Sending money to Thailand can be a tricky matter.
Between international transfer fees and hidden fees in exchange rates, you face a lot of pitfalls when transferring money from abroad into Thailand.
Aside from traditional forms of banking, you have a few options to send money from overseas to Thailand.
Each offers its own benefits, from lower fees to easier payments, but they also come with their own drawbacks.
This guide shows you how to transfer money from your home country to Thailand while getting the best exchange rates and avoiding the largest transfer fees.
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- 1 A Quick Summary of This Post
- 2 What to Watch Out For
- 3 Transfer Options
- 3.1 Online Money Transfer Services
- 3.2 International Bank Transfers
- 3.3 What You Need to Decide
- 3.4 Country-Specific Recommendations
- 4 Foreign Currency Checks
- 5 Forex Companies
- 6 In a Nutshell
A Quick Summary of This Post
If you want to skip the detailed breakdown and just want know which transfer method saves you the most money while getting the most Thai baht: Use Xendpay for amounts of less than THB 400,000 – it’s fast, cheaper than every other option (incl. TransferWise and bank transfers) for those amounts and it’s what I personally use for pretty much every transfer. You can read a more comparison of Xendpay and alternatives like TransferWise below, or read an in-depth review of Xendpay here.
What to Watch Out For
When you send money to Thailand from your home country you should pay attention to:
- transfer fees
- exchange rates
- transfer speeds
No matter which method you use to send money to Thailand you have to pay transfer fees. Transfer fees come in three forms:
- fixed amount fees
- percentage fees
- combination fees
You can pay transfer fees based on fixed rates. When you use a bank to transfer money, this is most likely the most prominent part of the fees you notice (though it’s usually not the biggest, more about that later).
You can pay transfer fees based on the percentage of money you transfer. This happens when you use your home country credit card while in Thailand.
Sometimes you pay transfer fees in a combination of ways, such as when you use PayPal. With PayPal you pay a small fixed fee but a high percentage fee.
The transfer method you use should be suitable to the amount of money you send to Thailand. If not, you end up paying an expensive transfer fee for a small transfer.
The lion’s share of international transfers fees lies in hidden exchange rates.
This means besides the fees charged by your bank, PayPal, or other service providers, you have to pay another fee of up to 4% of the transfer amount.
Sometimes companies call it a hedging fee (e.g. in the fine print of credit cards and PayPal), other times they don’t mention it at all. But like airlines’ fuel surcharges, it’s just an extra fee you end up paying.
Even services that claim to not have a separate fee or allow you to set your own exchange fees often hide an extra fee in the exchange rate.
This difference can be bigger than any transfer fee shown on your receipt or quote.
One example: If you send British Pounds to Thailand, Kasikorn Bank keeps 3.4% of the entire transfer amount in the form of exchange rates on top of any fixed fees you pay to the bank.
This exchange rate ‘fee’ is rarely mentioned anywhere outside of the fine print, and for larger amounts it can add up.
If you transfer 100,000 baht, that’s up to 3,400 baht in hidden fees. For a 2,000,000 baht condo purchase, that’s 68,000 baht in transfer fees. That’s a lot for a fee your bank usually doesn’t consider worth pointing out.
If you want to uncover hidden exchange rate fees, you can check the historical mid-market exchange rates on XE and compare it with the one your service provider gave you on that day.
Keep in mind these are mid-market rates. This means as a consumer you never get that rate. But your goal is to get as close to that as possible. I’d consider a rate “great” if it’s within 0.5% of the mid-market rate.
Due to delays in reporting current rates, I recommend the exchange rate calculators below because of how timely their updates are:
You can use Oanda as well but they update their rates a bit slower, usually within 24 hours.
Using our 100,000 baht transfer example from above, that means you pay 590 baht in exchange rate fees as opposed to 3,400 baht charged by banks.
Transfer speeds from your home country into Thailand can be slower or faster than transfer speeds in your home country.
Bank transfers from Hong Kong to Thailand often clear within seconds of the transfer.
Cashing a check from America in Thailand can take up to six weeks to clear.
A bank transfer takes about two to three business days.
A money transfer service like TransferWise or Xendpay clocks in at about three to five days, though recently I’ve noticed them getting faster, to the point where it’s comparable with normal bank transfers.
Seventy-eight percent of Thailand’s population have access to an extensive network of bank branches and ATMs. Unless you’re sending money to a village without water and electricity (not exactly many of those left), you can probably make a transfer to a bank account.
This means you can avoid ‘cash transfer’ services like Western Union which charge a pretty steep 7.5% of the transfer amount in fees.
You have eight different options for sending money into Thailand.
- online transfers
- international bank transfers
- foreign currency checks
- Forex companies
- Western Union
The main differences between these options are cost, speed, convenience, and sometimes legality.
Online Money Transfer Services
If you want to save the most on transfer fees and transfer times, use an online money transfer service.
These services make it easy to send money to Thailand and have grown in popularity since I first published this guide.
