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Bangkok - Banking
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It is not difficult to open a bank account in Bangkok. Most expatriates will open a savings account, and/or a foreign-currency account. Different banks have different policies regarding the opening of foreign-currency accounts. Checking accounts, and the use of checks, is not common and are usually limited to use by businesses. Bank statements are usually printed in a bankbook that is updated by the teller when you bring the bankbook to the bank.
One point to consider when opening a bank account is the location of that particular bank branch. This is because if there are any administrative issues with your bank account (for example, a bankbook replacement), you may be required to return to that bank branch where you first opened the bank account.
ATMs are galore in Bangkok, and most will have options to transact in English or Thai. The Kasikorn Bank (or Thai Farmers Bank) and the Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) are two banks that offer reliable ATM services in English. Bangkok Bank has a large presence in Bangkok, and Thailand as a whole. Apart from these banks, be prepared for some ATMs and local banks that offer ATM that transact in Thai only. Apart from the Thai banks, there are a number of international banks operating in Bangkok, for example, The Bank of America, Citibank, Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. These international banks usually offer their services in both English and Thai, and are popular with expatriates. Take note that some international banks require a minimum deposit that could range anything from 5,000 to 500,000 baht.
Banks are open Mondays through Fridays, 830am to 330pm. Some banks close one hour later on Fridays at 430pm. ATMs operate 24 hours, but if the ATMs breakdown after office hours, the ATM can remain so until the following day.
Expatriates can apply for local credit cards, if they meet the minimum work experience and monthly income set by the banks. Expatriates must ensure that their work permit and passports are valid. Different banks have different requirements. For example, the Bangkok Bank issues credit cards only to permanent residents, or to expatriates who possess a valid work permit for at least a year. For Kasikorn Bank, only expatriates who earn at least 50,000 baht annually, and have worked for at least a year in Thailand qualify for a credit card facility. Siam Commercial Bank requires expatriates to earn at least 100,000 baht annually, with the minimum income for locals is 15,000 baht. At time of writing, the current credit crunch has banks tightening their credit card requirements all around the world, so check with the banks for the most updated information.
In some shops, you may be asked to pay a higher price if you opt to pay by credit card. If this is not acceptable to you, you have the option of walking away. When using a credit card to settle bills in any city or country, one should always take precaution against credit card fraud.
If expatriates live in an apartment building, all bills (rent, water, electricity, telephone) are paid at the end of the month to the management office of the apartment building. If expatriates live in condominiums or houses, all bills must be settled separately. For this group of expatriates, they will pay their bills at a convenience store (e.g. 7-11) or via banks / bank transfers. In some cases, expatriates settle their bills at the branches or offices of the service providers. If the bills are overdue, the paying of bills can get rather inconvenient, as no third party service provider (e.g. 7-11 or banks) will accept and process late bills. Late bills can only be settled at the company's office. Payment by checks is rare in Thailand.
Cost of Living
Compared to other Asian cities like Tokyo, Hong Kong, Taipei or Seoul, Bangkok is affordable for the expatriate, especially when comparing housing, food and clothing prices. In Bangkok, dining out is not as expensive as in America and Europe, and other Asian cities. Taxi fares are also very reasonable in Bangkok. As with living in any city, the cost of living is largely dependent on one's choices. Entertainment options, in particular, frequent visits to bars can easily rack up an expensive lifestyle. In terms of expatriate living, there are as many English-language teachers (read: less favorable expatriate packages) as there are top executives and professionals, and hence there is a wide range of lifestyles adopted by expatriates in Bangkok.
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