Banks in Thailand
Going into a bank in my own country always filled me with dread, so to have to do business in a foreign bank where generally the standard of English is extremely poor fills me with abject horror.
I’ve held accounts at 3 different banks in Bangkok, the Thai Farmers bank, Bangkok Bank, and Siam Commercial. I love the name Thai Farmer’s Bank, I mean if you picture an image of a Thai farmer with his trousers rolled up and smiling at you with no teeth, it hardly inspires you to go in and say “Hello here’s my life’s savings, please take good care of it”. However, I would say that it’s the pick of the bunch where banks are concerned. They seem to be more geared up towards dealing with farangs, and they can usually rustle up one member of staff whose command of English goes beyond “Hello Sir and how may I be helping you today sir” The branch of the Thai Farmers bank opposite the Ambassador Hotel actually has a foreigner centre on the second floor, with staff who are a little more used to seeing a large foreign gentleman getting all worked up and banging his fists on the table shouting “Where’s my f***ing money ?!?!
Opening a bank account is a simple enough procedure in all banks, and to be honest, as a farang, you are treated with the utmost respect as soon as you walk through the door. It’s just often difficult when you first walk into a bank to see exactly where you have to go to open one. I usually walk up to the first person who looks as though they have nothing to do and take things from there. I even had the cleaner open an account for me once.
Opening an account involves the usual amount of form filling, and the providing of several signatures, but you can get through this with minimal spoken English and much pointing and gesture. You also need to take a passport with you for sure.
Opening an account is instantanious in Thailand. With both Bangkok Bank and Thai Farmers Bank (now Kasikorn Thai) you are able to get your atm/debit card then and there. This is better than in the west, which is really saying something. Bangkok Bank has an espically good internet banking service which I suggest you sign up for, very farang friendly! The only draw back of the Thai atm and debit cards are that you can't seem to use them on the internet. I know the banks are trying to work on this but using a verified by visa system, but so far I have had no luck buying anything online. Once you get an ATM, beware that terrible things do happen with these cards. ATM machines sometimes develop a penchant for taking your card, and then refusing to give it back. There isn’t an ATM-carrying Thai on earth that doesn’t have a ‘the machine ate my card’ story to tell.
I’ve never actually had that happen, but a few years back I tried to withdraw 10,000 baht, and the card came out sure enough, but no folding stuff. Then the receipt indicated that my account was 10,000 baht lighter. I hurried to the bank, where the staff were very understanding and assured me it happened all the time. The mistake was rectified about 10 days later. Another important point is that if you intend to withdraw money at a bank branch other than the one where you opened the account, you will need your passport. Thais refer to the account-opening location as your home branch, and no passport is required.
As regards wiring money from your own country, or heaven forbid sending it the other way, I’ve never ever needed to do this, but I’ve heard enough of my colleagues moaning about it to form the opinion that many Thai banks aren’t really too adept in this department, and the charges for transferring funds are quite steep. Most money-wirers tend to plumb for Western Union, a company that specializes in money transfers. They have branches all over Bangkok, with their most central location being in Central Chidlom department store.
INFO: Over the past few years the rules for opening a bank account in Thailand has changed. You used to be able to open a bank account just with your passport, but now Foreigners are now NOT permitted to open bank accounts unless they show a work permit. Reason being that banks found it difficult to trace long-stay travellers and tourists when their accounts ran into difficulty. Where that leaves those people who don't want to carry great wads of cash or travellers cheques around I do not know.
LATEST 25th April 2007: You are still able to open a bank account at some Branches. You may need to walk around and try a few before being successful. SCB, KASIKORN THAI, AND BANGKOK BANK seem to be the best options. Also, you need a bit of luck.
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