If you’re wondering how to open a bank account in Thailand, you may feel overwhelmed. Is your visa eligible to open an account? What documents do you need? Will the bank tellers speak English? Despite what some expats say, opening a bank account in Thailand isn’t as tough as you may expect. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, 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 bank account in Thailand. But first, why should you open one?
The 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.
Financial Convenience and Simplifying Finances
A bank account provides easy access to your funds and eliminates the need for frequent currency exchanges, which accrue conversion fees. What’s more, online banking and bill payment can literally save hours. 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. If you intend to work in Thailand, a bank account is essential to get paid as most companies will direct deposit your paycheck into your account.
Local Integration and Access to Local Services
A Thai bank account provides multiple options to pay besides cash. These include a credit and/or debit card, bank transfer, and QR codes. With these payment options, you can access a broader range of local services, such as mobile phone plans, internet subscriptions, and insurance policies. It’s also easier to shop online, pay at malls and restaurants, book hotels, and use convenient apps, like Grab for food delivery and ride hailing.
Preparing for Retirement and Investment Opportunities
If you plan to stay in Thailand long-term, local banks offer a range of investment opportunities to help you prepare for retirement. These include the ability to invest in mutual funds, government bonds, and ETFs. Just like in western countries, local banks often provide advisory services to guide you towards financial and investment goals. If you’re interested in investing in Thailand real estate or starting a business, a local bank account can facilitate and manage these investments.
Get a Long-stay Visa
A Thai bank account is necessary for Non-O 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 Criteria and Visa Requirements
If you’ve searched expat forums on the subject of how to open a bank account in Thailand, 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. That said, below are some criteria that affect eligibility.
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).
Work Permits and Long-term Stay Considerations
While you can open a bank account in Thailand without a work permit, generally speaking, having one will improve your chances of success. A work permit also provides access to a wider range of account types (more on this soon).
It’s worth noting that two long-stay visas make the process of opening a bank account in Thailand fairly easy: Elite visa and Long-Term Resident (LTR) visa. With the Elite visa in particular, you can receive personal assistance opening a bank account in Thailand.
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 (or a checking 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 a bank account in Thailand 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.
Selecting the Right Account Type
Before you open a bank account in Thailand, you first need to know which type you need. Here are four common types of Thai bank accounts.
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.
A current 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 Accounts
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.
Corporate Bank Accounts
For companies operating a business in Thailand, a corporate bank account is essential. Your corporate bank account operates like a business account would in your home country, simplifying your tax preparation and bookkeeping, and providing a means for customers or clients to transfer funds to your business.
For most expats, a savings account is the best choice as it provides everything you’ll need.
Preparing Essential Documents
To successfully open a bank account in Thailand on your first attempt, you must bring the correct documentation. As mentioned, what you need depends on the bank and branch you visit, as well as the type of account you open. 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. Below are some guidelines for documents.
Passport, Visa, Work Permit, and Cash Deposit
Whether you’re on a tourist visa, education visa, or something similar, you’ll need to show your passport and visa to open a bank account in Thailand. While a work permit isn’t always necessary, bring yours if you have one as the bank teller may ask for it. Alternatively, a letter from your employer stating you’re currently employed or applying for a work permit may suffice.
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.
Proof of Address and Reference Letters
The bank may also require proof of your Thai residence and a letter of reference to open a bank account in Thailand. 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.
You used to be able to get a letter of reference (also known as a certificate of residence) from your embassy, but the process has changed. Now, you go to Immigration to obtain the letter. You’ll need to bring the following documents:
- Original passport
- Copy of your passport’s visa and photo pages, and most recent entry stamp
- Copy of your TM6 departure card and TM30 receipt
- Two passport-size photos
- Copy of your lease agreement and signed copy of your landlord’s ID
Note, the above required documents may vary based on the immigration office and officer serving you. You may also want to hold off on getting a letter of reference initially as it can be a tedious task and not all banks will require one.
Additional Documents for Specific Banks
Some other documents that may be requested include proof of residency in your home country (which could include a driver’s license or utility bill), proof of property ownership in Thailand, and a letter of reference from your home bank or a Thai educational institution.
H3: Documents for opening a corporate bank account
Opening a corporate bank account requires a different set of documents, which include:
- Certificate of company registration
- Certified copy of the list of shareholders and company seal
- Memorandum and articles of association
- Company’s tax ID card
- Certified copies of ID cards and house books of the company’s directors, authorized persons, and shareholders who own 25% or more of the company
- Minutes of the board meeting approving the account’s opening and assigning the signatories for payments
Additional documents may be required, including personal financial information, work permits, and company records and tax details.
Choosing the Ideal Thai Bank for Expats
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.
Overview of the Major Thai Banks and Their Offerings
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 more straightforward options, as they make it fairly easy to open a bank account in Thailand. There are branches located all over Bangkok, including one centrally located in MBK shopping mall.
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 a bank account in Thailand 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. It also has a low barrier of entry to open a bank account in Thailand. Expats and non-residents often just need a passport and deposit. Along with several other banks on this list, SCB has a branch in Central World.
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 bank account in Thailand 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.
Can a foreigner open a Thai bank account online?
No, as a foreigner you must be physically present at the bank to open an account.
Can I open a bank account on 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 a foreigner open a Thai bank account from abroad?
Opening a bank account in Thailand from abroad is not an option. As mentioned earlier, you’ll need to be physically present at the bank to open an account.
Can I transfer money abroad from a Thai bank account?
Yes, though it’s typically easier to send money into Thailand than out. That said, many banks offer direct bank transfer and you can also use services like Western Union and DeeMoney.
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.