Life is much easier and cheaper if one opens a bank account here in Thailand. It is easy, done in less then an hour and brings some great advantages. Rather then using the ATM machine with your local ATM / Debit or Credit card you can transfer a larger amount to Thailand, lets say once a month. As long as there is the minimum amount on it, usually ฿1000 / €25,they won’t close your account due to inactivity. If you work or operate a business in Thailand you are obliged to have one anyway. Currently, when withdrawing cash at any Thai ATM machine you will be charged ฿200/ €5.00 plus fees from your own bank. In my case (German bank account) this would add up to ฿488/ €12.25 each time I would need some cash.
The following experience is with Bangkok Bank, for other banks there might be different procedure but most certainly they will offer similar products.
Basically I goggled upfront and found foreigners may open a so called “Savings Account” with Bangkok Bank. So I just marched into the next Bangkok Bank branch here in Chiang Mai (Bangkok Bank@Kad Suan Kaew) and opened one. All I needed was my passport, my current address and ฿1000 as an opening deposit. The account was arranged immediately, I got a passbook (which acts as an account statement book) and a Visa Debit card. This account can be used to make domestic or international transfers, pay bills or top up credits for prepaid sim cards.The service at this branch is excellent as they are very well prepared to deal with foreigners and they do speak perfect English.
The passbook can be updated at any passbook update machine and with the debit card you can withdraw cash at any Bangkok Bank ATM or pay in a shop or restaurant where the card is being accepted, The card is protected by a PIN code which only works for ATM machines. Be aware that everyone can use this card in a shop such as Big C, Tesco or McDonald’s. There, the card is swiped and charged without PIN. No one checks your signature.
If you would like to have a credit card, you will have to make a deposit to a so called “fixed savings account”. A minimum of ฿20.000 / €503 is required and you would get the equal amount as credit line. If you deposit a higher amount your limit will be adjusted accordingly. They will issue two cards, a VISA and a MasterCard. If you spend at least ฿5000/ €132 a year no fee applies.Honestly, I have no idea how much the fee would be really. Once the cards are ready for pick up you will receive an SMS notification and a letter. You will pick up your cards at the branch, they will assist you to activate them and after this the PIN Codes will be send to your home address within a week,
Again, I am very sure all commercial banks in Thailand are providing the very same products and excellent service.