Bangkok Bank is one of Thailand’s largest and most popular banks. It tends to be somewhat of a more hi-so (high-society) bank, I think, as fees are often higher than at other banks for the same service. I’ve had several accounts at Bangkok Bank in the past and, although I do like banking with them, there are definitely some things I dislike about Bangkok Bank’s services.
Looking at fees, bank accounts on offer, customer service etc., here are the pluses and minuses to having a bank account with Bangkok Bank.
Pluses to Having a Bank Account At Bangkok Bank:
1. Wait lines at Bangkok Bank counters are usually short. I don’t think I’ve ever waited more than five minutes to see a teller, and usually walk right up to one when I walk into the bank. At all Bangkok Bank’s they have a system where you take a number and see a teller when your number is called. Much more convenient than my US bank, where I often chose the ‘wrong line’ and had to wait for a long time.
2. Bangkok Bank staff is extremely polite and very helpful. They don’t always speak much English, but there is usually someone on staff at most of the larger branches who does speak English. At the smaller branches in the supermarkets and office building though, it’s quite unusual to find a bank employee who speaks more than a few English words.
3. Bangkok Bank ATM machines are usually reliable. Some other Thai banks definitely have problems keeping their ATM machines in prime working order, but it’s rare to go to a Bangkok Bank branch and not be able to use an ATM machine.
4. Bangkok Bank ATM machines don’t seem to run out of money. In my many years of living in Thailand, I’ve never gone to a Bangkok Bank branch that has a shortage of money in the ATM machine. This is not always the case at other Thai banks.
5. You can pay your cable TV bill, phone bill, utility bills, and much more through a Bangkok Bank ATM machine. Much more convenient than standing in line at the cable company or having to spend money to put a stamp on an envelope and mail it (wish US banks did this!)
6. Bangkok Bank has a good variety of bank accounts available. However, do be aware that the higher interest rates that Thais get are not always given to Westerners. That’s why I keep most of my money in the US as, at Bangkok Bank with the lower than .75% interest rate I get on a savings account, it’s not worth having my money there.
7. Bangkok Bank has branches everywhere. In main areas of Bangkok, in suburban areas, as well as at most shopping malls, supermarkets and even many office buildings. There is always a Bangkok Bank branch less than half a mile away in almost any place I happen to be in Bangkok and, in several areas, there are several branches.
Minuses To Having A Bank Account At Bangkok Bank
1. If you open a bank account at one branch, if you need to do anything more than deposit or withdraw money you have to go back to the branch where you opened the account. Even at Bangkok Bank’s main headquarters, you cannot even close a bank account, but have to trek to the branch where you opened the account. Stupid and incredibly inconvenient.
2. At smaller branches, it’s rare to find someone who speaks more than rudimentary English. As Bangkok is a cosmopolitan city, this has always surprised me. So, if you have anything complicated you need to do, only deal with Bangkok Bank’s headquarters. (However, under their ridiculous rules, be warned, if it requires getting a new ATM card, closing an account or any number of other ‘complicated’ things, they will still require you to travel to the branch you opened the account at).
3. Fees at Bangkok Bank are high for certain services. I have had to replace three ATM cards with Bangkok Bank in the last three years and have been charged 500 baht every time (approximately $14.70), which is very expensive for an ATM card. You can get one for free, but you must have a Thai work permit and you still have to come back a week later to pick it up as they won’t do it on the same day. I have a Thai work permit, but I have never wanted to wait a week for the privilege of having an ATM card.
4. If you have problems outside Thailand, it can be frustrating getting your problem fixed by phone. The last time I went to the US, my new Bangkok Bank ATM card didn’t work, even though they had assured me it would.
When I called Bangkok Bank, I was put on hold for more than 15 minutes, spoke to two people who didn’t speak much English and didn’t make much of an attempt to help me and then was told “Call back in two weeks”.
Two weeks? I was in the US with less than $200 for a 3-week vacation and no way of accessing my money at Bangkok Bank.
Luckily I could borrow money from my Dad but a lot of people might not have that option. Strangely though, after three days, my ATM card miraculously started working and I was able to access my money. I was not, however, thrilled with Bangkok Bank’s staff attitude when I needed help.
5. Feeling like a second class citizen when it comes to interest rates (foreigners get lower ones than Thais), not being able to get a mortgage (impossible for anyone who isn’t Thai), and any number of other services is annoying. It’s as though Bangkok Bank (and Thailand!) doesn’t really want Westerners’ money?
Consequently, as I said, I have been keeping most of my money in the US. I have however found an account with another Thai bank that will pay me the same interest that Thais get, so I have switched my savings account to them.
All in all, I’m actually in two minds about Bangkok Bank. Their customer service at the counters is excellent and they have branches everywhere. But, I can get the same services at several other Thai banks for either cheaper fees or a higher interest rate on savings, so there is a good chance I will probably eventually switch my remaining Bangkok Bank accounts to another Thai bank.