Transferring money to Thailand from your home country, be it the US, Canada, Australia, or the UK, has been a pain point for just about every expat at one time or another.
But we all have to do it.
The scale of it is huge:
Each year, approximately 7 Billion USD is remitted to Thailand. Among the top sending countries are the USA, Germany, Australia, UK, and Sweden. (Source)
You can bet your bottom dollar a huge amount of that cashflow can be attributed to expats funding their Thai bank accounts, and of course sending money to Thai partners.
We all know banks are generally a rip-off when it comes to sending money, but hiding your money under a mattress isn't exactly a safe bet these days – not that it ever has been.
This sucks. They have us like a puppet on a string; free to slap on big fees and unfair exchange rates when we want to transfer money.
When you sit back and think about it, it's the strangest thing: You are charged to withdraw your own money!
Okay, so you are abroad. You expect to pay a small fee, but not for the bank to make a big profit out of it – and believe me, they do.
There is a solution, though, and one myself and thousands of my readers have been using for the last 7 years. I'll get to that in a moment.
But first, let's look at how the way you're sending money to Thailand is hurting your pocket, how much it is costing you, and why this is happening.
The 4 Pain Points of Transferring Money to Thailand
1: The Bank Transfer Fee
The SWIFT (international transfer) fee can be anywhere from £10-25 / $15-30, depending on who you bank with. If you make regular transfers, say two a month, that's going to run you near on £250 / $320 a year!
Even if you bank with Bangkok Bank or Kasikorn Bank, both of which have branches overseas, including London and LA, you still can't avoid the international transfer fee.
Bangkok Bank, for example, charges £20 to route money to your Thai bank account. And then you are subject to an unfavorable exchange rate.
Already you are massively out of pocket, and we're not done with the fees yet. Read on.
2: The Receiving Fee
After you pay the international transfer fee, you will be hit by the receiving bank for a similar amount.
Most banks, like Bangkok Bank, charge a maximum of 500 Baht to receive money, but it usually is 500 Baht, so that's another £10 / $16.
So now you've already paid twice to transfer your money, and that's without factoring in the currency conversion charge.
3: Currency Conversion Charge
Out of the three fees, this is the evil one.
Most people presume you get the mid-market transfer rate. This is the one you see on XE .com and similar websites.
But then you do the math and realize that you've been shortchanged, massively!
In the world's currency markets, traders define the rates at which they are willing to “buy” or “sell” a specific currency. The mid-market rate is simply the midpoint between demand and supply for a currency, and because of that, it changes all the time.
But that's as technical as you need to get. The most important thing to know is that the mid-market rate is considered the fairest exchange rate possible. The mid-market rate isn't a secret either. It's the rate you will find on independent sources such as Google, XE and Yahoo Finance.
Unfortunately, you don't get the real rate.
It's one of the ways they can hide the true amount being charged. Most banks take the mid-market rate and apply a margin on top, without being transparent, so you have no idea how much they're over charging you.
By hiding the charge in the exchange rate you're offered, banks make huge profits at your expense, and you're none the wiser.
See the image below for an example of how this works.
You can offset the loss slightly by choosing to send money in your home currency, instead of Baht. However, many people sending money to Thailand still make the mistake of choosing to convert to Thai Baht at their source bank instead of at the Thai end.
This means that you lose even more money; because your bank steals a nice chunk of cash at their own exchange rate, a rate they set themselves, which is not the “mid-market rate”.
That said, the Thai bank will still convert your currency to Thai Baht at an unfavorable rate, too, making enough for a meal out. However, they generally won't squeeze your pockets as hard as the sending bank (your home bank).
4: Transfer Times
So, you've had your pockets skimmed on all fronts and you're at least $50-100 down.
You have paid two transfer fees and a currency conversion charge.
But even after they've dipped their finger in your honeypot multiple times, the banks still can't promise the money will be there within 24 or 48 hours.
That's a real kick in the teeth.
Hell, sometimes it takes as long as 5-7 days!
This is 2023, not 1990. Since everything is digitized, the money should be there super fast.
And it can be. The way I'm sending money these days not only avoids bank fees but takes as little as 9 seconds for a transfer to arrive!
Like It or Lump It, Or…
Sending money to Thailand is expensive, but what other option do you have except the bank?
You could carry money through customs, but then how often do you fly home to be able to do that?
To be honest, I hate carrying a ton of money around with me. It's just not safe.
Western Union is too expensive, but good if you need cash wired immediately.
PayPal steals 3.5% on a transfer and charges up to 4% currency conversion fees. Yes, I said up to 4%. It's 3% for the UK (where I'm from).
+ Enter Wise (formerly Transferwise) to Save You Money
Seriously, I waited years for this and, if you read the comments below, you'll see how chuffed others have been to find this service.
You can now transfer money to Thailand with ZERO bank charges, get the Mid-Market Rate currency conversion, and only pay a small fee, which is more than made up for on the overall cost savings.
Check this out:
Have a look at this transaction where I saved over £58.
Here's a comparison of other money transfer services and banks at the exact same time. look at the bank transfer rates of four high-street banks. Wise beats them both, comfortably.
The exchange rate is lower and the fees higher than Wise.
Now look at the market rate for the same time of day on XE.com.
Unbelievable, right? The overall Wise rate is actually slightly better!
So: not only did I get a better rate than my bank, I got a better rate than XE. com, which is the mid-market rate.
But that's not all: I only paid a £6.38 fee.
My bank (Nationwide) charges £20 for an international transfer. Plus I'd have to pay 500 Baht (£12 at the current exchange rate) to my receiving bank in Thailand.
So altogether, with the favorable exchange rate, I saved over £50 with Wise compared with a transfer from my home bank.
