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The great cash withdrawal ripoff

Posted by CrankyCarrot on 13/9/2010 at 14:10

Ok, so I've withdrawn cash from ATM's twice in the month I've been here, and here's what I've found;

The first time it cost me about $17, the second $25, even though both times I withdrew the same amount.

The "cash advance" I allegedly get from Westpac Visa applies even if my account is in credit. What's more, it costs $2.50 just to move any money from there to my savings account when in credit, and something like 7% when it's not in credit.

ALL ATMs in Phuket charge the 150thb for withdrawing. I read somewhere on the forums here that it's free from the Yellow bank, but that's not the case. A woman at the Kata Kasikorn told me that if I had my passport and withdrew funds from within a K-Bank branch as opposed to from the ATM, the 150thb fee would be waived. After going to all the trouble of getting passport back from the bike rental and going to the Patong Kasikorn, this turned out to be total bulls--t. Sure enough, the fee still applied.

$35au to simply withdraw my own money is nothing short of appalling - I can get several nights accommodation here for that, and the banks mop it up for doing next to nothing. Also, the Visa exchange rate is consistently a baht below the posted rates online at Why is this?

Seriously, what's the story here? Isn't any body else p'od about being chronically ripped off by the banking institutions? Are there any loopholes I should know about? Any banks anywhere in Thailand that waive the 150 fee?

#1 CrankyCarrot has been a member since 24/3/2010. Location: Thailand. Posts: 662

Posted by CrankyCarrot on 13/9/2010 at 14:16

Also, can anybody point me to the part of the Visa site that has it's current currency conversions on it? They keep that SOB pretty well hidden, probably because it shows how they're skimming extra off the top offering lower rates than you see, oh, I don't know, EVERYWHERE you can exchange cash here.

Only Travelex has a worse rate.

Please pm me a link if you've got it, or post it here if that's allowed.

Thanks and apologies for the caps - getting scammed puts me in a heck of a bad mood.

#2 CrankyCarrot has been a member since 24/3/2010. Location: Thailand. Posts: 662

Posted by travellingsarah on 13/9/2010 at 14:47 TF writer

Posted from within Vietnam.

I'm really surprised at the amounts you're quoting - poor you! Are you using a credit card or a debit card? We always use a debit card and fees are annoying but minimal - so the bank you withdraw from takes money (here in Vietnam it's usually only 20,000VND so not as bad as in Thailand) and then the bank back home (UK) makes a charge. The UK bank we're with charges 1% - that was the lowest we could find. Anyway, as we're not withdrawing $1,700 at a time you can see that's nowhere near the amounts you're talking.

However - big however - on one occasion in China we had to use our Mastercard credit card to withdraw cash as the Visa debit cards weren't working and we were charged £9 for a withdrawal of about £60. So maybe that's the issue?

Re the yellow bank - we used it for ages thinking there was no fee but then found that it was going through our account at the same rate as from other banks. So either they were sneakily adding on a fee or their exchange rate was just really bad. Probably the former.

#3 travellingsarah has been a member since 23/3/2010. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 681
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Posted by busylizzy on 13/9/2010 at 17:12

It sounds like you are using a credit card?! I used a debit EFTPos card to pull out cash. NZ banks charged NZD$5 per withdrawal. I hunted down the ATM machines that allowed me the biggest withdrawal to minimise the number of times I had to pull money out. It DID mean that I was carrying a wad of cash around though.

My friend used Travelex - and got hit with a $25 fee the first time he used it. Apparently if you read the fineprint, banks can add on whatever fees they want for each withdrawal - and don't have to declare it anywhere. That sucks big time.

Banks suck full stop, especially in relation to travel and foreign currencies.

#4 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,155
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Posted by fondo on 13/9/2010 at 19:28

Serene old fools like myself carry obscene amounts of cash and also use TCs ... like the return of the repressed I guess.

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Posted by shaydan_01 on 13/9/2010 at 21:37

Banks and foreign exchange companies such as Travelex do legally have to declare what "fees" they charge for withdrawals and transactions (eg. $3.75 for ATM withdrawel from a cash passport card), however they do not have to declare the profit margins that they apply to the market exchange rate of that day (the rate you see on, just Kmart doesn't have to tell you how much they paid their supplier for the pair of shoes you buy etc...

Crankycarrot, unfortunately no matter what bank or company you use, you will never receive the rates you see on or on the news each night etc. These are interbank rates, the rates that your bank are purchasing their currency at. All banks and foreign exchange companies will apply a margin to this rate before selling it on to their customers (expect anywhere between 2-6%). It's basically the difference between a wholesale price and a retail price, same as when purchasing any product.

