How to Open a Bank Account in Thailand as Non Resident / Tourist
If you wish to open a bank account in Thailand as non resident, then you are probably going to have to visit Thailand and do most of the work in person. Some countries have banks that demand you are a resident or citizen before you may open a bank account. You are able to open a bank account in Thailand as non resident, and even though it is possible, it is still rather tricky. Here are the things you should know and some advice on how to open a bank account in Thailand as non resident or tourist.
Many Thai Banks Have Bank Specific Rules
Banks all over their world have their own specific rules and polices, but Thailand is a country where the banks seem to have more variety when it comes to rules and policies. What one bank refuses to offer, another bank may give as standard, and what works in one branch may not work in another. The upside for you is that it is slightly easier for you to get an account in some cases. It is not like Hong Kong where every bank shows you the door unless you have more money than them.
From what I can tell, the policies and rules that are followed seem to depend upon the branch managers and bank employees; some seem to interpret the rules differently than others.
Procedures seem to differ too. Though most of them demand that you visit the country in order to open a bank account, some may allow you to do most of the opening process remotely, where others will ask that you do it all in person. Some banks may be willing to verify you and open your account on the same day that you visit, and others may have a waiting period. There are also chain banks where you may be able to sign up at any branch, where there are others that ask you to sign up in the branch where you intend to keep your primary account.
Bring More Than You Need To The Bank
Bring more documentation than you need. The bank you have applied to may issue a guide on what you should bring when you open your account—you need to bring more. For example, if they ask for a utility bill and another bank statement, then bring a number of different utility bills from different companies and more than one bank statement. If they want you to bring photo ID, such as your passport, then bring your passport, and your driver’s license and any/all of your other photo ID. If you have a Thai driver’s license or some sort of permit, then bring that too, and even bring receipts or documents from when you hired a vehicle or rented out a room. Work permits are also great things to bring too, or maybe student documentation if you are studying or part of a program in Thailand.
Bring more than what is required because it helps to avoid problems. There are times when one form of documentation is rejected and you need a backup or two. Or, the bank may ask for further proof that you are not trying to open an account on somebody else’s behalf, or that you are not a here-today-gone-tomorrow customer. The bank may not mind if you are a tourist, but they may need some indication that you are going to make repeat visits or stay for extended period—otherwise they may wonder why you want a bank account in Thailand at all; especially if your account comes with some sort of lending facility.
A Sidenote About Using Your Account When It Is Open
When you go to a bank and you want something that is more complicated than a withdrawal, the clerk may hand you a form. You may be asked to fill in the form and hand it back. There are times when a clerk asks you to sign the form and offers to fill out the rest for you. Some people simply sign the form and let the clerk fill it out, and some people insist on filling it out themselves. Some people also fill out the form and put lines through the blank spaces so that the clerks are unable to add things. It is up to you how you handle it, but it is fairly common as far as I understand it.
Kasikorn Bank, Bangkok Bank, Citibank and Krungsri
If you talk to people who have been the Thailand and opened a bank account, you will probably hear them talk about Kasikorn Bank, Bangkok Bank, Citibank and Krungsri. These seem to be the most foreigner-friendly banks in Thailand. They seem to be a little more lenient with foreigners wishing to open a bank account in Thailand as non resident.
Your current status in the country will strongly affect your ability to open a bank account in Thailand as non resident. For example, if you have a job or business in Thailand, then it is easier to open a bank account than if you are a tourist.
This is a Malaysian banking group, and they have a presence in Thailand. They allow you to open a bank account even if you only have a tourist visa. In addition, they will allow you to use their Internet banking platform too. They are probably going to expect an initial deposit of around THB 1000, and they charge a fee for the Visa debit card that they issue you with.
This is a bank that is tourist and foreigner friendly, and they are a little more open to lending via credit cards if you are a foreigner. You may have to hunt around for a branch with foreigner-friendly staff because some are, and some would rather get you out the door as fast as possible.
The Bangkok bank is the largest bank in Thailand, it is foreigner-friendly, and it has over 18 million accounts. If you are finding it a little difficult to get an account, then try their main office in Thailand. Plus, if you are looking to do a few wire transfers with your account, then the Bankok bank’s exchange rate is pretty good too. If you are just using banks, then the Bankok bank has the best rates you are likely to find as a tourist or non-citizen.
You may be better off with Citibank if you are doing a little cross-boarder banking. They are fairly friendly when it comes to allowing people to open a bank account in Thailand as non resident. In addition, if you deposit 3 million THB ($89,800 US Dollars), then your account is upgraded to gold status. They also have a Royal Orchid PlusSelect credit card where you are able to convert your points into air miles with Thai Air.
What Will You Need In Order To Open Your Account?