Sending USD to Thailand
For my friends from the USA, here's how things size up in Dollars. I couldn't see competitor rates this time, probably because I was using my UK-based account.
This time the Wise rate is spot on with the Xe.com (below).
Usually the rate is the same or slightly better, but note that rates change by the second. The good news is that Wise locks in a rate for you for 2 hours. You can also check Reuters for comparison.
Use This Link to Get Your First Transfer Free
I was so over the moon with Wise that I popped off an email and asked if I could get more information on how they circumvent these fees so I could blog here about it (see below on how it works).
They wrote back and offered to give my readers a free transfer up to £1,000/$1,000.
Click that text link above to get the free transfer.
Remember: Banks could charge you up to 5% in hidden costs when sending money to any bank account abroad. Wise is up to 8x cheaper. It's only fair!
It Took Just 9 Seconds to Receive My Money
This is really impressive. Just recently I sent some USD from Wise to an account in Thailand. The transaction time was 9 seconds.
Check out the screenshot below for proof.
How Does Wise Make Sending Money to Thailand So Cheap?
Well, with investment in the company from the likes of Richard Branson, I guess anything is possible.
But actually it's quite genius.
Once you initiate the transfer, Wise searches for other people doing a transfer from the location you are sending to, and effectively swaps the currency.
Of course, money transfers being as frequent as they are, this means there's usually several matchers available, making the process very quick.
My first transfer completed within 24 hours; 2-3 days quicker than my bank. Transfers now are sometimes even quicker.
There are readers in the comments section who've received their money to Thailand within minutes and even seconds. For bigger amounts it could take longer.
The process is completed by making several individual conversions using effective market exchange rates that work in your favor.
In other words, different parts of the transfer can be converted using different exchange rates.
Here's a cool video that explains how it works:
Wise Sending Limits
With Wise you can send up to 2 million Thai Baht per transfer.
That's $55,000 ( USD), or £45,500 GBP at the exchange rate at the time of writing.
There is no limit on the number of transfers you can make.
Since January 2022, however, there has been a regulatory change that affects certain banks. You can still send the same amount per transfer, as stipulated above, but only if you are sending to one of the following banks:
- Bangkok Bank Public Company
- Kasikorn Bank
- Siam Commercial Bank
If you are using a different bank, you’ll only be allowed to send up to 49,999 Thai Baht per transfer. Again, there’s no limit on how many transfers you can make.
This is why I always recommend opening a bank account with Bangkok Bank or Kasikorn Bank. These two banks in particular are “foreigner friendly”.
Here's a Quick Benefits Summary
Wise was founded on the principle that people deserve transparency, fairness and better value when it comes to their money.
I think the large majority of us would agree with this principle and have waited a long time for a service like this.
For far too long banks have got away with overcharging for moving money. Transactions happen digitally; it's just numbers changing in a system – there is no physical movement of cash.
Wise is on average 7x cheaper than traditional banks when you send, spend, or withdraw money around the world. (Though this depends on each country).
Here's a quick benefits summary:
- No home country bank fee.
- No receiving country bank fee.
- Get the true Mid-Market rate currency conversion, or better!
- Send up to 2 million Thai Baht per transaction.
- Fast transfer, especially on amounts below 5k. Approximately 24 hours.
- Once you're comfortable with the system, you can use the iOS or Android app for transfers on the fly.
+ Click here to get your first transfer free
Boy does it feel good to avoid those bank fees!
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. How do I send money with Wise?
Go to the website. Type in the amount you want to send. Then fill out your details to register.
Once registered, you just need your bank account details and the details of the bank you are sending to in Thailand. Then push the magic button!
2. What is the maximum amount I can send with Wise?
2 million THB in a single transaction.
However, due to regulatory changes in Thailand, from Jan 2022, transfers of 50,000 THB and above will only be available for Kasikorn Bank, Bangkok Bank, and Siam Commercial Bank recipients.
Transfers under 50,000 THB remain unaffected for all supported recipient banks.
3. How long will the transfer take?
Anywhere from 9 seconds to 24 hours. It's usually very fast. Generally speaking, larger transfers take longer. By large I mean over $5,000 (USD).
4. Do I need a Thai bank account?
Yes, because this where the money gets paid into. If you don't have a Thai bank account, perhaps your partner or close friend has and you can send the money to their account.
5. Is Wise like a bank account?
This is the money sending service side of Wise. But Wise does have a bank account facility that enables you to hold multiple currencies and spend that money internationally using a MasterCard. I have reviewed this service here.
6. Can I use this service to transfer my pension to Thailand?
Yes. Many expats are losing money by having their pension paid into their Thai bank account. They lose on the exchange rate and the receiving fee. You might be better off having your pension paid into your home bank account and then transferring it to your Thai bank account via Wise.
7. Will the transfer show up as an FTT, for visa extension purposes?
FTT is a code that indicates that the money transferred is a foreign money transfer. An FTT is what's required to fund a bank account that will be used for a retirement visa extension. For the funds to qualify the money must come from a foreign source and not a domestic one.
To achieve this, when asked in the Wise dashboard for the reason you are sending the funds, choose “Funds for long term stay in Thailand”.
8. How does Wise make money?
Wise charges a service fee for each transaction, but even when you factor this in you will still save a fair chunk of money.
9. Is Wise better than MoneyGram and other similar services?
Overall, yes. You can read through the reader comments below and see that at times people suggest other services but upon inspection they aren't cheaper than Wise, tend to be much slower on transfer, and collect more private data than is necessary.
10. Can I contact Wise with a question?
Yes, you can contact them by email or phone. The number is 020 3695 0999.