If you’re wondering how to open a Thai bank account, you may feel overwhelmed. Which bank do you choose? What documents do you need? Will the bank tellers speak English? Despite what some expats say, opening a Thai bank account isn’t as tough as you may expect. Whether you’re a professional, retiree, or just a newcomer who wishes to make Thailand your home, this guide will clear up any confusion, dispel misinformation, and simplify the process of how to open a Thai bank account. But first, why should you open one?
4 benefits of a Thai bank account
Simply put, a Thai bank account makes your life easier and is essential if you plan to stay long-term. Below are some of the key benefits:
- Receive direct deposits from your employer: Most companies in Thailand pay employees once a month. With a bank account, your paycheck can be direct deposited.
- Make purchases with your debit card: While a debit card likely can’t be used to purchase lunch at your local food stall, it does come in handy at hotels, malls, and upscale restaurants.
- Pay bills online: You can literally save hours with online bill payment. Instead of driving to your mobile provider’s shop, waiting in line, and paying your bill at the cashier, a bank account enables you to complete the same task without leaving your home.
- Get a long-stay visa: A Thai bank account is necessary for O-A long-stay visas. A Non-O visa for retirees requires a bank balance of 800K THB, and Non-O visas for spouses of Thais and dependants needs a 400K THB balance.
Eligibility for opening a Thai bank account
You can open a bank account in Thailand if you’re on a non-immigrant visa or extension of stay, a visa exemption stamp, or short-stay visa, and have an established residence in Thailand (more on this soon).
However, if you’ve searched expat forums on the subject of how to open a Thai bank account, you’ve probably heard it’s difficult. The reason is some bank branches are cautious about foreign customers. It’s not that they don’t want your business. It’s just that servicing foreigners requires Thai banks to deal with complex regulations and for expats to sign additional forms. American citizens can be even more challenging, as the US government requires banks to report the assets of citizens abroad. Another reason for difficulty could simply be a lack of English-speaking staff.
Let’s be clear, a rejection from a single branch doesn’t mean you’re ineligible for a bank account. It just means you need to find a different branch. While being turned away from multiple banks can be frustrating, there are ways to increase your likelihood of opening an account on your first attempt. More on that soon.
Types of bank accounts
Before you open an account, you first need to know which type you need. Here are three common accounts available in Thailand, ordered from easiest to open to most difficult.
Savings account: The most common type of bank account in Thailand, a savings account provides you with a debit card and passbook (commonly referred to as a bank book), which records transactions.
Current account: A current account (or a checking account) is similar to a savings account; both provide you a debit card to use at ATMs. The only real difference is a current account provides you with a checkbook instead of a passbook. A work permit is required to open a current account.
Fixed term account: This type of account offers a higher interest rate than the above options, however, expats don’t always receive the same interest rate as Thai citizens.
For most expats, a savings account is the best choice as it provides everything you’ll need.
How banking in Thailand is different
Thai banks likely operate differently than those in your home country. Below are some key differences:
One account is usually enough: If you’re like most expats, you probably have a savings and checking account back home. In Thailand, however, a savings account is typically enough. Most expats don’t use checks here, and considering the added difficulty of opening a current account, it’s probably not worth the hassle.
Branches matter: Individual bank branches operate independently and policies can vary from branch to branch. While all branches follow similar processes, some locations are more welcoming to foreigners than others. Just because you have an easy experience at one branch, doesn’t mean you’ll receive the same service or need the same documents at another. The English level can also vary greatly, but English will be better in expat and tourist areas.
Physical branch visits are common: Though all banks now offer online banking and apps, functionality of these tools can be limited. For a surprising amount of your banking needs, you’ll need to visit a physical branch, which is the case for opening an account and often for more advanced transactions.
Signatures are often required: Prepare your hand for a signature marathon. Even for simple tasks like withdrawals, you may be asked to sign multiple documents. This often includes a copy of your passport, or even multiple copies. All the signatures may seem excessive, but be polite. Physical paper copies are the standard in Thailand so the bank reps are just doing their job.
Debit cards can’t always be used online: Thai ATM/debit cards aren’t always accepted by international retailers for online payments. As a workaround, some banks provide virtual credit cards through their web application, which should be accepted. Another option is to apply for a credit card at your bank, which will be widely accepted by online retailers.
ATMs are feature-rich: With an ATM card, you can accomplish many of your banking needs, such as updating your bank book, paying bills, transferring money, and more. However, beware ATMs may dispense your money prior to returning your card. This causes many foreigners to grab their cash and leave, forgetting their card at the machine.
Documents needed to open an account on your first try
To successfully open a bank account on your first attempt, you must bring the correct documentation. What you need depends on your visa situation. Below are two common scenarios and the documents you’ll need in each case.
