Can you open a bank account in Thailand with just a tourist visa?
Searching for information on this topic you will find many different websites about it. Some will say yes, and others will say that it is impossible to do. I can assure you from personal experience that the answer is, YES you can open a bank account in Thailand with just a tourist visa. Kind of... Let me explain.
While on a month long holiday in Thailand I decided to try to open a bank account there. I dressed somewhat smartly, a shirt with a collar, pants, and shoes with laces. (Don’t try this wearing shorts, flip-flops, and a wife beater shirt.) The routine as well as the results were the same at the first four banks that I went into to try my luck at opening an account. The first thing I did was take a number then go sit down, and wait in the queue for my number to be called. They must not expect English speaking people to be waiting to talk to a bank officer as this was done in Thai language. Luckily there is a board that displays the numbers being called as well. When I see my number displayed on the screen, I smile politely, and go in the direction where I watched others before me walk towards.
The account representative was before me as I walk up, and I say, “Sawadee krup.” (Hello in Thai language.) We then sat down at a desk, and I told the representative in English, “I would like to open an account here please.”
The bank officer replied, “Do you have a work permit?”
“No I don’t.“ I answered.
“Do you have a local address?” was the next question.
“No, I am here on vacation, and staying in a hotel.” was my response.
“No, sorry can not.” was their final answer.
I then smiled, thanked them for their time, bowed before them, and left empty handed. I gave up after four banks refused to open an account for me the first day.
I did some research that night online about opening a bank account in Thailand to better prepare myself before I went to bed, and tried again the next day. The first bank I went into I found myself seated at a desk in front of a bank officer, and heard those words again.
“Do you have a work permit?” I was asked.
“No I don’t” was of course my reply.
“Do you have a drivers license from your home with you?” was the next question.
I was a bit off guard from having a different question being asked than expected but replied, “Yes, I have it with me.”
“Do you have your passport with you?”, she asked.
With a smile on my face thinking that it is finally going to happen I pulled my passport out and said, “Yes, it is right here.”
Then came the dreaded next question, “Do you have a local address?”
“No, but I have the address of the hotel I am staying in.” I humbly answered.
She informed me that she could not use that and said, “Do you have a friend that lives in Thailand? I could use their address.”
That was on my 2nd trip to Thailand, and I had gotten to be friends with a girl there talking to her online, and spending time with her while on the first trip, and second trip there as well. I told her that I was going to try to open a bank account, and she said to let her know if she could help.
I told the bank officer that I did have a friend in Thailand, and she said, “Great make a phone call to get the address, and I will start the paperwork.” I made the call, handed the phone to the bank officer, and ten minutes later I had an ATM card, and passbook for my bank account in Thailand in my hand. It was a happy day for me, and I am still proud of myself that I did it. I have not seen a passbook used for a bank account in America since the mid 1980’s, but it is still used in Thailand.
You will need a Thai cell phone number attached to your account in order to use some account services. Make sure you have a Thai cell phone number when you open your account, you will be glad you did. You can get a prepaid Thai SIM card very cheap. It cost 100 baht for the prepaid one I bought from the Truemove phone service, and included a 50 baht credit to my account. If your phone from home doesn’t work with a Thai SIM card you can get a very cheap disposable one to use while in Thailand. I chose to buy a Samsung smart phone with dual SIM card slots in Bangkok. It works great in America with my USA SIM card as well.
If you want to open up a bank account in Thailand, don’t give up after a few failures. Trying different branches of the same bank can have different results. You can get different answers from different representatives at the same bank branch as well. I have heard several times that some bank officers don’t like foreigners, and won’t open an account for you at all.
Remember to smile, and be polite no matter what the outcome is. You must dress respectfully it you want to be taken seriously, and assisted by the bank officer. In my opinion having a bank officer with a quota to meet assisting you is the most important thing when opening a bank account in Thailand. She sure seemed to put in the extra effort to get an account opened for me.
I did not open an account with just a tourist visa, I also had a friend that lived there as well. Incidentally, I will soon be going to Thailand for the sixth year in a row, and will spend time with the same girl again. Things have a way of working out, and everything happens for a reason.
Good luck to you in your attempt to open a bank account in Thailand.