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TCs or Debit card or Cash

  • csm9002

    Joined Travelfish
    19th November, 2011
    Posts: 3

    Hi everyone,

    First time posting, and also first time backpacking SE ASIA.

    It'll be my second time in Thailand but this time not with family/nice hotels.
    I'm travelling with 11other friends for two weeks, then 5 of us break off at the end to spend 2 weeks in Laos and a week in Cambodia before returning to Sydney.

    I just wanted some advice on how to take money there.

    My bank debit/EFTPOS card will charge a 3% commission + $5 for international trasnactions. Add on top of that the 150THB (approx $5) the thai ATMs charge.
    to Take out $500 it'll be $25 just for fees!! and do that a few times I'll rack up about $100 in bank fees!!

    I heard however, Traveller's cheques only cost $1 per cheque to exchange. I'm planing to take large denominations anyways ($200 ~$500) and I don't mind change some to USD. Would this be the better option?

    Also Thailand wasn't a problem in terms of travel cards or eftpos but going into Laos and Cambodia...ATMs are few from plenty, and they charge fees too and many i hear don't give more than $200USD. While I could probably change all my TC's in Thailand to USD before i enter Laos so I can always exchange cash later on.

    Please, any advice would be appreciated. People are saying $25 isn't much but do it a few times it'll be nearly $100 which can go a long way in SE ASIA, also I don't like the idea of carrying around a lot of cash and losing it for whatever reason. At least with TCs it's insured by Amex.

    Thank you!! :)

    #1 Posted: 19/11/2011 - 23:11

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  • dbkk101

    Joined Travelfish
    13th January, 2010
    Posts: 1

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    ATM card is the most convenient by far.

    If you have time, get an ATM card with no int'l withdrawal fees (some even pay back destination bank's fees), e.g. Bank of Internet or Schwab. ATMs are everywhere (even in the provinces), and open 24/7. You can take out 10,000 (or even 20,000) baht at a time, in which case 150 baht fee is 1.5%, an acceptable price for convenience.

    In Bangkok, if you really care to avoid the 150 baht fee, look for AEON ATMs (e.g. in Siam Paragon basement) or Citibank ATMs (at Asoke BTS).

    TCs are often a hassle to exchange (especially out of the major areas), and you will probably get charged both the purchase and redemption fee. Yeah, they're insured, but claiming that is a major hassle as well.

    Cash is more hassle than an ATM card. You need to find an exchange booth (less common than ATMs, and not open at all hours) and make sure you get a good rate. Thailand is not really dangerous, but carrying a significant amount around may make you feel insecure. Cash & TCs are also inflexible -- if you need more in a bind, you're out of luck.

    Always have 2 sources of money available in 2 separate places (e.g. 2 ATM cards, or one card and 4 days worth of cash), helps with incidents.

    #2 Posted: 20/11/2011 - 00:51

  • altmtl

    Click here to learn more about altmtl
    Joined Travelfish
    18th May, 2009
    Location Earth
    Posts: 969
    Total reviews: 5

    - make sure you withdraw the max on your card when using an ATM - Set your max withdrawal limit at home before you leave and inform them of your travel dates so they don't freeze your card.

    -TC's there is a 33 baht fee per check, so if you only need a same amount it's a better deal than an ATM.

    - US$$ is always good to have for border crossings, emergency situations and when you are in a place with no banks or atm's.

    #3 Posted: 20/11/2011 - 01:15

  • BC

    Joined Travelfish
    24th November, 2005
    Posts: 5
    Total reviews: 23

    Hey csm9002,

    good luck avoiding bank fees with an Aussie bank. Best deal I have found so far for overseas withdrawals is HSBC - they will still slug you 3% and will pass on any local ATM fee, but no $5 fee over and above that. (The exception is if you use an actual HSBC ATM - they you will pay $4.50 but not the 3% - go figure...). I reckon it's worth getting an account there, but allow plenty of time, their ID checks are quite an exercise.

    Remember that if you buy foreign currency in Australia, you'll be paying at least the 3% in the rates anyway. And if you're foolish enough to walk into Travelex without ordering over the internet first, you'll pay a whole lot more.

    It's a couple of years since I was in Laos but last time I was there, the ATM withdrawal limit was pathetic, something like $90 a time. But you could do 10 straight withdrawals in a row - wonder why that might be...

    So for Laos I would suggest bring a bit of cash, USD is probably best, and you won't need a lot. You can find places that will cash TCs in the bigger towns, but the hours will be limited and there will be a commission involved.

    I used ATMs in Cambodia too but it was a long time ago so I won't offer any advice.

    Thanks dbkk101 for the tip about Thailand, I couldn't find any fee-free ATMs, not even the ones that the Mastercard website said should be...

    #4 Posted: 21/11/2011 - 05:04

  • mikethediver

    Click here to learn more about mikethediver
    Joined Travelfish
    23rd March, 2008
    Location Thailand
    Posts: 206
    Total reviews: 3

    Having faced the same problem here in the UK, I settled on a pre paid debit card. There are many to choose from (at lest here) and it was much cheaper than using my bank card.

    TC would be fine in Thailand & Cambodia, but cashing in Cambodia would be strictly banking hours only. You can often get a slightly better rate for TCs than cash, but you do pay commission on each cheque, plus a poor rate when buying them.

    Good luck on trying to avoid ATM fees in Thailand!, but in Cambodia CANADIA banks do not charge an ATM fee and their ATMs are every where.

    In summary, don't put all your eggs in 1 basket and take some TC, some Cash & ATM card(s)!

    #5 Posted: 21/11/2011 - 16:32

  • csm9002

    Joined Travelfish
    19th November, 2011
    Posts: 3

    Thanks Everyone for your replies.

    I've settled on Cash and TC's. I'll take my debit card for emergencies.

    Unfortunately in Australia even travel money cards are not very helpful.
    Only one card holds thai baht and they charge a commission when you recharge and for ATM fees!! and the Thai ATM's will probably charge an ATM fee as well! also using a travel card in a country that isn't part of the currency I charged it in, will incur more fees so for Laos and Cambodia, travel cards become expensive.

    TC's are free to get if you go via AMEX and not the banks and the rates are pretty good.
    Got a mix of AUD and USD. And the commission in thailand is only 33THB per cheque so I go large denominations and I don't mind paying $1.20 commission for cashing one $500 cheque. SO much better than $25 ATM fee with a $500 withdrawl!

    Thank you!

    #6 Posted: 21/11/2011 - 17:03

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