Opening a bank account is usually a simple affair in Thailand. Each branch however has their own set of rules when opening an account. One branch might want to see a visa while another might want to see a work permit. Opening a bank account is somewhat of a hit and miss affair so just walk down the road to each branch and see what they say.
When you do however get to open the account the bank will issue you with an ATM card while you wait and provide you with a “bank book”. This book is inserted into a special ATM machine and it will update the book by printing the last transactions of the account into the book. You also get to set your daily limit for withdrawals and this is always a good idea to minimize losses later.
For your retirement visa you must have a bank account since your money needs to be transferred from abroad to your local Thai bank account in order for the retirement visa extension to occur. For the retirement visa this amount is 800,000 Baht.
Moving Money from Abroad
There are different ways to move money from home and over the years expats and retired individuals have tried different types of money transfers. Let’s start from the safest.
Wire Transfers to Thailand
Certain banks do allow money transfers to be initiated via the internet. Banks such as Citibank and a few other allow these transactions. It is best never to use an internet café for logging into your bank account as key loggers which store the URL and password of the banking website you visited may be installed. It is always best when retiring in Thailand to use your laptop and connect your laptop to the network of the internet café. Wire transfers in Thailand take about 5 days and it is very secure and usually gives the best exchange rates. There is usually a 500 Baht charge per transfer when it arrives in your Thai bank account.
Automated Teller Machines (ATM)
Not the best way to draw money from your account back home, however it is easy, convenient but can prove to be very expensive. Withdrawal fees vary from bank to bank and some banks may also block you from drawing money in Thailand which they might consider to be a high risk country for ATM fraud. If you have a credit card, you can still draw money over the counter as long as you have your passport on you inside the bank. Always use ATM machines outside or in the bank as should the machine swallow your card, at least you would be able to get assistance immediately.
Not the best way to access money from home as there are service fees in the range of 2-3 percent per transaction. Having your cards replaced in Thailand could also be a trying affair. The banks may send you the card in Thailand; however insist on sending the access code to you registered address back home. This would be the standard procedure so ensure that someone can access the mail back home.
Checks which are drawn in foreign currency and deposited in Thailand can take up to one month to clear. The only difference is companies that issue checks that are drawn on a local bank. Citibank is a good example. Google Adsense pays each month with a Citibank cheque drawn on the account of Citibank, Bangkok branch. It takes 2 days for the cheque to clear. Also many banks do not always accept cheque’s from certain countries. You can safely assume that they would only accept US dollars and Sterling cheque’s drawn from the respective countries for depositing. Other countries and currencies are far more difficult.
PayPal Money Transfer
If you have a PayPal account registered in Thailand, you can withdraw the money into your Thai account. From clicking to receiving your money it usually takes 1 week. The Thai banks deduct a 500 Baht service fee. Using the PayPal account however if it was registered in the UK or US usually gets the account frozen as PayPal monitors where the person is logging in from and flags the transactions when it comes from high risk countries.
Through Western Union Transfer
This is the most expensive way to send money due to the costs involved and the poor exchange rates which you would usually get from the transaction.