Frankly, I’m even more tired of the greed of Thai banks this year as I was a couple of years ago, particularly as they increased their ATM fee per overseas transaction yet again this month. A fee that has steadily increased from 120 baht ($3.38) just a few years ago to 150 baht ($4.24) to 180 baht ($5.08) to, as of the beginning of this month, now 200 baht ($5.65).
When you withdraw money from your overseas bank account via a Thai ATM several times a month, as I have in the past, these fees really add up. For tourists, they can add quite a chunk onto the cost of their holiday.
So, two years ago, after the Thai ATM fee was increased again, I changed from withdrawing money from my US bank account three times a month to just once. Over a year, that ended up saving me over $125. Not a huge amount, but at least two meals a month in a decent Bangkok restaurant.
Now greedy Thai banks have increased their ATM fees again. As a result, I will no longer be withdrawing any money from my US bank account, and will live off the savings in my Thai bank account for the next few months instead.
Any extras will be paid for with my US credit card, as I get a good exchange rate with zero fees if it is paid off every month. That, of course, means the Thai business I buy from will have to pay a fee to process the overseas credit card rather than just to accept the cash I would normally have paid them with. Frankly, I don’t really care.
If you too are sick of greedy Thai banks increasing their ATM fees for withdrawals from overseas banks to one of the highest in the world, here are a few things you can also do to reduce the fees you pay every month.
1. Organize your life so you use Thai ATMs for overseas withdrawals fewer times every month. If you use them four times a month, reduce that to three. Or two. Over a year, when you factor in you are saving 200 baht every time you do not make a withdrawal, this can add up to several hundred dollars in savings.
2. Use your overseas credit card. Sure, it costs the Thai store that accepts it a fee to process it, but it doesn’t cost you anything as long as you pay it off on time. And you will probably find, like I have, that the exchange rate you get through it is often better than the one the Thai banks are giving for ATM withdrawals.
I use mine for all my grocery shopping, clothing purchases, and at quite a few restaurants. I don’t spend any more money than I normally would, I just don’t pay for things in cash.
3. Spend less money in Thailand. Let’s face it, many things in Thailand have increased in price over the last couple of years anyway, and particularly since the last military coup. So, if you don’t really need that new shirt you were thinking of buying, or that expensive meal you were going to go for, don’t buy it or pay for it. Just think of that interest you can be making as your money remains outside Thailand and in your American or European bank instead.
4. Use an AEON ATM. They are still charging 150 baht per transaction, so if you can find an AEON ATM machine near you, avoid the Thai banks and use one of those instead. Sadly, my ATM card no longer works with the AEON ATMs, and yours may not either.
5. If you have a European ATM card, use a Citibank ATM machine in Bangkok instead. In most cases, with a few exceptions, they do not charge any fees for ATM cards from European banks, which saves you paying any fee at all.
6. Withdraw from Krungsri bank — They allow up to a 30,000 baht ATM withdrawal per time, rather than the 20,000 or 25,000 baht most other Thai banks allow. For many westerners, that is enough money to get through a month meaning you would only need to do one withdrawal and, thus, pay one Thai ATM fee.
7. Do a counter withdrawal and avoid Thai ATMs completely. If you are using an overseas debit or credit card that does not charge you a fee for withdrawals or cash advances, then get your money at a Thai bank’s counter instead. This way you will not only not incur the 200 baht ATM fee, (if they try to charge it simply walk out and go to another bank that won’t), you can also withdraw much more than the usual 20-25,000 baht ATM limit.
Personally, I’m leaving Thailand early next year anyway. The rip-off Thai ATM fees will be one of the things I won’t miss. Particularly as the European country I am moving to does not charge any ATM fees at all for withdrawals from an overseas bank account. How nice and customer-friendly is that?