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Opening a Bank Account in Thailand

Opening a bank account in Thailand is a fairly straight forward process. In my opinion it is certainly worth considering if you intend to make the Kingdom your home for any length of time.

This article is based on my own experiences in setting up a bank account here with the Bangkok Bank.

For anyone contemplating setting up a Thai bank account there are several international financial organisations like HSBC and Bangkok Bank along with a good range of local Thai banks to choose from in Thailand. They are all regulated by the Bank of Thailand.

Finding a Suitable Bank in Thailand

Banks in Thailand seem to have lots of different criteria when it comes to foreigners opening accounts. Indeed branches of the same bank will often have their own local rules despite what head office might say.

Some banks will only offer the facility if you are working and can produce a work permit while others just need evidence that you live in the country on a long term basis. Some people even get a Thai bank account on a Tourist visa.

Criteria for Opening a Bank Account in Thailand

A general rule of thumb is that you need to show evidence that you reside in Thailand along with a valid passport and Non-Immigrant Visa which may or may not include an extension of stay.

You will also need to prove residency in Thailand. Proving residence is fairly easy and might include a copy of a lease or rental agreement or better still a copy of your “yellow house book” which is an official document that shows who lives in a particular house and can be obtained by foreigners from their local Amphur Office. Thai Immigration might also be willing to provide a letter confirming your address.

When I was setting up an account in 2008 at the Bangkok Bank, which has international branches, the bank required a copy of a lease or rental agreement and a copy of my passport to set up a savings account. Together with these documents, a small initial deposit in the region of 5000 Baht secured a passbook and Visa backed ATM card. The whole procedure took about 30 minutes.

At the time when I set up this account I was resident in Thailand on a Multi entry O Visa. However I was actually living in a guest house which didn’t seem to worry anyone so I didnt produce a lease or rental agreement!

After an enforced absence from Thailand of 18 months in the UK I returned fully expecting my Bangkok Bank account, which only contained about ฿2000, to be closed. I had also moved province. To my suprise I was able to “reactivate” the account, transfer to a local branch and change my passport number(the previous had expired) all from the main branch of the bank in the provincial capital.

Do you really need a Thai Bank Account

So that’s how easy it is opening a bank account in Thailand but perhaps you are wondering about whether its really necessary in the first place. Well the simple answer to that question is no it’s not. Since you could, if you wished, leave your money offshore and access it through the international banking system withdrawing cash from an ATM whenever you needed it.

Advantages of Opening a Bank Account in Thailand

If you are a long term resident expat in Thailand, say on a retirement extension to your visa, then setting up a bank account might make good sense, since one requirement of living here on that type of extension is proving you have 800,000 Baht in a Thai bank account or income of 65,000 Baht a month or indeed a combination of the two. Proving this annually at your local immigration office is much easier if you have a local bank account.

Another advantage of a local bank account with a Thai ATM card in Thailand is that Thai ATM’s can be used to provide a host of facilities, like making transfers, paying bills and even topping up your mobile phone.

Disadvantages of Opening a Thai Bank Account

The main downside to keeping large amounts of money in a Thai bank is the very low interest rate paid on basc accounts and the fact that money transfer charges from outside Thailand will add to your costs.

That said keeping your money offshore can also attract high charges when you come to withdraw some since your own bank and the Thai bank where you make the withdrawal may well both charge you for the privilege. There can also be security issues especially if you lose your foreign ATM card or have it stolen. Dealing with these issues and getting a replacement card are far easier if your bank is local.

You should also be aware that taking money out of Thailand through the international banking system is a bit more complex than bringing it in! You may well be required to provide evidence of where the funds originated from for example.

Of course the decision on opening a bank account in Thailand is a very personal thing and this article is not intended as a recommendation one way or the other. However it’s certainly easy to do and in some cases would seem to hold advantages.

Internet Banking in Thailand

Since I originally wrote this article I have been issued with a new ATM card(chip and pin) and given access to Internet banking. The latter took a bit of setting up though, since the Bangkok head office had my old passport number which caused a bit of confusion!! Once I had Internet banking working I also experienced a problem setting up the One Time Password(OTP) on my Internet banking, but eventually after about 4 months and 3 visits to the bank I got it working. Nowadays I can use my Bangkok Bank account online making purchases, transfers etc from the comfort of my home.

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