai Bank Account
Things are a hell of a lot easier in Thailand when you have costless ATM access at all times, but for some this is harder to achieve than others.
For example, if you have a retirement visa then access to the Thai banking system is a given, as it for those with a work permit. But for those with other staying conditions, like a Non O Visa based on marriage, or simple a 6-month tourist visa, I have documented my experiences with the various banks and their requirements in a list below, and the experiences of other readers who've generously reported back in the comments section.
Since starting this ‘live' post many moons ago, it seems that the overwhelming consensus is that Bangkok Bank is the most friendly bank when it comes to opening accounts for foreigners, in terms of not being fussed over whether you have a work permit or not.
It would be awesome if you can let me know what banking arrangements you sorted out and on what visa status it was based. This will save other readers time and help them find the most farang-friendly branches, so to speak. I will then add the information to the list below.
1. Kasikorn Bank (K-Bank)
Individuals who have base in foreign countries:
- Temporary work permit in Thailand
*Reader update from Steve: I opened a Kasikorn account (Central World branch) with a passport and a Non-Immigrant O visa based on marriage to a Thai. No condo ownership and no WP required.
2. UOB Bank
Individual Non-Resident Account:
- A copy of passport, and
- A copy of work permit for Thailand
- Passport and Work Permit
- Or a minimum 1-year apartment contract
Non-Resident accounts are for:
- Branches or representative offices of Thai corporations established in countries outside Thailand.
- Tourists and other overseas visitors.
- Foreigners temporarily working in Thailand.
- Foreign government agencies, including embassies, consulates, or specialized UN agencies such as ESCAP, FAO, UNICEF, etc.
- International organizations or institutions located in Thailand, but established by the government of the country to which such organizations belong.
Note: No specific requirements are listed, though the implication is that any non-resident can open an account.
*Reader update from Scott: I opened a savings account with SCB at their Tesco Lotus Fortune Town branch, with nothing but a passport and a wad of Thai baht. Whereas 10 minutes earlier, I couldn’t open an account at SCB’s Central Rama 9 branch.
5. Bangkok Bank
- Passport and one other official identification document – for example, a reference letter from your embassy, your home bank or a person acceptable to the bank.
- You will also need to provide evidence of your address in Thailand as well as your regular address in your home country.
If you have a work permit, are a permanent resident, or hold a long-stay visa, you can apply for a wider range of services such as a cheque account, internet banking and online international funds transfer services.
I opened my account with a passport, Non Immigrant O visa and driver's licence. This got me internet banking too. This was done at the Exchange Tower branch in Asoke, Bangkok.
*Reader update from Matt: Bangkok Bank issued an account on a 30-day visa! Requirements: Passport, Driving Licence (UK), a business card, rented condo address and the promise of paying in 10,000 Baht immediately. Card and bank book issued same day.
*Reader update from Robert: I opened a bank account at Bangkok Bank with only a tourist visa. It was the Pattaya branch at Central Mall. I went to Thai Immigration first and got a Certificate of Residency.
*Reader update from Allan: I got an account and Visa debit card in 30 minutes with Bangkok bank in Tesco Lotus centre, Chaweng, Koh Samui. All you will need to provide is your passport and one other official identification document – for example, a reference letter from your embassy, your home bank or a person acceptable to the bank. You will also need to provide evidence of your address in Thailand as well as your regular address in your home country.
*Reader update from Tim: I just opened a simple deposit account with international ATM card, with only my passport and UK drivers licence. No Visa. I went to Bangkok Bank in Khon Kaen.
6. Bank of Ayudhya
At least one or more of the following:
- Work permit
- Condominium Lease Agreement (at least 1 year)
- Thai Driver’s License
- House Registration Documents (proving you live in a particular house)
- A Thai wife’s ID card and Marriage Certificate
- Citizen ID card or passport (for foreigner)
- Savings account book or Current account number
- The applicant must be aged 15 or over.
- The applicant must own an individual savings and/or current account or a joint account that authorizes either owner to withdraw cash or a merchant account with single account owner.
- Other terms and conditions are as specified by the Bank.
*Reader update from Theo: I also opened an account at CIMB using my friend as guarantee. Just my passport was needed and her contact details, address, etc.
- For foreigners: Passport, alien certificate, work permit issued or endorsed by any credible organization or visa which is valid for at least 3 months.
- For international students: Passport and student certificate issued by school/college.
*Reader update from John: I was able to open savings passbook account at Krung Thai bank in Chumphon
The attendant asked for work permit. I said I did not have one, but had a Non-Immigrant visa. Then he said that without work permit the policy was that they could not open account. I restated that I have a long stay non-immigrant visa.
He then pulled out a binder which contained bank policies in Thai and pointed to the section of a page that showed a bullet point for work permit.
There were some other bullet points below it, one of which said Non-Immigrant visa. I pointed to that one and restated that I had one. After that, he proceeded to open the account.
How to Transfer Money to Your Bank Account & Avoid Fees
Once you have opened your Thai bank account, you'll want to start transferring money into it from your home country. Unfortunately this can be a costly process, especially if you are transferring money every few months.
Your home bank will change you a fee of between $10-20, and the receiving bank will charge you around $10, plus they'll steal more on the exchange rate too!.
But wait! The good news is that you can avoid all these fees. Read how here.
Leave your Thai banking experiences in the comments section to help others!