When you first apply for to open a bank account in Thailand as non resident, the bank should tell you or email you and explain what you need to bring and/or what you need to send in order to open an account. Here are a few of the most commonly requested items:
[o] Thai house registration
[o] Thai driving license
[o] Letter of reference from a ‘reputable’ Thai person
[o] Letter of reference from an embassy or a university
[o] A letter that shows you are getting a work visa
[o] A work visa, student visa, tourist visa
[o] Letter or communications from your current bank
[o] Photo ID such as a passport
You do not need all of these things. Most banks will ask you for a selection of the items listed above. The more of them you have, then the easier it will be to open a bank account in Thailand as non resident.
A Debit Card
Open up a current/checking account or a savings account, and you will get a debit card/bank card that functions as a Visa card for your offline and online purchases. However, your Thailand debit card is unlikely to be accepted by most international websites. Despite what you may have read, debit cards are easier to get hold of than credit cards because a work permit is not required in order to get a bank debit card in Thailand.
The Mystery Of ATMs And Thai ATM Charges
Fees for withdrawing from your bank account via a debit card are going to be high when compared to neighboring countries. In addition, you may have to pay different fees depending upon which province you are in. You may use your bank’s ATMs in one province and pay 50% less than if you use your bank’s ATM in another province.
ATMs in Thailand are a little like those banking machines you get in high street branches. Thai ATMs will often allow you to withdraw, to transfer, to pay bills, check balances, and much more. I would liken it to online banking, except that you can do more when use online banking.
Online Banking And Tourists
Bank with CIMB, and they may allow you access to their online facilities, even if you only have a tourist visa. Other banks are probably not going to allow you to use their online banking facilities if you only have a tourist visa.
Applying for and setting up, your online account is not as easy as it is in the west. Applying for and setting up your online online banking in Thailand takes a lot of hassle and paperwork. If you are looking for something more than just a bank account, such as if you want a savings account, or a multi-currency account, then online banking becomes very convenient.
The Benefits of Opening a Bank Account in Thailand
For those of you who are online article junkies, you may wonder why have I put this section near the bottom. Most article start with things such as “Why you should open your account…” and then move on to the meaty bit about how to do it. I have switched it up a little and put the “Why oh why” bit near the bottom. You would have probably skimmed over it if I had put it near the beginning anyway.
Avoid The Highest ATM Withdrawal Fees
Despite what I have read in other online articles about ATM fees, I know for a fact that you will be charged them if you use a Thai bank account. Other online articles claim that you should get a Thai bank to avoid ATM fees, but people with Thai bank accounts have to pay them too.
If you get a Thai bank account, then you may avoid the highest ATM fees. If you use overseas cards, especially credit cards, then the ATMs will sting you for a bunch of different fees. When you use a Thai bank card, you pay the same fees that other Thai people pay.
Can You Avoid Conversion Fees?
If you are being paid Thai Baht and you are being paid into your Thai bank account, then you can avoid currency conversion fees. On the other hand, if you are using overseas credit cards of overseas multi-currency accounts, then there is a chance that you are paying currency conversion fees/rate that you could avoid. If you had a Thai bank account, then you could avoid the nasty conversion rates that come with currency transfers, and you may avoid currency conversion fees too.
Make Local and Local-Online Purchases Easier
It may be cheaper and easier to use a Thai bank debit card to buy things locally and when using ATMs, especially compared to what it may cost you with credit cards and such. Thai bank cards/debit cards may also be used with local Thai websites, but international websites probably won’t accept Thai debit cards for payments.
Making payments locally with a bank card, even a credit card, is probably better than carrying cash around. Don’t forget that quite a number of local merchants will accept a Thai bank card, which includes local takeaway restaurants.
Talking Donkey Balls
Some people say that you may use your Thai bank account to transfer money out of Thailand, but they are talking Donkey Balls. There are plenty of other ways of getting money out of Thailand than having to get a Thai bank account.
Conclusion – The Banks That May Say Yes
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As I have mentioned in this article on how to open a bank account in Thailand as non resident, the rules seem to differ from bank to bank and branch to branch. Different banks have different interpretations of the rules, and different branches within the same banking network seem to have different priorities, rules and incentives. Keep this in mind when you are running around Thailand searching for a new bank account. Here are some of the banks that may say yes to you, and a few notes on what they may ask for.
- Bangkok Bank – Passport, driver’s license, work permit or that you own property in Thailand
- Bank of Ayudhya – Passport, proof of address, work permit or some sort of visa
- Kasikorn Bank (K-Bank) – Passport and work permit, visa, certificate of marriage or proof of property ownership
- UOB Bank – Passport and work permit
- CitiBank – Passport and work permit, and a one-year apartment contract
- SCB – Passport and work permit