Unfortunately just because one company has lower fee's doesn't necessarily mean that they are the cheapest, especially if they don't publish their daily exchange rates. They make it seem like they have the lowest fee's and then get you on the rate or vice versa. Basically, the system sucks.

#6 shaydan_01 has been a member since 16/11/2009. Location: Australia. Posts: 80

Posted by CrankyCarrot on 13/9/2010 at 23:36

Bah, the system sucks indeed. At least others here feel my pain.

Everyone seems to say withdrawing with a debit card incurs less fees. I have my debit card, but it never works here. The ATMs just go through all the motions of asking how much I want, whether I will accept the 150 charge, whether I will accept the exchange rate, THEN they say "Oh wait, your pin is incorrect. No money for you." Why they don't just reject the PIN straight up I don't know, but anyway. I know my PIN is right - it's the same one I used back in Aus, but here it gets knocked back.

Guess I'll have to ring the bank. Always fun sitting on hold for ages with international rates applying.

For the record, I came ultra-prepared, bringing Travelex AND Visa Credit Cards, as well as my debit card. I guess I like to prepare for the worst case scenario, rather than just toddle off round the world with blind optimism that nothing bad will ever happen to me, but still - these fees are criminal.

#7 CrankyCarrot has been a member since 24/3/2010. Location: Thailand. Posts: 662

Posted by exacto on 14/9/2010 at 01:29

Back in the good old days, the Thai ATMs didn't charge a fee at all and my bank back home just treated this as a withdrawl same as at any stateside ATM and with no special fee. My stateside bank even gave me the rates that Cranky mentioned.

Times have changed.

It's annoying for sure, but it is a necessary service too. It isn't as nice a service as say that two hour Thai massage Cranky enjoyed last night, but it is still a valuable service you have to buy. What would you do without being able to change money into local currency?

There have been lots of suggestions on how to keep the foreign exchange and ATM fees to a minimum, like shopping banks back home before your trip, making larger withdrawls to reduce the number of Thai ATM fees, etc. But in the end, the banks are still going to win. I figure that on my last 8 week trip to Thailand and Laos, I made 6 ATM withdrawls (I also took a fair chunk of cash and cashed a few traveller's checks in Laos at the Lao Development Bank with no fee :-) and my out of pocket cost was $60. That's not a small amount for sure, about two days flashpacker expenses on the ground, but compared to the cost of my air ticket, it was still small change. Cheers.

#8 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,657
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Posted by busylizzy on 14/9/2010 at 03:07

Cranky, use Skype to phone your bank; rates are much cheaper than international phone rates. I seem to recall that you have a netbook with you, but if that's not the case, most internet cafes will have the headsets that you can use.

#9 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,155
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Posted by exacto on 14/9/2010 at 05:00

another option for contacting your bank, if they have this, is the secure email section of their website. my bank definitely has this where i can log on to check my balance and then leave a secure message like an email. that may also help you avoid the time difference between where you are and your bank too. just be sure to clear the cache when you are done.

also, do you have something other than a 4-digit PIN on that debit card? most of the ATMs i know in asia require a 4-digit PIN, but some banks, including ones in the states, allow for 6-digit PINs. just wondering out loud if that might be the issue. regards.

#10 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,657
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Posted by neosho on 14/9/2010 at 08:00

Did you let your home bank know that you were going to be using your debit card here. They may have a block on it from their end.

#11 neosho has been a member since 13/8/2008. Posts: 386

Posted by CrankyCarrot on 14/9/2010 at 13:14

@Neosho - Yes, after reading the TF article on prep for trips abroad, I told my bank I was going here. Both the credit card and the debit card are with the same institution, and the Visa credit card works no probs.

@Lizzy - cheers, I will look at buying some international call credit on Skype. 'bout time I supported that app.

@Exacto - all the aus ATMs use 4 digits only. There's a small chance I'm not remembering the pin correctly since I'm used to using it every day and suddenly it's been a month... plus you can get a terrible case of the stupids here, what with all the women, booze and beaches throwing themselves at you 24/7.

@Exacto again - I'll have you know I restricted myself to just the one hour-long massage yesterday.

#12 CrankyCarrot has been a member since 24/3/2010. Location: Thailand. Posts: 662

Posted by SBE on 14/9/2010 at 19:00

Like fondo I'm a serene reckless old fool and I'm more and more just carrying obscene amounts of cash instead of relying on bank cards like you're supposed to do.

