Chad Creveling, CFA & Peggy Creveling, CFA
One of the first financial questions foreigners planning to move to Thailand often have is how to transfer money in and out of the country. Luckily, the days of going down to Bangkok’s Chinatown with a suitcase of cash hoping to make a transaction are long over. Today, there are better ways to move funds in and out of Thailand. Depending on the size of the transfer, costs, and when the funds are needed, each method has pros and cons. To help expats who are new to Thailand decide on which method suits their situation, we’ve described a few of the different options below:
1. Bank Wire Transfers—Best Way to Move Large Sums
If you plan to transfer a sizeable amount of money between two bank accounts and you need a record of the transfer, you may wish to move funds using a bank wire transfer.
Inbound Transfers: To transfer money into Thailand, you’ll need to provide the sending bank with the exact name on the recipient’s account, account number, the amount of the transfer, and the Thai bank SWIFT code (a unique identification code for a particular bank that is predominantly used in Asia and North America). You may also need to give other details, such as the Thai bank’s address and phone number, and the recipient’s address and phone number. Depending on the amount and the banks involved, the transfer could cost anywhere from a minimum of THB 200 up to THB 2,400 for very large transfers, and may take several days. If your transferring bank allows it, you may be able to arrange the transfer online or via fax.
If the amount involved is greater than USD 50,000, the Thai bank will require the recipient to complete a Foreign Exchange Transaction Form when the funds arrive in order to report details about the transaction to the Bank of Thailand. If you are the recipient, keep an original copy of this form as evidence of an inbound transfer. For example, you may need to show it to the Land Department for property purchases, to Immigration for certain types of visas, or to your Thai bank should you later wish to remit the funds in an outbound transfer.
Outbound Transfers: To transfer money out of Thailand, you’ll also need to provide the Thai bank with the exact name on the recipient’s account, account number, the amount of the transfer, and the receiving bank’s SWIFT code (or IBAN code if the bank is in Europe). In addition, expats may need to provide supporting documentation stating the source of the funds. For example, you may need to show evidence of employment, the sale of an asset, or proof of an inbound transfer such as the previously mentioned Foreign Exchange Transaction Form. If you have online access to your Thai bank account, you may be able to arrange an international fund transfer if you sign up for this capability in advance, but there will be a limit as to how much you can transfer in a single day, with the amount transferred depending on each bank.
Tip: Consider Having the Thai Bank Convert Currency. With bank wire transfers, you can choose which of the two banks involved will convert the funds to Thai baht. Do a comparison of exchange rates on offer beforehand. Thai bank foreign exchange rates for exchanging Thai baht can be quite competitive, and you may find that having a Thai bank do the Forex transaction will get you the best rate.
2. Agent Wire Transfers—Fast, but Costly
To transfer cash to a specific person in or out of Thailand more quickly but at significantly greater expense, you can use companies such as Western Union or MoneyGram. You’ll need to go in person to one of the agent’s locations and provide the name and country of the recipient, and pay for the transfer in cash. The agent will give you a registration or control number that needs to be forwarded to the recipient. The transfer happens immediately, and the recipient can collect cash at the agent’s office in the receiving country using a valid ID and the control number.
The advantages over a bank wire transfer are that no banks are needed and the cash is transferred within minutes. The downside is the cost. For example, a USD 2,000 cash transfer from the United States to Thailand might cost nearly USD 200 (USD 114 in transfer fees and USD 85 in foreign exchange fees).
Both Western Union and MoneyGram have offices throughout Thailand that are collocated at major Thai bank offices, post offices, and some department stores. Western Union will also allow online transfers from the United States or Canada to Thailand, but not the reverse. You’ll need to open an online account in advance.
3. PayPal―Inexpensive, but Slow
For inbound fund transfers only and for relatively little cost, you could conceivably transfer funds from your foreign bank account to your linked foreign PayPal account and then convert to Thai baht at a competitive rate. The funds could then be transferred on to a Thai PayPal account that is linked to a Thai bank account. Once the funds are received in the Thai PayPal account, they can be transferred to the linked Thai bank account.
The advantage to using PayPal to transfer funds to Thailand is that if the funds were originally uploaded from a foreign bank account (instead of a credit or debit card), the transaction and foreign exchange fees on a transaction like this will be relatively low. The drawback is the amount of time to do the transfer. While the PayPal to PayPal transfer happens almost instantly, uploading funds to PayPal from a bank account may take 7–10 days, and the same amount of time may be needed to download the funds to the bank account on the other side.
In addition, outbound fund transfers from Thailand using PayPal aren’t possible using this method, as at this time you can’t transfer funds from a Thai bank account to a Thai PayPal account. You may be able to fund a Thai PayPal account using a Thai debit card linked to a Thai bank account, although an additional transaction fee may apply.
4. ATMs―Best Way to Access Smaller Amounts
One of the easiest and quickest ways to access cash internationally may still involve using your ATM or debit card in ATM machines that are part of international networks such as PLUS (Visa) or Cirrus (MasterCard). The exchange rate you’ll receive will be quite competitive as it will be based on the wholesale bank rate. However, you’ll still have to pay ATM fees (in Thailand this fee is THB 150 per transaction on a foreign card), so you’ll want to avoid withdrawing very small amounts. Also be aware that the daily amount that can be withdrawn will be limited by your bank, and could be as little as USD 300 (foreign banks) or THB 20,000 (Thai banks) per day.
A cautionary note on using credit cards in ATMs: You can use a pin number to withdraw funds from an international ATM using a credit card, but this is more expensive than using a debit or ATM card. By using a credit card, you’re taking on debt rather than withdrawing cash. Worse, most credit cards will start charging you a percentage for the “cash advance” from the moment the advance is made, so there’s no grace period, unlike with normal credit card purchases. For this reason, credit card withdrawals from ATMs should be used only in the case of emergencies.
About Creveling & Creveling
Creveling & Creveling is a private wealth advisory firm specializing in helping expatriates living in Thailand and throughout Southeast Asia build and preserve their wealth. Through a unique, integrated consulting approach, Creveling & Creveling is dedicated to helping clients cut through the financial intricacies of expat life, make better decisions with their money, and take the steps necessary to provide a more secure future. For more information visit www.crevelingandcreveling.com