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Banking and Money Matters

Chiang Mai Banks

Banking in Chiang Mai is relatively easy, given the large number of ATM’s and various branch outlets concentrated in popular areas around town. Visitors and residents alike can do any number of typical transactions such as opening local accounts, withdrawing cash, and doing money transfers all over town. To guarantee yourself the best results when looking for English speaking staff who understand the needs of foreigners, it’s best to stick to main drags like Thapae Road in the heart of town, Nimmanhaemin Road just to the west, Chang Puak to the north, and Changklan to the south. Thai banks in these areas often have several members with adequate English skills who can easily help you take care of your banking needs. Some of the most prevalent bank branches are Siam Commercial Bank, Bangkok Bank, Ayudhya Bank, and Kasikorn Bank. Some people prefer international banking through HSBC or Citibank which can be contacted here, though ultimately most expats choose to open a local Thai bank account for most of their local banking needs.

Opening Your Account

Major Thai banks operate branches along main drags like Thapae Road. Photo: AE

Both large and small branches of banks in Chiang Mai are willing to open accounts for expats. It is especially easy if you are accompanied by a Thai national who will act as your guarantor. While large branches on Thapae and Nimmanhaemin Roads may be more familiar working with expats, most small branches that you will encounter in Airport Plaza, Kad Suan Kaew, and even Tesco Lotus stores will be prepared to help get you processed.

Whether accompanied by a Thai guarantor or not, banks will require some documentation from you in order to open your account. As with most cases where paperwork is needed in Thailand, the rules may not always be consistent from bank to bank or even day to day. For instance, sometimes a bank will allow you to open an account with just a tourist visa, though it’s better if you have a valid Non-Immigrant O or B Visa. It’s also likely you’ll be required to show a copy of a rental agreement or residency certificate. Interestingly, some westerners have found that less paperwork is required when the bank understands that 30,000 baht or more is to be deposited upon opening the account.

ATM Withdrawal Fees and Conversion Rates

Inevitably, both tourists and locals will have to use an ATM very soon after arriving in Chiang Mai. All people needing to withdraw money or convert cash they’ve brought over from their home countries will have to accept the local conversion rates assessed by the banks. In general, bank conversion rates are only minutely different across companies on any given day. As for ATM withdrawals, the main difference to be weighed is a choice between different conversion rates and how they interact with a set overseas withdrawal fee, which is currently 150 baht for processing. Some banks may claim not to assess this fee, but then give you an unfavorable conversion rate instead. Finding the bank with the best rate and the smartest withdrawal procedure is a hot topic of debate on ThaiVisa. It’s advised to check the Jobs, Economy, Banking Subforum for the latest news about best deals for handling your money between countries. For small withdrawals and for tourists on holiday, this is not such a hot topic, but for those needing to move large amounts of money, or to withdraw often, looking into bank to bank transfer of money is probably a better idea.

Transfers

Most westerners will find the need to move large sums of cash come up mainly when trying to set up their required retirement account balance to qualify for their Non-Immigrant O Visas, and when needing cash for a deposit on a house or condominium purchase.

Transferring funds in and out of Thailand is quite easy, but involves a bit of work. Again, your larger bank branches on main roads with tourist traffic will be most ready to help you receive your funds. Perhaps the easiest way to receive money from aboard is via wire transfer with a company like Western Union, though most people will want to transfer from their bank aboard directly to a bank in this country in order to avoid the larger fees associated with money wiring. For that, you will need to be prepared with very specific information about your bank back home and your Thai bank as well. Depending on your country of origin and business to be done, you will need to know your western bank account’s IBAN, SWIFT, TELEX, or ACH code. Speaking with a representative of your home country bank is the best way to get the most precise bank account information possible. Likewise, gather information from your Thai bank representative regarding precise account, branch and SWIFT Code information here in Chiang Mai. You should now be ready to think about transferring funds in either direction between Thailand and another country.

Your next concern when transferring money is going to be the value received for your money in the transfer. The general wisdom on moving foreign currency to Thailand is that it’s better to convert foreign currency in Chiang Mai, though this point is sometimes contested. Onshore currency conversion rates to Thai baht are generally better than offshore, and so most people will transfer money in their home country’s currency, and then convert it here. Depending on your home bank’s front-end fees, the conversion rates, and your receiving Thai bank’s processing fees, you may want to alter your strategy. Again this is a hotly debated topic, and the most current up-to-date information can be found either in the ThaiVisa Chiang Mai Subforum, or in the general “Jobs, Economy, Banking Subforum” as referred to above.

Online Banking

Many people living in Chiang Mai prefer to do some of their banking online for routine expenses like paying utilities and rent each month. Several banks such as Kasikorn, Siam Commercial, and Bangkok Bank offer online banking in addition to basic account services. Because these accounts can sometimes be subject to debit errors, most suggest that you maintain a separate account from your savings account for your recurring monthly payments. It is also wise to set a maximum withdrawal amount so that all of your funds are never depleted should something go wrong.

Deposit for Non-Immigrant O Visa Bank Account

Retirees in Thailand have heard plenty about the requirement for a minimum bank account balance to meet Non-Immigrant O Visa standards. The money should be deposited in a Thai bank with a minimum required balance of 800,000 Thai baht in your account for at least two months running before reporting to immigration for visa qualification. There is also the option of proving that your monthly income benefits from abroad to your foreign bank are equal to or greater than 65,000 baht per month. A bank statement certified by your embassy must be furnished in order to qualify this way. Finally, you can also have proof of money in the bank and yearly income that is equal to 800,000 baht, also certified by your embassy, and qualify for a retirement visa. For the most up-to-date information on visa laws and applications, you should consult the

ThaiVisa Visa & Immigration Subforum. As an additional valuable resource, The Royal Thai Embassy also has many offices abroad in western countries, and their websites will have full listings of requirements about banking requirements for O Retirement Visas.

Loans

In the case that a foreigner in Chiang Mai needs a loan, there are a few possibilities, especially if a loan is backed against property or a business owned here in Thailand. The consensus however, is that it is easier to receive a loan from a bank in your country of origin rather than here. There are many reasons for this detailed in the Jobs, Economy, Banking Subforum. It is most likely that in securing a loan from abroad you will receive better terms on the loan and also be able to put the loan in your name, which is often impossible here due to foreign ownership restrictions.

Travelers’ Checks

Banks in Chiang Mai will still accept travelers’ checks, though they are not commonly used anymore. You will be paid whatever their currency conversion rate is for the given denominations, as well as a small processing fee. These days, using an ATM card for regular withdrawals is much safer and convenient than using travelers’ checks.

Useful Visa and Banking Information Links

http://www.mfa.go.th/

http://www.thaiembdc.org/

http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/forum/61-visa-immigration-forums/

http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/forum/13-jobs-economy-banking-business-investments/

A Few Chiang Mai Bank Listings

Ayudha Bank
Address: 222-226 Thapae Road
Tel: 053-251-811
Web: http://www.krungsri.com/en/index.aspx

Bangkok Bank
Address: 99/4 Moo 2, Huay Kaew Road, Kad Suan Kaew
Tel: 053-225-465 -7
Web: http://www.bangkokbank.com/Bangkok%20Bank/Pages/main.aspx

Kasikorn Bank
Address: 161-171 Thapae Road
Tel: 053-270-151 -8
Web: http://www.kasikornbank.com/EN/Pages/Default.aspx

Siam Commercial Bank
Address: 169/1-3 Chotana Road
Tel: 053-221-490
Web: http://www.scb.co.th/en/private-banking/




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