If you’re planning a move to Thailand on a more permanent basis, opening a bank account in Chiang Mai is a very good idea. In many countries, bank accounts for expats aren’t always the easiest to open but fortunately, Thailand makes things a bit easier than in other places. Some banks in Chiang Mai are more geared towards foreigners and others less so, but with a bit of research you’ll be able to find out which banks in Chiang Mai will best cater to your requirements.
Why Open a Bank Account in Chiang Mai
You might only plan to be in Thailand for a relatively short period of time, but opening a bank account in Chiang Mai could be worth it. There are several reasons to take the extra effort to open a bank account in Thailand.
If you’re here for work, you might be required by your employer to open a bank account in Chiang Mai so they can pay you. Assuming you also have a job in Chiang Mai, having a local bank account will mean that you’ll be paid in baht and will also be withdrawing baht from that same account so you won’t have to deal with constantly fluctuating exchange rates.
Having a bank account also means that you will save on foreign exchange and withdrawal fees if you have your money in a Thai account in Thai baht. ATM fees in Thailand are very high, costing around 200 to 250 THB ($6 to $7.50) per transaction which is pretty crazy. Even if you have no plans of earning an income in Thailand, you can send lump sums of money with a company like Transferwise to your Thai account and then use your local Thai bank’s ATM card to make withdrawals and payments in shops, etc. ATM withdrawal fees really add up and this is reason alone to open a bank account in Chiang Mai if you plan on sticking around for a while.
Shopping will also be easier for you since you can just pay with your debit card at shops, rather than always having to carry cash everywhere you go. You’ll also be able to apply for a bank card after you open your account which will grant you access to the extra services offered at ATM machines like the ability to pay bills and to make money transfers.
Opening a Bank Account in Chiang Mai as a Foreigner
Banks in Thailand don’t seem to operate under many of the same strict rules that other Asian and Western banks must follow. Rather than having to adhere to strict rules that apply nationwide, banks in Thailand have their own policies for opening an account and sometimes these rules can even vary between branches for the same bank! Branch managers set the rules with some being more strict than others. Some banks in Chiang Mai will let you open an account online and others will require you to come into the bank branch in person and accounts can take anywhere from several hours to several days to open.
Banks in Thailand often have different rules around who can open a bank account and how to get it done and they can also have a varying and sometimes changing list of what documents are required to open your account. What’s required could even depend on the whim of the bank teller or manager on duty that day, so your best bet is to arrive with everything you think you could possibly need and go from there. If you’re having a hard time getting certain documents you can always try your luck at a different bank to see if they’ll accept your application that was rejected somewhere else.
Generally speaking, you should aim to have all of these documents in your possession:
- Work permit (or an employment letter showing that you’re eligible for a work permit and in the process of applying. A student visa or even sometimes even a standard tourist visa might also work)
- Passport (or other photo ID)
- A minimum deposit (this varies between banks)
- Proof of Thai residency (a utility bill, your lease agreement, a letter from your landlord, or your Thai residence permit should work)
- A letter from your bank back home, your local embassy, or a Thai school to the Thai bank of your choice
If you’re trying to open a bank account in Chiang Mai as a non-resident tourist, you might have to jump through a few extra hoops. Some banks will require you to open your account in person rather than online and others might even make you go to the bank’s head office branch. But if you’re struggling to open an account with one bank, the good news is that there might be another around the corner that’s not as strict so it will pay to look around. Most banks willing to give an account to a tourist are located in tourist areas of the city. Don’t give up and remember that even different branches of the same bank can have different rules. Be persistent and you’re sure to find one that can help.
Choosing a Bank in Chiang Mai
If you find that you have all your documents in order and can choose any bank you like, it’s a good idea to shop around a bit. You’ll want to compare the bank’s fees, the process for opening an account, interest rates, perks, and it’s a good idea also to ask people what they think of their banks. Sometimes a popular bank is always busy and the lines always long which leads to a bad customer experience. Or smaller banks would have fewer ATMs around the city so you’d end up paying more in withdrawal fees.
