Moving Money to Thailand from abroad
There are several reasons why you may need to move money from abroad into Thailand. You may wish to move your savings for personal spending, transfer your pension payments, put money into a Thai account for visa purposes, and for many more purposes. Depending on your needs and where your funds are, there are different ways to move money into Thailand.
Cash Withdrawal (using ATM cards, credit cards, or iKobo card)
The simplest way to move money into Thailand, at least in small amounts, is by withdrawing from a Thai ATM. You can use any card on the Cirrus or Plus systems, as long as your PIN is 4 digits long. At present, all Thai banks charge an ATM service fee of 150 THB per transaction, and you also withdraw funds in Baht and therefore will lose some money on the exchange. On top of this, you will also be charged any international ATM use fees by your home bank, which can vary from $0 – 6 USD for most banks. Only AEON ATMs (http://www.aeon.co.th) still operate without charging the 150 THB fee, though their exchange rates may be higher than other banks, so it’s important to check online to see if you’ll have any real savings.
The other hitch when using an ATM is that you’re only able to withdraw a maximum of 20,000 THB per transaction (this is the ATM limit, not your account’s withdrawal limit), so because the fees are also per transaction, it becomes effective to take out large sums each time.
It’s also possible to use international credit cards at Thai ATMs, though most machines only work with Visa or Mastercard systems. All fees listed above apply, plus cash withdrawals on credit cards usually accrue interest daily, so it’s best to pay off the balances as quickly as possible. Wizard Mastercards allow you to withdraw up to 25,000 THB per transaction, so this is slightly more convenient than using a regular ATM card.
However, at major bank branches, you can use your credit card and passport at the counter to withdraw up to 50,000 THB in one transaction, with a processing fee similar to a single ATM fee. Each bank has its own rules about the maximum transaction amount, and different fees so check first
A third alternative is an iKobo Card www.ikobo.com. This card can be used just like a Visa credit card and works on machines attached to the Visa system only. It’s like a credit card except that anyone can get one without any clearing or checking of credit ratings. You simply front-load the card with cash (through online transfer) and the card is sent to you by FedEx. There is a 1-time postal fee, then usage fees are deducted from your balance. This is an easy alternative for people without bank accounts or those with poor credit history.
Bank Transfer (SWIFT, cheques, and drafts)
If you need to transfer large amounts of money at once, or need bank records of your transfers (like a TT3 for buying property) then transferring money from a foreign bank account may be the best answer. You can move money from a foreign bank account to a Thai one via 3 different methods: wire transfer, cheque, or bank draft.
1.It’s possible to prepare a wire transfer through your bank (in person or online) to a Thai account using the receiving bank’s SWIFT number. Thai bank SWIFT numbers can be found here < http://bangkoktimesonline.com/en/articles/banking-in-thailand>. There are fees taken from both the receiving and sending banks, though these tend to total between 1800-2400 THB, regardless of the amount of money transferred. Therefore, this transfer becomes more cost-effective than ATM withdrawals at amounts greater than about 130,000THB.
SWIFT transfers usually take between 3-5 business days to process.
The Bangkok Bank in Thailand http://www.bangkokbank.com has branches abroad and may allow you to transfer funds from those branches to your Thai accounts for very low rates. Likewise, HSBC bank has moved into Thailand and offers reduced fees for customers moving funds in from HSBC http://www.hsbc.co.th accounts abroad.
2.Some Thai banks will accept foreign cheques, so though you can send a cheque to cash in a Thai account, you need to be sure that the receiving bank will take the cheque. Processing cheques can take between 4-6 weeks and accrue charges up to 2,000 THB.
3.Bank drafts (aka cashier’s cheques) can be prepared by your home bank and sent to a Thai bank account. The processing takes only 3-7 days and fees for any amount tend not to exceed 1200 THB. An international money order, which is different only in that the certificate is pre-paid, can also be used but again may not be accepted by all banks.
Wire Transfers like Western Union
Western Union www.westernunion.asia and Moneygram www.moneygram.com are two examples of wire transfer services that are extremely quick, handling transfers from abroad to Thailand in a matter of minutes. If you are receiving money from abroad and don’t have a Thai bank account, these services may be a good option. However, their fees can be quite high, even 20% on small amounts.
Both services warn customers to NEVER transfer money to strangers, and security measures are in place, such as email and telephone confirmation, to ensure that the funds go to the right receiver.
Online Accounts (PayPal, Moneybookers)
Until recently, online e-wallet systems like PayPal www.paypal.com and Moneybookers www.moneybookers.com didn’t have strong connections with Thai banks and therefore only a few banks were linked to their systems. Now this has changed, and it’s easy to link a PP or MB account to your Thai bank account using their “Add An Account” features online.
These systems allow you to collect money online through business or load up your account using bank transfers or credit cards. Then you’re free to shop online or withdraw funds to any registered accounts. So you’ll need to first set up a Thai bank account (with online banking so you can instantly check your balance), then link this to a PP or MB account following their instructions. Once this is done, they will make 2 small deposits into your account which you then use to verify and complete the link.
Moneybookers allows you to receive funds or load your account for free, then withdraw to a Thai account for only a small fee of 25 THB on a transfer of 999.99 Euros (their transaction limit). Transactions usually take between 2-3 days to process. Moneybookers are currently changing their business name to Skrill.
PayPal charges fees of 3-8% depending on the amount that you receive into your account. Withdrawals to bank accounts in Thailand are free as long as they are for amounts greater than 5000 THB.
Transferring Money to Buy Property
If the funds you’re moving to Thailand will be used to purchase a condominium that will be under foreign ownership, then you need to get a FETF (previously known as TT3 = Taw Taw 3) form for each transfer over 50,000 USD or the equivalent in other currencies. This form is known as a Foreign Exchange Transaction Form (FETF) Form and is necessary to help you show that the full purchase price of the condo has been transferred into Thailand from abroad, a necessity for foreigners buying condos. Look here for an example form.
To purchase a condo, you can transfer funds to your own accounts in Thailand, so that you must collect your own FET forms from the bank, or else you can pay directly to the condo developer, in which case the developer must collect the FETF forms for you. In any case, FETF forms are required for any transfer amount over 50,000 USD. For lesser transfer amounts, you need to collect payment slips and request letters from your bank as proof of the international transfers.
Saving Money on Transfers
Talk to your foreign bank and Thai bank about which of the methods listed above incur which fees, and choose the best one that allows you to transfer the most while paying the least to the banks.
One way to control the effect of currency exchange rates on your transfers is to open a foreign currency account with your Thai bank. For example, you can open a USD (American Dollars) account and transfer your USD funds into it, then wait for favourable exchange rates before withdrawing your money and changing it to Thai Baht.
As a final word, be sure to check the foreign exchange rates that Thai banks charge before choosing which bank to open an account with to receive your foreign currency, or simply to select the right bank’s ATM to transfer your currency.