Thailand is blessed with colourful nightlife, stunning scenery, crystal clear beaches, a magnetic culture and much more.
All this makes it a great destination for a dream holiday and this means spending money.
So in this post, we’ve broken down the safest and most efficient ways to handle your hard earned cash when visiting Thailand.
How Should Tourists Handle Their Money?
Thailand is known as a relatively safe tourist destination.
Tourist Police can be found throughout the country and these elements of law enforcement are specifically there to deter criminals from visiting the tourist hotspots. They do a good job and most holidays are trouble-free.
As Thailand wants to maintain its reputation as a safe place for tourists to visit. Violent crimes against tourists are rare but petty theft still does happen.
Carrying money on your vacation is a balancing act between utility and safety. While making money difficult to access will deter thieves, you will still want to access it quickly and easily when paying for something.
Despite advances in modern payment systems, Thailand is still largely a cash economy. Big stores, hotels and restaurants will take international cards but street vendors, small shops and the market stalls that you encounter will not.
From the moment you land in the LOS, it’s handy to have a good amount of Thai baht for taxies and petty expenses.
It’s likely you will have already booked your hotels through international payment platforms such as Booking.com or Agoda but at some point, you will be dealing with locals and will need some cash.
If you want to handle your money safely, you should consider the following options:
Keep Your Money in Several Places
Keep your money and cards in different places when moving around.
Keeping all your money in one wallet or one pocket can get you wiped out all at once. It’s safer to keep it in different spots so that just in case your wallet or bag is snatched, you will still have some money left on you.
Consider On-Body Storage
You can get some under-clothing accessories for keeping your money. Consider money belts, neck pouches and clothing with built-in pockets.
However, ensure you don’t attract thieves when fishing around your clothes for money.
Trim Your Wallet
Before going out, go through your wallet and remove everything except necessities such as a universal credit card and ID card.
Avoid carrying huge amounts of money in cash and documents you will not need.
Assess your needs for the evening and carry an appropriate amount of cash with you.
Rather than going through the hassle of going under your clothes or digging deep into your travel bag, you can adopt a cashless method depending upon where you will be.
Some of the most common cashless options for carrying money in Thailand include:
- Travel cards
- Traveller’s cheques
- Credit and Debit cards
When choosing the best option, your priorities should be based on accessibility, reliability, safety and fees.
Given the above choices, I’d go with travel cards every time.
What Makes Travel Cards a Good Option?
Travel cards are a great way of keeping your money safe when visiting Thailand and there are many different types of travel cards that are accepted across the country.
Here are just some of the reasons why travel cards are such a great option:
Locked-in Exchange Rates
When using a travel card, your funds will be locked into the current exchange rate in Thailand the day you pick up your card or purchase it online.
The benefit of locked-in exchange rates is that just in case the exchange rate dives, you will not incur losses on your funds. The converse, however, is true.
Travel Cards Support Multiple Currencies
With a lot of travel cards, you can actually get different currencies added to the same card.
Most universal prepaid cards accept US Dollars, Australian Dollars, Great British Pounds, Euros, and more. You will have the option to choose the currencies you want and this makes them perfect for if you travelling through several different countries.
The currency on your card will be converted to Thai currency when making a local purchase.
Usable for Most Prepaid Transactions
With a travel card, you can make most standard debit or prepaid transactions with ease. This will eliminate the need for carrying easily-stolen cash.
Support for Internet Banking
Most travel cards support internet banking so you can easily top up your card from your local bank via the web. You can also transfer funds back to your bank account from your card.
Additionally, many cards have an accompanying app for your smartphone where you can lock the card in the event of loss or load it with funds as and when you need to.
There’re countless ATMs across Thailand where you can withdraw funds from your prepaid travel cards.
Replacement or Back Up Cards
Most travel cards come with a replacement or backup card service so that just in case you misplace the initial card or it gets stolen, you can have it replaced with the backup card with minimal or no replacement fees.