One of the best ways to find out which Chiang Mai banks are easiest to deal with for foreigners is goold old fashioned word of mouth. Ask around and you’ll figure out which of the Chiang Mai banks are easiest to open accounts with. Plus, many expats you meet living long-term in Chiang Mai will have a bank account and they’re all sure to have opinions on the service they’re getting, so also be sure to pick people’s brains about which banks in Chiang Mai offer the best customer service, perks, and have the lowest fees.
List of Major Banks in Chiang Mai
Thailand has around 30 licensed banks in the country including a handful of major banks that should be considered if you’re hoping to open a bank account here. Each of the banks has different services, fees, and requirements for paperwork to be able to open an account. It’s common for many foreigners to prefer to bank with large, well-known, international banks when they’re in Thailand, but there are a whole range of Chiang Mai banks to choose from. Here’s our list of the major banks in Chiang Mai that you might consider opening an account with, along with some useful information about each one.
Bangkok Bank is one of Southeast Asia’s largest banks and the largest bank in Thailand, with over 1,200 branches worldwide and more than 27,000 employees globally. It has offices in 14 countries including branches in London and New York City. It has a strong reputation both with Thais and expats and it remains the most popular bank in Thailand. Bangkok Bank has a reputation for being one of the most welcoming to foreigners and it makes a great choice for banking in Chiang Mai due to the large number of branches and ATMs around the city.
Bank of Ayudhya (Krungsri)
The Bank of Ayudhya, also commonly referred to as Krungsri, was founded in 1945 and has grown to become Thailand’s fifth largest bank. They offer a full range of banking services both for commercial and individual customers.
Citibank is an international bank that offers some good perks to people who are moving a lot of money through the bank. The bank started in the United States and it’s a trusted place to put your money and therefore very popular with expats.
CIMB was previously known as Bank Thai and they’re Thailand’s 10th largest. CIMB is one of the easiest places for banking in Chiang Mai because you can open an account with just a visitor’s visa. They offer consumer banking, commercial banking, investment banking, and insurance products. They have good internet banking but the debit card that comes with the account won’t allow you to make payments online.
Established in 1945, Kasikorn Bank is one of the largest in Thailand in terms of deposits, assets, and issuing loans. It has over 1,000 branches all across Thailand and employs over 20,000 people. The bank started out as a support for farmers in Thailand and has expanded rapidly since the 1980s. It’s an innovative bank and they were one of the first in the world to offer mobile banking.
This bank is popular with both foreigners and locals alike and you might find that it’s sometimes queued up at ATMs and inside the branches as a result. Expats report that this bank is one of the easier places for a foreigner to open an account because some branches only require your passport and nothing else.
Krungthai Bank was founded in 1966 and is owned by the Thai Government. It has grown to become known as ‘The Convenience Bank’ due to it’s huge number of branches and ATMs all across Thailand, including in under served rural areas. They have the most domestic branches of any bank in the country so you’ll never be far away from your bank if you do your banking in Chiang Mai with Krungthai.
Siam Commercial Bank (SCB)
SCB has been around since 1907 and it has a strong focus on insurance, real estate, and leasing and they were the first bank in Thailand to offer ATMs. SCB is another popular bank for foreigners because they’ll give accounts to non-residents with just a passport and a minimum deposit.
THMThanachart Bank (TTB)
This bank was originally set up back in 1957 to offer financial services to military personnel when it was known as Thai Military Bank. It became a commercial bank in 1973 offering services to the general public and it rebranded in 2005 to become known as TMB Bank. They recently merged with Thanachart Bank to become known as TMBThanachart or TTB. This merger has led to them becoming Thailand’s 6th largest bank with over 400 branches and almost 3,000 ATMs country-wide.
If you plan to live in Chiang Mai as an expat for any extended period of time, you should definitely consider opening a bank account in Chiang Mai. There are so many advantages to banking in Chiang Mai rather than just sticking with an account in your home country and we hope this guide to banking in Chiang Mai will put you on the path to opening an account!