You can set up an account with any of the online money transfer services in a matter of minutes.
Here’s how it works:
If I want to send $1,000 from America to Thailand, I first transfer that $1,000 to the online service provider’s bank in America.
Then they transfer the $1,000 from their bank in Thailand to my bank in Thailand.
All of this happens with the click of a button and with no extra work needed on my end.
Let’s take a look at two popular online money transfer services, TransferWise and XendPay.
TransferWise lets you send money to Thailand with no hidden fees. What you see upfront is what you pay. This is probably the most well-known of all of those providers.
TransferWise charges 1% to 1.5% of the transfer amount. This makes it useful for payments of less than $2,000 since the traditional route of a bank transfer would be more expensive.
For example, one of my employees transferred $1,605.95 to Thailand using TransferWise. They charged him $18 in transfer fees and gave him a mid-market exchange rate.
This means with an exchange rate of about 33 baht to the dollar (at the time of the transfer), he got 52,402.35 baht in his Thai bank account.
You can read our in-depth review of TransferWise to find out how you can pocket more Thai baht on your next transfer.
XendPay is a service provider similar to Transfer Wise. They advertise part of their fees as ‘pay what you want’ for your first two transfers each year (I usually pick ‘0 EUR’). Not to worry about them going out of business though: They do have a minor surcharge in the exchange rate, though for USD I’ve seen that as low as 0.25% of the transfer amount.
For Euro, the fees in the exchange rate tend to be a bit higher, though still only around 0.5%. Banks and other companies often quote much much higher hidden fees. This is the primary reason I usually go with them.
Verification for XendPay requires a proof of identity and a proof of address. When I tested them, they verified my ID in less than two hours.
Another big advantage Xendpay offers over banks and many other providers is that they quote your exchange rate up front and lock it in place, allowing you to plan ahead and remove quite a bit of uncertainty. Unless you walk up to a bank counter in person and have them key in the transaction, you rarely have that information when using other transfer options.
You can read our in-depth review of XendPay to choose your own exchange rate fees on your first two international money transfers.
TransferWise and Xendpay aren’t your only options for sending money online. If you want an alternative, take a look at our review on WorldRemit. In essence though, most of these companies are the same. There are always new ones popping up, though I haven’t seen any others that would make it worth switching. However, there is nothing preventing you from creating accounts with multiple companies, getting a quote and then just using whichever offers the best rates.
If you’re an Aussie, read our dedicated guide on sending money from Australia to Thailand.
International Bank Transfers
An international bank transfer is often the first thing people think of when it comes to sending money to Thailand. However, without at least some preparation, that can lose you up to 4% of the transaction amount without you even being told about it (and that’s in addition to the fees charged).
Given Thailand’s well-established banking system, you can send money to pretty much everyone. Plus, you yourself can open a Thai bank account with a national ID card or even with a passport with a tourist visa.
But bank transfers have higher fees and longer processing times than online money transfer services. Unless you really need to make a bank transfer (e.g. because you need a ‘credit advice’ to prove that the funds come from outside the country or are sending more than THB 400,000), it’s usually not the best option.
What You Need to Decide
Unless you look into things more closely, all you seem to be able to choose is whether the sender or the receiver pays the transfer fees, or they split the fees evenly.
But there’s more to it. Here’s what you need to decide.
Each sending bank has their own payment structure.
Transfer fees are easy to find out. But exchange rate spreads are tougher to figure out. Many times bank tellers might not even know. This can be incredibly frustrating, especially since the bad exchange rates routinely add up to cost you 2% of the transfer amount.
If you transfer a lot of money compare the bank’s exchange rate with the mid-market rate on XE before you sign or confirm a transfer.
Of course, if you send the payment in a foreign currency and have the Thai bank do the conversion, this doesn’t apply.
Not all Thai banks are equal when it comes to receiving foreign currency transactions. Like sending banks, each receiving bank has their own payment structure.
Unlike sending banks though, you can’t get advance quotes on exchange rates, and your transfer gets converted at whatever rates they use, whether you like it or not. The only way to get any information is to look at the differences in rates from past transfers received.
Based on that, out of all Thai banks, Bangkok Bank seems to offer the lowest fees and best exchange rates when receiving an international transfer in a foreign currency.
Deducting Fees From Sender or Receiver
You can ask banks what the fees are. If transferring money to yourself, it makes sense to pick the option with lower fees. In most cases, this means the sender pays the fees.
Even if you specify that the receiver pays the fees, the sender still gets charged a fee–albeit a lower one.
Transferring in Thai Baht or Your Home Currency
Some foreign banks take up to a 4% cut of the entire transfer in the form of unfavorable exchange rates when you let them do the conversion from your home currency to Thai baht. The solution to that is: Don’t. Ask your bank to send the amount in your home currency. Then ensure the money gets sent to a Bangkok Bank account (they have the best conversion rate for inbound transfer).
