Bangkok Bank is one of Thailand’s largest and most popular banks. It tends to be somewhat of a more hi-so (high-society) institution, 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 their services.
That is why I am taking a look at fees, bank accounts on offer, customer service etc., to give you an idea of what it is like having an account there, and what the pluses and minuses can be.
Pluses to Having a Bank Account At Bangkok Bank:
1. Wait lines at their counters are usually short. In fact, 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 any branch of the bank.
At all branches 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. Staff is extremely polite and 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. 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 branch of this bank and not be able to use an ATM machine. In most locations too, there are several machines, so no waiting in long lines for the only ATM that’s there and working.
4. Bangkok Bank ATM machines don’t seem to run out of money. In fact, in my many years of living in Thailand, I’ve never gone to a branch that has a shortage of money in the ATM machine. This is not always the case at other Thai banks where they will run out of money, and you will have to wander off to find another machine somewhere else.
5. You can also pay your cable TV bill, phone bill, utility bills, internet bills and much more through an 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 then schlep to the post office or to a mail box to mail it (wish US banks did this!)
6. There are 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, with the lower than .75% interest rate I get on a savings account at Bangkok Bank, it’s not worth having my money there.
7. There are branches everywhere. In main areas of the city, in suburban areas, as well as at most shopping malls, supermarkets and even many office buildings. There is always a branch less than half a mile away in almost any place I happen to be and, in several areas, there are several branches within just a few blocks of each other.
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 as no other branch will be able to help you. Even at the main headquarters you cannot close an account, but have to trek to the branch where you opened the account. Stupid and incredibly inconvenient. Especially when you take into account just how bad the city’s traffic is at any time of the day or night.
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, the best thing is to only deal with people at their 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).
In this day and age, you would presume all their computer systems would be linked. Apparently not.
3. Fees are high for certain services. I have had to replace three ATM cards with them 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 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.
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 their staff’s 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 accounts to another Thai bank.