I just did a bit of online research and compared Oanda Interbank rates, SuperRich 1965 money exchangers rates and the Bangkok Bank exchange rates


As expected, Bangkok Bank rates were lower than Oanda's interbank rates but SuperRich 1965 rates were actually better than the interbank rate.

How do they manage to do this?

The other interesting thing I noticed a while back was that, according to the US$/Thai Baht trend graph on Oanda, every weekend, like clockwork, the US $ loses value against the Baht only to rise again on Mondays. So if you're changing money probably best not to do so at the weekends.

#13 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,020
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Posted by khunwilko on 14/9/2010 at 20:02

My friends always had trouble with their Aussie PINs - in the end they had to set up a new number before they came. (can't use 6 digits here - I think.

150 baht charge is throughout Thailand and is a disgrace, as it is a SURCHARGE above everything else they might charge or make out of you.

some "fringe" banks don't charge if you can be bothered hunting them down.

you need to check with your bank before you leave home what your fees will be.

I've heard varying stories about being charged when you use your p/port and card at a bank counter. but if the staff of a bank decide they are going to charge and keep the money for themselves there is nothing much you can do....apart from show your disgust.....if enough people do that, maybe eventually they'll realise how ******* annoying they are being.

#14 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560

Posted by bronzedwarrior on 15/9/2010 at 01:48

You can notify your bank before you leave for your trip but I've been advised that even this won't stop the majority of banks blocking your card. If there is a fraud alert in the area you're in, the block goes on regardless...

I bank with Nationwide in the UK ( Although that's changing soon due to them hiking their charges for overseas withdrawals as of November 1st ) and always inform them of where I'm going and roughly when I'll be there. They then note their systems and if I use the card in a fraud alert area, it does indeed get blocked HOWEVER the block is then automatically removed as per the instructions in the notes on the banks systems. This normally takes anywhere between 5 minutes and 1 hour... But it works for me...

Might be worth asking at your bank if they do anything similar. Certainly beats shelling out fortunes on overseas phone calls... You just have to be a little patient is all...

I was last in Thailand in May this year ( Bangkok during the riots - Now that was fun! ) and my Nationwide Visa debit card still had no charge for withdrawals from Bank of Ayudhya ( The yellow bank ). The rate at the time was pretty competitive too, think it was about 49 baht to the pound ( Still shocking compared to 3 years ago - About 66 baht to the pound! ).

Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, Nationwide are moving the goal posts and so I've had to find a new bank for my overseas jaunts.

If anyone is from the UK and looking for an alternative card, I hear the Halifax Clarity is the way to go. Its not brilliant ( Its a Mastercard credit card for starters and the 150 baht rip off in Thailand will probably apply ) but Halifax themselves don't charge for withdrawals only 1.017% interest, per month, on what you withdraw... Best to pay it off ASAP then!

#15 bronzedwarrior has been a member since 23/11/2007. Posts: 41

Posted by exacto on 15/9/2010 at 02:14

on our last visit to Thailand in Dec '09/Jan '10, we didn't have the same luck at the Bank of Ayutthaya (the yellow bank) that others have mentioned here. we'd heard that you could skip the 150 baht surcharge too, but when we tried it at branches outside of BKK, the fee applied just like at every other bank.

we tried it at BoA branches in Bangkok, including the one on the pedestrian bridge from the Skytrain into the Central Chitlom department store, and there wasn't a fee, but the exchange rate they quoted on the screen was really awful - under a full baht less per dollar than any other withdrawal we made the entire trip. since we were withdrawing over US$300, we would have lost out by about 150 baht on that deal. but we were using an ATM card from a US rather than a UK bank, so maybe that does make a difference. might be good if you only need to make a small withdrawal however...

#16 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,657
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Posted by sirhalberd on 15/9/2010 at 09:23

"......some "fringe" banks don't charge if you can be bothered hunting them down. "


Check out Aeon Bank. There are not too many around. Found ATMs in Pattaya at Carefour and Lotus Tesco mall on N. Pattaya. No request to approve the fee - they just spit out the money and receipt.

But I prefer to use an ATM that has their bank nearby in case the card jams or I get the wrong amount of money.

I don't know where these Aeon Banks are in Bangkok, Google check would cough up an address. I always take out at least 10,000 at one time to cut down on fees.

