Throughout Bangkok and the main provincial towns, banking facilities and exchange services are plentiful, well-run, and easy to access. In the major centers, tellers often speak some English. Exchange booths are usually located in the central parts of towns, and mobile exchange units are stationed near larger tourist attractions. Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) can be found in all cities. Smaller towns are less likely to have exchange facilities, but most have banks or ATMs. Rural villages, unless they are tourist destinations, probably will not have banking or currency exchange services.
Banks and Banking Hours
The four main banks are the Bangkok Bank, the Kasikorn Bank, the Siam Commercial Bank, and the Krung Thai Bank. The Bank of Ayudhya and CIMB Thai also have branches throughout the country. Foreign-owned banks offering full banking services include the Bank of America, Citibank, Deutsche Bank, Hongkong and Shanghai Bank (HSBC) and Standard Chartered Bank.
Banking hours are generally 8:30am–3:30pm, Monday to Friday. Some banks have branches in department stores which are open 10am–8pm. Exchange booths are open daily, until late. Major banks can arrange international money transfers
Most ATMs provide instructions in both Thai and English. Any ATM displaying the VISA or MasterCard sign will accept these cards and dispense cash in baht using your PIN. There are surcharges for such transactions. If you are planning an extended stay in Thailand, it might be worth opening an account at a Thai bank. This allows access to all ATMs, free of exchange rates or charges.
Banks offer the best exchange rates, and rates differ little between them. Hotels usually offer the worst rates, while those at exchange booths can vary. US dollars are widely accepted when buying baht, although sterling and euro are also taken. In Bangkok, hole-in the-wall exchange booths can be found in large department stores and shopping malls and on major roads. Mobile exchange units are located near tourist attractions and market areas and are open daily between 7am and 9pm. Exchange rates are published daily in the Bangkok Post and the Nation.
Credit and Debit Cards
Credit cards are accepted in department stores, major hotels, and upscale shops and restaurants. They can also be used at banks (and some exchange kiosks) for cash advances. A surcharge will be applied. VISA and MasterCard are the most widely accepted cards; the use of Diners Club and American Express is more limited.
MasterCard debit cards can be used to withdraw cash at most foreign exchange booths, and at Bangkok Bank and Siam Commercial Bank. VISA debit cards can do the same at the Kasikorn Bank. Debit cards can also be used at ATMs, but a surcharge will be levied. As the popularity of plastic money increases, so too does the incidence of credit-card fraud. Visitors should always carefully check what they sign.
Travelers’ checks are the safest method of carrying money. Banks, main hotels, and most exchange booths cash them, with banks providing the lowest surcharge. Banks charge a fee per check cashed, so using large-denomination checks works out cheapest.
Thai unit of currency is the baht, usually seen abbreviated to “B.” There are 100 satang in a baht, but the satang represents such a small sum today that it is scarcely used. You may hear 25 satang referred to as a saleung. How ever, inflation is rendering this colloquial term redundant. Banknotes come in the following denominations: 20 baht, 50 baht, 100 baht, 500 baht, and 1,000 baht. Changing large denomination notes in rural areas may prove difficult. The coin denominations are 25 satang (1 saleung), 50 satang, 1 baht, 2 baht, 5 baht, 10 baht. The gold 2 baht coin is slightly bigger than the silver 1 baht coin. The silver 5 baht coin has a copper rim and the 10 baht coin has a bronze center surrounded by a silver outer ring. Old coins feature Thai numerals only, while newer coins have both Thai and Arabic numerals.
Thailand imposes a 7 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on goods and services, generally levied only in upscale hotels, restaurants, and shops. There is a VAT refund scheme for tourists who are in the country for less than 180 days. Look out for shops displaying a “VAT Refund For Tourists” sign.