You need a bank account to acquire a long-term visa
If you need a long-term visa, you may have found yourself in quite the conundrum: a bank account is necessary for your long-term visa, but some banks won’t provide you an account without a long-term visa. What can you do? If you’re in this situation, you probably feel frustrated. But don’t worry, there is a way forward.
The solution is to bring your passport and proof of residency (like your lease agreement) to your embassy and ask for a letter of reference that confirms your Thai address. Once you’ve received the letter, show it and your passport to the bank and you’ll be able to open the account.
(For Australians, The Australian Embassy is not authorised to sign or witness forms/letter in non-Australian jurisdictions, according to the Consular Fees Act)
You’re already on your desired visa
Whether you’re on a tourist visa, education visa, or something similar, you’ll need your passport to open a bank account. Other documents worth bringing include your work permit (if you have one), a letter from your employer stating you’re currently employed or applying for a work permit, proof of Thai residence, and proof of residency in your home country, which may include a driver’s license or utility bill. Bringing a minimum deposit of a couple thousand baht—or as much cash as you have available—is also a wise decision, as most banks will require one.
For proof of Thai residence, you can bring a rental or lease agreement, a utility bill, a Thai drivers license, and/or a yellow Tabien Baan, also referred to as a house book.
As mentioned, required documents can vary from branch to branch. For that reason, we recommend bringing as much documentation as possible to avoid multiple trips. Alternatively, you or a Thai speaking friend can call ahead and ask the branch manager what documents are needed.
If you want to make the process even easier, follow the same advice above for needing a long-term visa. Ask your landlord for a copy of their ID and your lease agreement. Then bring these documents to your country’s embassy to get a letter of reference that confirms your Thai address.
Choosing your ideal Thai bank
Choosing your Thai bank can be tricky because you have so many options. To help narrow your selection down, we’ve described each of the most popular Thai banks and their benefits, below.
The biggest bank in Thailand with 1,200+ local branches and the largest network of Thai banks abroad, Bangkok Bank is consumer friendly and very welcoming to foreigners. What’s more, overseas money transfers have a good exchange rate and are easy to complete. As our clients regularly share positive customer service experiences about Bangkok Bank, it is Baan Thai’s recommended choice for expats.
The fourth largest bank in Thailand, Kasikorn has a wide network of branches and ATMs and is foreign friendly. The bank also offers convenient international money transfer and intuitive mobile banking. Kasikorn is typically one of the easier accounts to open.
Citibank is the largest foreign bank in the country and offers some unique benefits. For example, you can withdraw cash without a fee from their wide network of ATMs worldwide and accumulate Thai Airways frequent flyer miles with their Royal Orchid Plus Select Mastercard. The bank offers excellent digital banking and easy international transfers.
Krung Thai Bank
A government owned bank, Krung Thai is the country’s second largest bank with over 1,200+ domestic branches. Opening an account at Krung Thai is easy, as little documentation is typically required.
Siam Commercial Bank
SCB offers a wide network of branches, excellent insurance policies, and a user-friendly mobile app. The bank also has a low barrier of entry to open an account. Expats and non-residents often just need a passport and deposit.
Formerly known as Bank Thai, CIMB is the 10th largest commercial bank in the country. They offer a comprehensive spectrum of insurance policies, and expats can open an account on a tourist visa.
Krungsri Bank / Bank of Ayudhya
Krungsri’s perks include excellent digital banking and easy international transfers.
They are the fifth largest bank in Thailand and have a wide network of branches throughout the country.
Open your bank account
Once you’ve selected a bank that fits your needs, take a deep breath, muster the courage, and go open one. Really, it’s not as scary as you think. You’ve already moved to a foreign country, a task most people will never be brave enough to do. Comparatively, opening a Thai bank account should be easy.
And besides, your Thai bank account is a big part of your everyday life and financial planning. Having one provides a reliable way of accessing funds and transferring money around. Things like shopping, paying bills, and receiving money become fast and easy. So what are you waiting for? Go out there, open an account, and you’ll soon have more time on your hands to enjoy this beautiful country.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I open a bank account with a tourist visa?
Yes, but your success will depend on the bank and branch. Some are more lenient than others. The best place to try is in a tourist area, as these locations are more foreign friendly.
Can I send money to my Thai bank account from abroad?
Absolutely. For the best exchange rate, we recommend using a service called Wise (formerly TransferWise). Over the course of a year, the service can easily save you hundreds of dollars as the transfer fees are minimal and you always get the up-to-date exchange rate.
Can I send money from my Thai bank to another country?
Yes, many banks offer direct bank transfer. However, you can also use services like Western Union and DeeMoney.