Oct 06 2011
It’s a nasty surprise that most travellers only find out when they arrive, but bank-owned automatic teller machines (ATMs) in Thailand charge 150 baht per foreign transaction. The fee can add up to quite a hefty burden if you were planning on withdrawing money in small amounts, daily. It might not seem like much, but if you withdraw 10 times during a month-long trip to Thailand, that’s enough for a domestic air ticket within the kingdom. Planning and scheming to the rescue!
There are three ways to beat the man at his own game here: a money belt packed with some cash, traveller’s cheques, and using the few ATMs in Thailand that don’t charge a fee. If cash is king in Asia (and it totally is: an angry, vindictive king), it also gets you the best rates when changing money. Bring a money belt (a small, discreet one that lays flat against your butt, secured under your pants — not some fanny-pack monstrosity in which you also keep your camera, water bottle, and football) and pack it with as many large-denomination bills as you are comfortable carrying (US dollars are most widely accepted and have the best exchange rates, but sterling, yen, Aussie/Kiwi/Canadian/Singaporean dollars and euros are equally workable).
Traveller’s cheques require a stamp duty of around 30 baht to be paid on each physical cheque at the bank, so larger denominations incur a smaller percentage fee (e.g., 1 x 100 dollar TC costs 30 baht to exchange, while 5 x 20 dollar TCs cost 150 baht to exchange). Often banks, civic organisations, auto clubs and others at home offer their members cheap or free traveller’s checks. If you can find a good deal, it’s a great way to carry money virtually risk free.
Finally, there is a brand of ATM in Thailand and one foreign bank that offer their ATM services for free (they still earn a fee from converting your money to baht, so let’s not feel too bad for them).
AEON is a Japanese credit company that has cash machines in large shopping centres (look for them in Central department stores, Robinsons, Big C Supercenters, and Tesco Lotus locations or see the handy locator function on their website). AEON ATMs accept all international cards on the Visa/Electon, Mastercard/Maestro, and JBC networks.
Citibank’s headquarters is located steps from the Asoke BTS Station, and its branch in Silom is close to BTS Sala Daeng. Citibank also offers fee-free withdrawals to all foreign bank cards utilising the Visa or Mastercard networks.
I mean, we all know we are just going to waste the money saved on ATM fees on ethnic pants, a thousand sticks of grilled pork, and an ill-advised tattoo, but it might as well go towards making travelling memorable rather than improving a bank’s bottom line.
Citibank Headquarter Branch: Interchange 21 Building, 399 Sukhumvit Rd. T: 1588
Citibank Silom Branch: 323 United Center Building, Silom Rd. T: 1588
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