If you have a Thai bank account, you can save on ATM fees. Thai ATMs charge foreign cards 220 baht per transaction, plus your own bank may charge you a fee. So why not open a Thai account? The problem is that it has become more difficult since regulations were tightened. However, it is still possible to do, even if you only have a 30 day tourist stamp in your passport. We have successfully done this many times. If you have a longer visa, even better, but it is not necessary. All you need is a letter from your embassy or alternatively, from your Hotel stating that you are staying there. Maybe a business card will be enough. You can also use your invoice from agoda, booking.com or another site. If you need a list of guest friendly hotels, check out our list.
Once you have this, you can go to the Thai immigration office in Jomtien. Here is a link to the map. Take the songtaew to Soi 5 and it is on the right. You can go by songtaew or if you have your own transport you can do that or take a taxi, they will most likely know where it is as expats need to go there every 90 days for visa reporting. What you want is a residence certificate, this is an official document stating your address in Thailand. Why does a bank need it? Because by law they have to send a paper statement to you. Crazy I know. You may be lucky and the immigration officer will give you the document. However, you may be declined, for many reasons. Most commonly they will say you must be staying here for a long period of time and you must show a rental contract.
If you have a problem you will need to engage an agent. This is not too expensive. There are many legal/immigration visa shops that offer services to foreigners in Pattaya, simply walk down any street and you will see several offering their services. One that we have used in the past is called Maneerat Transport & Travel on Soi 13/2 (aka Soi post office, where the local branch of Thailand Post is located). They charge 500 baht for the service, they will take your passport, your letter and tell you to come back the next day. If you leave your phone number they will call you when it is ready. Otherwise, you can try any travel visa service near your hotel, just tell them what you want, they might be able to obtain it for you, however since your passport is required, we would recommend sticking to a shop which will be there tomorrow and not someone on the street.
Once this is done, you need to take your passport, residency certificate, your android or iphone and some baht to the bank of your choice. We recommend Bangkok Bank on 2nd road, the big one where you have to go up stairs to the entrance, because the staff speak English and they have opened accounts many times. If you are feeling lucky you can try other banks such as by going to Central Festival and walking around until you find a bank that will open the account for you. This can be a good option if you want to try many banks under one roof in air conditioning. Don’t forget to ask them to setup online banking, you can install the app on your phone and make handy payments that way. Siam Commercial Bank is reputedly the hardest to open, some people have had success with Krungsri and Kasikorn. You will be issued a debit card on the spot to use in ATMs and for online purchases. Note that the branch you open your account with will matter because if you travel to another province you may pay a small fee to use ATMs, such as about 10 baht, but most cards are free to use your own bank’s ATMs anywhere in Thailand.
It may be helpful to have a Thai person with you but it is not essential. Most workers speak adequate to very good English and they have practiced this routine many times already, they open accounts for many customers per day. Remember, the card itself should only cost around 500-600 baht. If you are offered any kind of upsell, promotion such as insurance for an additional payment either upfront or per month, politely decline. Some customers have been offered extras priced at 3000 baht or more, that they accepted just so that they would get the account. You can ask for the no fee card and they will understand, there is no need to buy any extra products.
For most holiday makers, bringing cash or using your home bank card will be more convenient, but for frequent visitors to Pattaya, it is very useful to have a Thai bank account. Once you have the account you can use it to top up your Thai mobile sim card, make payments to friends in Thailand, and other uses. In fact you could even pay a lady directly to her bank account if you chose to, which would save the risk of cash. It is simple and you just need their phone #, account # or QR code. It also means you don’t need to worry about bringing in a large amount of foreign currency, you can simply wire it to your own account at your own convenience. Transferwise is a good service with low fees, or you can do an interbank transfer with the SWIFT system.
In summary the costs are most likely under 1000 baht depending on what kind of account you open and whether you need to use an agent to obtain a residency certificate. You can also get a letter from your embassy, but most countries now charge far more than 500 baht for this service, so it is most cost effective to go to Jomtien for the cost of 10 baht and some of your time to try and get the residency certificate from Jomtien Immigration. If you are intending to visit Thailand many times, the convenience is worth having.