For amounts less than THB 400,000, you’ll be better of using Xendpay due to the inbound fee charged by Bangkok Bank. However, for very large transactions the slightly better exchange rate provided by Bangkok Bank will make up for the fixed fee charged by them.
Depending on which country you transfer money into Thailand from, you can save a lot of money by using the right bank.
The rates you get from sending money from Australia to Thailand are different than rates you get when sending money from America to Thailand, even if you use the same bank.
Foreign Currency Checks
If you use a bank with unfavorable exchange rates, you can still use them to funnel funds to Thailand at favorable conditions.
If you send a foreign currency check in US Dollars, for example, the Thai bank requests your foreign bank to settle that check in US Dollars.
This way, the Thai bank does the currency conversion rather than the sending bank, often at better exchange rates.
I recommend going with Bangkok Bank due to their favorable exchange rates in that case.
Many companies claim that they can transfer money for you at exchange rates lower than those offered by banks.
They describe their services as “fx international payments.” I’ve avoided Forex companies so far, mostly because I believe that every time a person calls you on the phone, whatever they offer will be more expensive than an ‘automated’ solution provided online.
Fortunately though, a reader was kind enough to share his experience with the fx international payments provider, SmartCurrencyExchange.
Here’s the process he went through:
- Sign up on their website
- Contact them by phone, authenticate yourself, and tell them how much you’d like to exchange.
- Negotiate and agree to a rate: A trader gives you an exchange rate quote that you can negotiate to a certain degree. If it’s an amount less than 2,000 Euros, you have to pay an extra fee of 5 Euros. You confirm the transaction on the phone and receive a confirmation by email to pay the amount.
- Transfer the money: Once you transfer the amount to a European account in the UK, they send you an email confirmation and transfer the converted amount to your Thai account within a few days. Sometimes the receiving bank charges you another fee.
Based on the above sample transaction, the exchange fee is 0.93%. If you add the 250 baht that Bangkok Bank charges for receiving the transaction, you end up paying 1.21%—not a competitive rate compared to most Thai banks.
While this provider doesn’t seem to offer such a great deal, there might be others offering more competitive rates.
If you find a provider offering better rates, please feel free to let me know in the comments section of this article.
Western Union is one of the most well-known instant transfer services. In principle, you can use them to make cash available to anyone in the world in a matter of two minutes.
But the service comes at a price. Part of that price is visible on their website.
Depending on where you send instant transfers from, the fixed prices range anywhere from $10 to $50.
But the real cost is in exchange rates. Non-instant transfers from Western Union through banks start at 4%. For instant transfers you pay roughly 7.5% of the transfer amount.
If you need the money the same day, Western Union can make that happen at one of their 5,000 locations in Thailand, though even those have limited opening hours.
PayPal offers a convenient way to send international payments as long as you don’t send significant amounts.
You can make payments for as little as $0.50 and up to 1% per transfer if you choose Personal Payment.
This doesn’t include exchange fees though. PayPal adds 2.5% on exchange rates if you ever want to withdraw your US Dollar balance to a local Thai bank account.
This gets expensive quickly. But it works out to be cheaper than a wire transfer for anything less than $1,000.
It’s still not as cheap as exchanging in cash or going through TransferWise or Xendpay. But it’s hard to beat the convenience if you already have an account and just need to send a few dollars.
In 2013, Thailand became the first country to ban Bitcoins. But since then, the Bank of Thailand has reversed its stance, warning against their use, but also stating it doesn’t consider Bitcoins to be a currency.
You can pick from several online cryptocurrency exchange websites, including:
In theory, you can transfer cryptocurrencies without paying significant fees.
In practice, the savings are minuscule to other options are non-existent because of the fees charged by cryptocurrency marketplaces.
Read our in-depth review of Bitcoins in Thailand to find out how you can use cryptocurrencies in Thailand.
One often forgotten way to transfer money into Thailand is good old cash.
You don’t have to declare amounts less than $20,000 to Thai customs. But keep in mind that the amount you can take out of your home country without declaring it to local customs might be lower.
Exchanging cash offers cheap exchange rates. You pay less than 0.1% when you go to a professional money exchanger like SuperRich.
Compared to sending money by bank transfer, going the cash route saves you $80 for every $20,000 you bring into Thailand.
Many people though, myself included, wouldn’t consider the stress of walking around with $20,000 in cash just to benefit the $80 in savings.
To get the best rates on cash-money exchanges in Thailand read our post on Thailand Money Matters.
In a Nutshell
Most people still stick with the traditional bank transfer. If they compared the ”real’ exchange rates on XE.com with what their bank actually used, that would lead to a rude awakening.
Money transfer companies can save a lot of money – not only by avoiding large transfer fees but by giving you very favorable exchange rates.
The two transfer companies I personally used multiple times in the last few years are TransferWise and Xendpay. TransferWise is the more well-known of the two. Personally though I usually end up using Xendpay as their rates tend to be significantly better when sending money to Thailand.