If you're traveling to Thailand for a holiday, or planning on living there for work or retirement, one of your first considerations will be money – primarily exchanging it, and withdrawing it at ATMs in Thailand.
In this post I'll break it all down for you, so that you won't ever get caught short without cash, and not spend more on fees than you need to.
I'll also reveal a secret tip that will get you a better exchange rate and save you money.
Where are ATMs located in Thailand?
The good news is there are plenty of ATM machines.
At the airports, in malls, at 7-11s and other convenience stores, and of course at the banks themselves. You won't have trouble finding one.
That being said, rural areas will obviously have fewer ATM locations.
If you find yourself in a village at night with just one ATM outside the local 7-11, you may have to drive to one.
So when visiting rural areas and remote islands, make sure you have enough cash on you for a couple of days.
To locate ATMs for the five biggest Thai banks, use the links below to visit their ATM locator pages:
Will my debit / credit card work in Thailand?
The ATMs in Thailand will work with Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, and Cirrus cards.
The easiest way to find out if your card belongs to one of these networks is to check on the card itself and see whether it has the logo on it. Alternatively, call your bank and they will tell you.
When you use an ATM, you will see logos on the machine noting the types of card it accepts.
ATMs in Thailand work with both chip-and-pin type cards, and with cards that have only the magnetic stripe on the back.
Both four-digit and six-digit PIN numbers will be accepted.
Is it true that withdrawals are blocked sometimes?
This can happen. The main reason is that your bank blocks the transaction, believing it to be fraudulent because it is taking place in a foreign country.
The best way to avoid a block is to phone your bank before you travel and let them know that you will be in Thailand. They will lift any restrictions for you prior to travel.
Are there withdrawal limits on Thai ATMs?
The large majority of Thai ATM machines have a withdrawal limit of ฿20,000 ($617).
Some banks have higher limits such as Bangkok Bank ฿25,000 ($771), and Bank of Ayudhya (Krungsri Bank) ($925).
In terms of fees, it works out cheaper to do one large withdrawal over a number of small transactions.
Make sure you check with your bank to see what your card's withdrawal limit is before you travel.
What are the fees for Thai ATMs?
You might be surprised to know that compared with money exchanges, Thai ATM machines give you a decent exchange rate.
But, and I stress but, only if you select the option to be charged in the local currency, which is Baht (฿).
And this is the secret tip I mentioned at the start of this post.
Withdrawals from ATMs in Baht are converted using the mid-market rate. This is the fairest exchange rate possible.
The mid-market rate is derived from the mid-point between what the buyer is prepared to pay and what the seller is prepared to sell for.
If you select the option to be charged in your home currency, the ATM will make up an exchange rate using a process called Dynamic Currency Conversion.
This is a a process whereby the amount of a Visa or MasterCard transaction is converted by a merchant or ATM to the currency of the payment card's country of issue at the point of sale.
This is always a bad deal. So always select no to this option.
You should also choose “no” to the home currency charge when paying by debit or credit card in a restaurant or shop.
Withdrawal fees from Thai ATMs can clock up a fair sized bill over the course of a holiday.
The large majority of banks charge ฿200 (approximately $6) per transaction for withdrawals with a foreign bank card.
Some banks such as Aeon Bank charge less, at ฿150 per transaction (approximately $4.50).
And that's not all.
Your home bank will also charge fees for a foreign withdrawal.
So you will pay a local fee and a “back home” fee. This could mean you will pay up to $8-10 per transaction!
How to avoid Thai ATM fees?
1. Find out if your bank has a corresponding bank
None of the banks in Thailand are part of the Global ATM Alliance.
However, your home bank may still have a relationship with a Thai bank that allows for free withdrawals or cheaper fees.
Call your bank to find out.
One bank of interest to some readers might be Citibank. This international back has many ATMs in Thailand where customers can get free withdrawals.
Some foreign banks may have corresponding arrangements with Citibank too, so enquire with your bank.
2. Check your card’s terms and conditions
Banks offer different cards with different terms. Some offer cheaper foreign transactions and some may waive them altogether.
This will help you avoid the home bank fee but not the local Thai ATM fee.
Using a debit card instead of a credit card is cheaper because credit card companies treat withdrawals as cash advances, which have a higher transaction fee.
3. Use a bank teller
The simplest way is to avoid ATMs is to use a human instead, at the bank or at a currency exchange desk. You can also bypass the withdrawal limit.
Note that you may still get hit with a fee from your home bank.
4. Choose to be charged in local currency
As covered previously, you will save money if you choose to be charged in the local currency and not your home currency.
So many people make this error and end up getting ripped off on the exchange rate.
Use Krungsri or Aeon for cheaper fees
At ฿150 per withdrawal, Krungsri and Aeon are cheaper than the other banks. It's not much of a saving but it all adds up over time.
Use a Thai ATM card
If you're a regular visitor to Thailand, or going to live there, then you should consider opening a bank account and getting a local Thai debit card.
Thai debit cards are usually free when using an ATM of the same bank, and around ฿10 to ฿20 to use a different ATM.
Having a local ATM card helps you avoid fees, except those you will incur when transferring money to your Thai bank from abroad.
These fees can be heavily reduced, though. See below.
Use TransferWise to avoid all fees
If you are going on holiday to visit a partner, a family member or friend, you can use TransferWise to send money to their account and then have them withdraw it first.
Of course, it would need to be someone close to you that you trust.
TransferWise enables you to send money to Thailand at the mid-market exchange rate and without any bank fees. They just charge a small fee for the transaction.
They avoid fees because your money is received and sent locally in both your home country and in Thailand, meaning those evil international fees vanish into thin air.
It's the cheapest and fastest way to send money to Thailand.
If you are going to live in Thailand, for work as a teacher or as a retiree, you will want to set up a Thai bank account.
You can then use TransferWise for regular transfers to your Thai bank, and then withdraw the money using your ATM card and pay zero fees (or a nominal fee when withdrawing from third party ATMs).
I hope you enjoyed these money saving tips!
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