One of the most often asked questions across the several travel forums I participate in is:
“what are the best ways of accessing cash whilst in Thailand?”.
This is a huge & very complex question, when you consider the wide range of countries whose nationals visit Thailand each year !!.
What I will aim to do is to give you an “international” overview of the most popular methods, which will hopefully give you a good insight, from which you can then check what the particular costs & requirements are for your own country.
These are without doubt the most popular method for accessing cash for most visitors to Thailand, there are literally 1,000’s of ATM’s now scattered all around the country, and more new ones being added daily.
EVERY key tourist destination has a wide range to choose from with all the main Thai banks offering varying facilities both outside most branches and also at shopping centres,hotels, resorts & even next to the main beaches !.
The benefits of being able to withdraw Thai Baht from one of these machines “on demand” is obvious, you don’t have to carry large amounts of cash around with you, and its very easy to just pop over to the ATM machine and withdraw exactly your daily requirements, but have you considered the costs of this instant gratification ?.
A new charge that has recently(April 2009) been announced by the Thai Bankers Association is that with immediate effect ALL foreign credit/debit card withdrawals from ATM machines in Thailand will carry a charge of 150thb per transaction! , now you see why there are ATM machines being located EVERYWHERE, its far more profitable for the banks to do this than from traditional banking pursuits !!.
I cannot make comments regarding what individual banks & other credit card companies do in different countries, but I can give you the figures of what my costs are for the benefit of using “the plastic”.
Visa Debit Card:
Thai bank charge – 150thb
UK bank “fee” – 1.96%
UK bank “commission” – 2.63%
Exchange rate variable – 1%(difference between UK bank exchange rate & Thai bank for the same date)
So if today I went to an ATM machine and wanted to withdraw 10,000thb the total cost to me would be 709thb or approximately 7% , and that is for a DEBIT CARD, heaven knows what the costs would be if I had a CREDIT CARD !!.
Now,there are many people who might read this and say “thats rubbish, there are no charges/ small charges for me using my cards abroad”, all I will say is “there is no such thing in this life as a free lunch”, the costs may not be immediately visible to you, but they ARE THERE !!.
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A traveller’s cheque is a pre-printed, fixed amount cheque that requires a signature to pay for goods or service. In general, traveller’s cheques are an outdated and tiring form of travel money as traveller’s cheques are no longer as widely accepted by retailers and take some time to organize. However, traveller’s cheques do still have some benefits for the safety conscious.
Unlike cash, traveller’s cheques can usually be replaced by the issuing bank or financial institution if lost or stolen, and they never expire. They work on the basis that the purchaser is essentially giving an interest free loan to the issuer.
This is how the issuer makes their profit, as these days most traveller’s cheques are commission free or charge a mere 1% commission on the total. It sounds appealing in light of the foreign credit and debit card transaction fees, but the hard truth is that traveller’s cheques are rarely accepted by retailers.
Instead, holders of traveller’s cheques must visit a bank or bureau de change to exchange the cheque for local currency. This also requires the holder to carry an additional form of identification, such as a passport or driver’s licence, with them at all times for verification.
Pre-Paid Travel Cards:
Finally there is another option available for travellers accessing cash in Thailand who are sceptical about using their debit or credit card in foreign countries.
Especially designed for travellers, specifically traveller’s under the age of 30, pre-paid travel cards are pre-loaded with funds before you leave home meaning there is no chance of over drawing money and therefore being stung with excessive interest fees.
Apart from that, pre-paid travel cards operate in much the same way as a regular debit/credit card and can be used to purchase goods (with all the usual foreign transaction fees), from retailers and to withdraw money from ATMs/cash point machines.
If you have funds left on your card at the end of your travels, you can choose to keep them on your card and top them up the next time you travel, or alternatively, withdraw the remaining cash from an ATM/cash point machine.
The only negative is, like any bank or credit card, if your card is stolen or lost it can take days to replace. So it is a good idea to have a back up source of travel money.
At present the Visa prepaid card – “Visa Travelmoney” seems to be the only real option.
Make sure you are aware of the transaction fees associated with each card before signing up!.
It is always advisable to enter any country with at least a small amount of the local currency on you. This will ensure that you are not stranded without foreign currency to cover small airport associated costs such as taxis, bus fares or trolley hire.
Thai Baht foreign currency can be purchased at money exchange branches and bureau de change locations before you leave home or at the airport terminal. The down side is that you usually pay for the convenience in both the exchange rate and there is often a minimum charge.
It is also a good idea to travel with amounts of your national currency (particularly GBP£, USD$ & Euro), as you can excahnge into Thai Baht at either Exchanges or Banks without any requirements for identification, and the cash exchange rate is usually the best rate.
Overall Travel Money Tips Checklist:
* make sure you are aware of the current exchange rate.
* make sure you have checked the amount left in your debit card or have checked what your credit card limit is.
* make sure your cards are valid for the duration of your trip.
* make sure you are aware of the “hidden costs & charges” and foreign ATM/cash point machine fees charged by your bank or card issuer.
* make sure you are aware of the practice of “dynamic currency conversion” used by many foreign retailers.
* make sure you have at least two different sources of funds available at all times in case one of these fails on you.
* make sure you make separate records of your cards or traveller’s cheques and have left these details in a very safe place in case your travel credit or debit cards are lost, damaged or stolen.
If there are any specific aspects regarding of any areas of this article “accessing cash in Thailand” that you are unsure of please Contact Us we are always very happy to help our visitors as much as is possible.
And finally have a great holiday in the wonderful Kingdom of Thailand !.