One tip I always give travelers to Thailand is, if you’re going to withdraw money from an ATM in Thailand, check the exchange rates at the ATM itself before hitting the final button. The reason being? Because Thai banks aren’t always great at offering what should be the correct and current exchange rate at their ATMs and can sometimes give you a very bad exchange rate, far lower than you’d get inside the bank, without you realizing it. Particularly if you don’t check.
Case in point, today I went to the ATM to withdraw money from my US bank account. I’d checked both Kasikorn Bank and Bangkok Bank before leaving my apartment, to see what currency exchange rate each bank was offering. As usual, Kasikorn Bank was slightly better than Bangkok Bank – 30.04 for every US dollar to Bangkok Bank’s 30.02. Not a huge difference, but if you’re pulling $800 dollars through, it can make a difference – for me today, it would have been about 65 cents. You lose that a few times a month, and it starts to add up.
I went to a Kasikorn Bank ATM, put in my US ATM card and went through all the steps. But….when I got to the final screen where they tell you the current exchange rate, what should have been 30.04 was suddenly 29.17. With the $800 I was withdrawing, that would have meant I ended up with around 800 baht less than at 30.04 – or $26. In Bangkok, $26 buys five or six meals at an average restaurant. A fair bit of spending power lost, because Kasikorn Bank’s ATM wasn’t offering the correct rate.
So, I canceled the transaction and withdrew the money from Bangkok Bank’s ATM instead. They gave me a rate of 30.01, almost a $26 difference between Kasikorn and them. Surprising to me, as Kasikorn is normally my favorite bank.
The moral of the story, like I said, always check the exchange rate you’re actually getting via ATM in Thailand. The banks aren’t always completely on the up and up.
Photo copyright – ATMs in Thailand, Tim Moffatt, Creative Commons License