If you’re planning to live in Thailand for a while, it’s important to have a bank account. Our comprehensive guide will help you make an informed decision and choose the best bank.
July 16, 2021 — 9 min read
When you arrive in Thailand—or any new country after a big move abroad—one of the first things you’ll need to do is open a bank account. A bank account keeps your money safe, and you can withdraw it whenever you need it. Additionally having a local bank account in your new home will give you a place to keep the local currency (in this case, Thai Baht) on hand without having to convert your old currency or pay costly international transaction fees.
Thailand’s banking system is regulated by the Bank of Thailand. The central bank controls 2 types of financial institutions in the country: depository corporations and non-depository corporations. As of June 2019, there were 30 licensed banks in Thailand, 6 of which were state-owned.
Fortunately, opening a bank account is fairly straightforward, even as a new expat. We’re here to help you understand how the banking system operates and how you can open a bank account.
Having a bank account will help you feel more at home and ensure you save on transaction and currency fees. Here are some of the other benefits of opening an account:
Lower ATM withdrawal fees. When you use a foreign card at an ATM, you’ll get charged high withdrawal fees. This makes accessing your money quite costly.
Easy shopping. It’s much easier to shop in Thailand if you have a local bank account, especially if you use a debit card. It’s also safer to make purchases with a card than to carry cash.
No conversion fees. Having a Thai account means you make and receive payments in the local currency. You don’t pay currency exchange fees.
Banks in Thailand operate differently from other Asian and Western banks. Many of the policies vary from branch to branch. Each bank has a set of rules and policies pertaining to account opening.
It’s common for branch managers to set most of the bank's policies and regulations. Some banks are stricter than others. Bank procedures also vary from branch to branch. Some banks will let you open an account online, while others will require your physical presence. Depending on the bank, it may take hours or days for your account to be approved.
If you plan on sending money from or receiving money in your bank account, this is for you. It’s mandatory for account owners to file a Foreign Exchange Transaction Form (FET Form) if the remittance amount is more than $50,000 USD (or its equivalent in Thai Baht).
The FET Form is evidence of remittance of foreign currency into Thailand. It clearly specifies who sent the money and the purpose of the money transfer.
Every bank has different requirements for opening an account, account fees, and services, andsome banks are accommodating to expats than others.
Many expats prefer international banks or large local banks with a good history.
Choose a bank based on your personal needs and immigration status. It’s also good to research beforehand so you can know what fees to expect. Common fees include annual account fees, card replacement fees, and account cancellation fees.
These are the 4 top banks in Thailand for expats:
Bangkok Bank —Thailand’s largest bank—is popular for being the most welcoming to foreigners and non-residents. It has many branches in the country as well as London and New York. Of all local Thai banks, it has the largest international presence. Its Foreign Currency Deposit Account is specifically designed for expats.
The bank offers good exchange rates for international wire transfers. It also allows account holders to connect a western branch to their PayPal account for quick money transfers. The bank’s online banking facilities are better than for most local banks. Its main branch, on Si Lom road, is the most friendly one to foreigners.
Loosely translated, Kasikorn Bank means “Farmer’s bank.” It is one of the largest banks in Thailand and is popular with both citizens and foreigners. You don’t need a minimum deposit to open an account. The bank also has a Foreign Currency Deposit Account for expats.
However, cashing foreign currency checks with Kasikorn Bank can be a difficult process. Also, because many people bank with it, it’s common to find long queues in bank branches and ATMs. The most foreigner-friendly branch is the Sukhumvit 33 branch.
Citibank is an international bank with origins in the US. It’s a good bank for expats and non-residents who handle a lot of cross-border banking. If you deposit over 3 million Thai Baht (THB) (about $92,930 USD) in your account, you automatically receive a gold status upgrade. Having a Citibank credit card allows you to earn points you can redeem with Thai Air.
The credit card points can also be redeemed for discounts in different outlets. In addition, you get travel insurance worth 7,000,000 THB if you buy an air ticket with the card. The annual fee can also be waived if you spend a minimum of 100,000 THB ($3,098.57 USD).
With CIMB, you can open a bank account with just a visitor visa. Foreigners can also access internet banking services. But you’ll be expected to make a deposit of 1,000 THB ($30.99 USD) and pay a debit card fee. However, you can’t use the debit card that comes with a basic savings account for online purchases or make international transfers through the app. [EL2]
Some Thai banks display the list of required documents for different procedures on their websites. Others provide this information over the phone. If you want to fast-track your application, it’s best to bring everything required by the bank.
If you can, carry more documents than those specified by the bank. Sometimes the bank may reject some documents and you may need substitutes. These are the documents most banks ask for during account opening.
Work visa or an employment letter showing your eligibility for a work visa (a student visa or tourist visa may work).
Passport or photo ID.
A Thai driving license.
A letter from your landlord or Thai house registration (your lease may work).
A letter of recommendation from a well-known organization--such as your embassy, a Thai university, or a reputable Thai citizen.
A letter (or other communication) from your bank back home to the Thai bank.
A minimum deposit (this may be optional depending on the bank).
A utility bill.
The documents required may vary, depending on the bank you select. What the bank accepts will also depend on the teller or the branch manager on duty.
There are 2 types of accounts available to foreigners in Thailand: resident bank accounts and non-resident bank accounts. Non-resident bank accounts are ideal for foreigners with no proof of residence. It’s also worth noting that multinational banks are stricter in screening and approving accounts compared to smaller local banks. These 3 accounts are the best for expats in Thailand.
This is the easiest bank account to open in Thailand--you don’t need a Thai work permit. A visa exemption or 30-day arrival stamp is all you need to open a savings account with Bangkok Bank. However, smaller banks may reject your application.
Opening a foreign currency account may seem like a good idea, but the restrictions and steep exchange rates can make you regret your decision. Remitting USD into the account is relatively inexpensive, but withdrawing or exchanging the money into Thailand Bahts (THB) is expensive. It may be cheaper to wire the money to a local account.
The best thing about this account is the low fees you pay when you receive and send large amounts of US dollars via wire transfer--some banks charge only 0.25% each way. Most banks require a minimum balance of $5,000 to $10,000 USD for foreign currency accounts. Also, foreign deposits are not protected in case your bank declares bankruptcy.
You need a work permit in Thailand to open a current account. The account functions like a savings account, but you’ll only get a checkbook (no passbook). A passbook is important if you like to track your deposits, withdrawals, and interest earned.
Remember what we said earlier? Once you have a Thai bank account, you’ll be able to transfer money to and from your other bank accounts. While your Thai bank and your other banks may be able to carry out this service for you, there’s another option that will bring you a better all-around experience.
Xe money transfer makes sending money to Thailand quick, easy, and affordable. It’s easy (and free) to open an account, and you can send up to $500,000 USD, or the equivalent in your currency, online.
Once you sign up, you can send money right away through our website or our mobile app and track it until it reaches the recipient. And if you make international money transfers often, there are other options available to help you make the transfer that best fits your needs, including forward contracts and market orders.
Sign in to your Xe account. Don’t have an account? You can sign up for free in just 5 minutes.
Select the currencies to exchange and enter the amount to transfer. There, you’ll get a quote for your transfer.
Enter your recipient information. You’ll need to provide your recipient’s name and bank account details. If you’re sending money to your own account, select that option and provide those details about yourself.
Provide your payment details. You can pay by card, bank transfer, or direct debit.
Double-check and confirm. Does everything look good? Happy with your quote, transfer completion date, and the details you provided? Time to initiate your transfer.