Not Connected With Your Bank Account
If a bank card is stolen or skimmed, you stand a high chance of not only ruining your holiday but potentially losing all of your savings.
It’s good to take all precautionary measures to ensure funds in your bank account are safe. Moreover, you will have better control over your travel budget since you will only spend the money you have budgeted on your card.
You can find cards that give rewards whenever you use them to make standard purchases. This makes them a great money-saving option.
The biggest plus for the travel card is security.
If it gets lost or stolen, you have not lost your personal debit or credit cards. You can preload them, add or remove funds when necessary and use them as you would a normal debit card.
Traveller’s Cheques in Thailand
Besides using a prepaid travel card, you could also consider traveller’s cheques.
Traveller’s cheques can only be cashed using photo identification. You can cash them at local banks and they can be replaced when lost or stolen. However, exchange rates vary when using traveller’s cheques and not all local merchants accept them. Also, you will have to pay fees for purchasing and cashing the cheques. Moreover, most institutions that accept them will charge an extra commission when cashing them.
Spending on Your Credit or Bank Card
Credit cards come in handy when you want to make a purchase but you don’t have ready cash or enough funds on your prepaid travel card.
Although credit cards don’t attract transaction and currency conversion fees when using them in your local country, applicable currency conversion and ATM fees will be charged in a foreign country. You will be able to access money up to your credit limit but the main drawback with credit cards may be staying within your budget, especially if you’re living it up on your holidays!
A higher credit limit may tempt you to exceed your budget.
I have personally done this on more than one occasion!
Beware Excessive ATM Withdrawal Fees
When withdrawing money using an ATM in Thailand you’ll be subject to some pretty steep withdrawal fees.
Different ATMs in Thailand charge differently and may have daily withdrawal limits. Most Thai ATMs charge approximately 200-220 baht per withdrawal.
Visa cards and MasterCard can be used at any Thai ATM with a Visa or Mastercard logo.
Unlike using a prepaid travel card, using a credit card or bank card will attract additional charges from your local bank, as well.
It’s evident that when travelling to Thailand, there are many options for handling your money safely.
You can choose between credit cards, bank cards, traveller’s cheques and prepaid travel card as an addition to cash.
Travel cards prove to be the best option for tourists visiting Thailand concerned about security. And with a travel card, you will enjoy fixed exchange rates, better budget management, internet banking, chip and PIN protection and more.
With these great benefits, consider carrying a travel card with you when visiting Thailand.
Alternative Options Worth Considering
Payoneer is a financial services company that provides online money transfer and digital payment services.
Account holders can send and receive funds into their bank account, Payoneer e-wallet, or onto a re-loadable prepaid Mastercard debit card that can be used online or at a point-of-sale.
The company specializes in facilitating cross-border B2B payments and provides cross-border transactions in more than 150 local currencies.
TransferWise is an Estonian developed and UK-based peer-to-peer money transfer service that was launched in January 2011 by Kristo Käärmann and Taavet Hinrikus with headquarters in London and offices in a number of cities including Tallinn, New York and Singapore.
TransferWise supports more than 300 currency routes across the world as well as providing multi-currency accounts.
The concept behind TransferWise is to match transfers with other people and then have a small commission while using the inter-bank mid exchange rate, unlike traditional currency transfers where there are buy and sell rates and the broker takes the difference between the two.
TransferWise is also a great option for transferring funds from a foreign account to a Thai bank account.
Mobile Banking Apps
With the recent trends in online banking and smartphone apps taking place globally and the move towards these types of payment systems, a new series of alternatives has arrived on the market.
By linking a bank account and card to a smartphone app you can control how your money is organised. You can preload the card with funds as you need it and convert currencies at much better rates.
The phone app can lock the card should you lose it and you can additionally unfreeze the debit card as well. For more information, check out Starling Bank, Revolut, AliPay and Monzo.
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