The Ultimate Newbie Guide to Thailand

Money Matters in Thailand

The Thai Currency: The currency of Thailand is Baht. It used to be linked to the US Dollar but now floats and its exchange rate changes by the hour or day against a basket of other currencies. At the time of writing the Thai Baht is stronger than is has been for many years.

Notes and Coins: Currently there are 6 Coins minted:
25 Satang, 50 Satang, 1 Baht, 2 Baht, 5 Baht, 10 Baht.
There are 100 Satang in 1 Thai Baht but you will rarely find anything costing less than 1 Baht so you can ignore them.
Currently there are 5 Notes in print.
20 Baht, 50 Baht, 100 Baht, 500 Baht, 1000 Baht.
There is also a 10 Baht bill (rare) in circulation

Changing money before coming to Thailand
: Basically the answer to this is Don't. You might lose as much as 20% if you do this.
The main reason is that the Thai baht is not a "world currency", hence foreign banks have a higher expense ratio keeping them in stock.
If you come from a country with a currency that is not readily accepted in Thailand you may want to exchange to US$, €uro, AU$, UKŁ, etc. locally and use those currencies to exchange to baht in LOS. Note most Western and top Asian currencies are easily exchanged at a favorable, including CAN$, DKK, NOK, SEK, HK$, etc.

Thai Baht required on arrival: It is always convenient to have local currency on arrival, but not necessary to bring it. You are going to arrive at an airport and you can be certain that money changers or ATM machines are going to be open at any hour. They are fast and efficient but check you have been given the right amount. Do bring some cash from your home country (or any major currency). Exchange rates at the airports are somewhat unfavorable, but exchanging just enough till you can exchange on the street.

Foreign Bank Notes in Thailand: Be mindful that Thai banks really worry about counterfeit foreign bank notes and often refuse to exchange notes that do not look new and of the latest print. For the US dollar that means that $100 bills should be series 2003 or later. In the US less 10% of the $100 bills are of older series so you may ask your bank for help sort some proper notes for you. All late current $50 US notes are OK. Also, specific to the US notes, money changers give a lesser rate for smaller notes. $100 and $50 gets best rate. $20/$10 are next and $2/$1 gets you a full baht per dollar less than the $100/$50 notes.

Travelers Checks: Generally you will get a slightly better exchange rate using travelers checks than cash. Do keep in mind that there will be a per check fee (i.e. 33 baht) and depending on you home bank affiliation, you may pay a fee to purchase the checks, so what you wiln in exchange you will lose in fees. The big advantage of TCs over cash and even ATM cards is that if you lose TCs or if they are stolen, they will be replaced relatively quickly, provided you have the receipt available.

Thai Customs: There are limits as to the amount of cash you may be in possession of when entering and leaving Thailand. Arriving the max amount is US$ 20,000 or its equivalent; Departing the aggregate is the same, but the max amount in Thai baht is 50.000 (unless traveling from or to a neighboring country or Vietnam then it is 500,000 baht). More details here: >> Thai Customs <<

Credit Cards: They are widely accepted here but beware, as many places will charge you around 3% penalty for using them. Shops and many outlets including some hotels just don't like credit cards as the credit card companies charge the seller also. You can, however, use credit and debit cards in general to draw money at Thai ATM's and banks but you might be charged by your card company for a cash withdrawal, plus most Thai banks assess a fee as well. Also beware of credit card fraud as this does occasionally happen here, as in most other countries, so make sure your cards are insured against fraudulent use and theft. Keep them in the room safe or hotel safe along with your cash and valuables. Don't carry large sums of money around with you or items like credit cards unless you need them. Theft is not common here but it does happen.

Multiple Accounts: One way to limit your exposure to credit card fraud is to setup two accounts in the same bank where one is an ATM only account and the other is a combination ATM & Visa/MasterCard account. Keep as little as possible on the combination account and transfer funds from the other account in small amounts using you own computer or smart phone ... DO NOT use public computers they are not secure enough for this purpose. If you want to take it one step further should you lose the combination card and have to cancel it, most banks will issue two of these cards for the same account, but with different card numbers so you can have a working spare in the safe.

ATM Cards: ATM and credit cards are often one and the same card. A couple of additional notes specific to ATM transactions. It is not uncommon for banks to put a block on ATM cards used in certain countries if the bank has not been notified in advance. The block may be instant and by default or it may be after a transaction or two. Always call you bank prior to your trip and advise them that transactions in Thailand (etc.) in a given period of time are to be expected. Even then, banks sometimes screw up, so having two cards linked to different accounts may be advantageous or even two cards to the same account.
If you worry about fraudulent use in case the card should be lost, ask the bank for plain ATM cards, with no credit-card affiliation to Visa or Master Card. These cards can only be used with a PIN code.
It is strongly advisable to only use ATM machines associated with major banks. The chances that a transaction goes wrong are fewer and if it does the chance for dispute resolution is better.
Last, be aware that fraud can be right at the fingertips at an ATM machine. The pictures below need little explanation:

Thai Bank accounts: Getting a bank account here is, by some, reported to be fairly easy and straightforward even for a tourist. This can be a good way to get money sent to Thailand. When your foreign currency arrives in your Thai bank account you will be charged between half and one percent from the better interbank rate as long as it arrives in Thailand as dollars, pounds, Euros, etc. You will be given an ATM card and possibly a bank book as well. You won't get a check book or credit cards as a visitor but the ATM's are everywhere so you can get at your money easily.
This is really only practical if you are a regular visitor though and some banks charge monthly bank charges for just having an account. Some ATM's only allow you 10 or 20 thousand baht per transaction, with limits on how much you can withdraw in any one day from ATM's. On public holidays the ATM's can also run dry so make sure you get your money early.

The Ultimate Newbie
Guide to Thailand

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