#17 sirhalberd has been a member since 30/12/2007. Posts: 295

Posted by CrankyCarrot on 18/9/2010 at 13:16

@SBE "according to the US$/Thai Baht trend graph on Oanda, every weekend, like clockwork, the US $ loses value against the Baht only to rise again on Mondays"

This doesn't seem to happen with the Aus, atleast not from what I can see on

#18 CrankyCarrot has been a member since 24/3/2010. Location: Thailand. Posts: 662

Posted by CrankyCarrot on 18/9/2010 at 13:28

@sirhalberd I'm in Phuket, and I'm sure I've seen some Aeon banks around at Jungceylon shopping mall or in Karon somewhere. I really need to pull some dosh out today, so even though it's Saturday and there's probably some Happy Bonus Fee that applies on weekends, I'm going to have to suck it up. Gotta pay the rent, in advance I might add - is that normal? (for 2 weeks in a Condo)

#19 CrankyCarrot has been a member since 24/3/2010. Location: Thailand. Posts: 662

Posted by eastwest on 20/9/2010 at 18:46

Ok, I'm not going to be popular here. I worked at a big international bank, managing the international money transfer department... But left a few years ago.

Without getting into boring and elaborate technicalities here I will just sum up the main reason for these banks to charge so much.

Bank crisis.

In the old days (think 50's, 60's) money transfers and other core banking services were the main source of income for banks. Gradually banks discovered that with more risks for lending and investing more money could be made (instead of boring transfers) with the absolute peak in 2008. Core banking services were offered for a very low rate in order to get more customers (and then invest their money unwisely). And then everything collapsed.
What you see now is that banks return to their normal core services, lend less but new regulations require banks to hold more equity (BASEL III). Result is that we, the customers, pay the price for it now and it will continue for 1 or two more years. When banks have their balancesheets in order again you'll see that they will start competing again for customers. Then also fees and so on will lower.

Sad but true.

#20 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778

Posted by exacto on 21/9/2010 at 08:38

on the contrary eastwest, it was great to hear an insider's insights on why there has been such a big change in bank fees. it's like those happy hour specials. if the bar can't cover their basic costs with those specials, then those specials will go away. same with the banks.

it is a service. and since we don't have many choices, the banks have the upper hand, and we are paying oligopoly prices. makes sense. bummer. but makes sense.

#21 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,657
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Posted by eastwest on 21/9/2010 at 10:28

For long term residents, frequent visitors or people who travel 6 months in this region my advice would be to open a local bank account.
For short term visitors I would recommend to just use your normal card. Bringing more cash (which would be cheaper) has risks and you have to wonder if that risk is worth it if you do only 2-3 withdrawals.

The costs of opening a bank account are minimal (ok, you may have some issues re address and so). Transfer your money from your home country to the local bank account and the ATM fees will disappear when withdrawing money (only at ATM's of your bank).
Transfer your money (or even when withdrawing) when your exchange rate is on the favorable rise since most banks have a delay of usually 2-3 days. They never have nor will take the exchange rate on the day of your transaction.

For Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam I would recommend ANZ bank. Even when withdrawing with foreign card they are the best even though they charge $4 fee. Some other banks don't charge fees but give considerable worse rates and you're worse off. Less so when withdrawing smaller amounts
I'm not an expert on thai banks but it pays off to check if you're staying for a long time.

Also check whether ATM/bank has a single fee or percentage of transaction. With a single fee (like at ANZ) it is better to withdraw big amounts. If you're comfortable with that.

There are however no banks in this region that cover all four countries well. Cards from local banks only work on ATM of those branches. If they do work on others then you'll have the same problem as with your foreign card.

Hope it helps for some.

#22 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778

Posted by CrankyCarrot on 21/9/2010 at 15:13

@ eastwest - I too worked for one of the big four back in Australia, so I know what it's like to be on the other side of the fence when explaining fees and charges to customers. Hell, the money I'm living off now is comprised of them, so it would be a touch hypocritical to whinge too much but, damn - they do take a chunk.

And everybody gets a taste - Visa takes a percentage, Kasikorn scores 150 baht, and the Aus bank takes a percentage also. Plus the rates are about 3% under what you'd get bringing cold hard directly across. I think you have to declare anything over 10k, so it mustn't be too unusual to see people bringing amounts of up to $9999.99 across on their person. I could so see myself doing that next time - at lease when coming to Phuket, where you're way more likely to get ripped off by the bank than the locals.

I'm sure that'd be nuts in Bangkok, but what if you just brought the ten large here to low-crime country and deposited it the first day into a K-Bank account or something. 3+ withdrawals and you've already saved close to a hundred bucks.

#23 CrankyCarrot has been a member since 24/3/2010. Location: Thailand. Posts: 662

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