Compare the travel cards, debit cards, credit cards and other travel money options that’ll see you through your holiday of shopping and beach-hopping in Thailand.
Many Australian tourists choose to travel to Thailand, and it’s easy to see why. Crystal clear beaches, colourful nightlife and magnetic culture combine to offer a great holiday at a budget price. But even if it’s cheap, picking the right travel money can make a trip to the Land of Smiles even more affordable. Major brands such as Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in Thailand, although don’t expect to fund your holiday with your card alone. There are many businesses which operate on a cash only basis. ATMs are common and take Australian issued cards. Find out how to spend with your card and make withdrawals for cheap below.
Which option is right for your next trip?
Flight Centre Key to the World Currency Card
The Key to the World Currency Card is a prepaid travel card from Flight Centre, which lets you load up to 10 currencies in just one card.
- Pay no card issue fees, initial load fees and inactivity fees.
- This card lets you transfer between currencies, load more funds and check your balance and transactions online.
- You can choose up to 10 currencies to load onto your card.
Compare travel cards for Thailand
How much baht do I need to bring to Thailand?
Although prices in Thailand are increasing steadily each year as a result of tourism, it’s still a budget destination for Australian travellers. Example holiday expenses in Bangkok are outlined below.
Some of the daily costs for a Thailand holiday
$10 - $20 AUD per night
|2 star hotel|
$40 - $80 AUD per night
|5 star hotel|
$150 - $300 AUD per night
|Khao Gang (curried rice/streetfood)|
$1 - $3 AUD
|Gaeng Kiew Waan (Green curry with fish balls/restaurant)|
|5 star restaurant|
$100 AUD or more for 3 courses and drinks
|Marketing shopping on Koh Sahn Road||Bangkok food tour|
$40 AUD per person
|Rent a Lamborghini|
$1,800 AUD for a day
*Prices are indicative and subject to change
Exchange rate history
Between 2014 and 2015, the Aussie dollar dropped in value compared to the baht by about 5 baht to the dollar. If you think this trend will continue, you can purchase traveller's cheques or a travel money card to lock in a rate during your trip.
|Year||Average annual exchange Australian Dollar (AUD) to Thai Baht (THB)|
Which travel cards, debit cards and credit cards?
Visa and MasterCard branded travel cards, debit cards and credit cards can be used for over the counter purchases and ATM withdrawals in Thailand. You can use a Visa or MasterCard card to pay for hotels and some hostels, for food at medium to large restaurants, when shopping at department stores and retailers, and, of course, when you want to withdraw cash from ATMs. American Express is accepted on a case by case basis, you’ll need a Visa or MasterCard too if you plan on travelling with an AMEX card. If you’re venturing outside the cities, you will need cash to pay for your expenses. Smaller guesthouses and restaurants (often family run) are cash only, as are markets. Make sure you have a stack of baht for the times when you’ll need cash, which will be often.
Travel money options for Thailand at a glance
|Travel Money Option||Pros||Considerations|
|Debit cards for travel|
|Prepaid travel money cards|
|Credit cards for travel|
How travel cards, debit cards, credit cards and traveller’s cheques work in Thailand
Using a prepaid travel card
Travel cards offer value if they allow you to convert funds into the currency of the country you’re visiting. You load aussie dollars and convert the funds to Thai baht via the card provider’s online portal. However, not all travel cards support baht. You’ll also need to consider the currencies of neighbouring countries if you’re travelling around Southeast Asia as well. If you pick a travel card which can’t hold baht, you’ll pay a currency conversion fee when you make a purchase or withdrawal in Thailand.
In this case, a travel money card will cost you more to use than the cards you already have in your wallet. Some travel cards don’t charge for currency conversion; however, these cards will certainly charge you to make an ATM withdrawal. There are issue fees, reload fees and inactivity fees to compare as well as ATM and currency conversion fees. Travel cards can charge a premium for the benefits on offer: a dedicated travel dual card travel account separate from your savings.
Using Australian debit cards
Most debit cards will charge a currency conversion fee when you use the card to make a purchase or withdrawal in Thai baht. The Citibank Plus Transaction Account is the only debit card on offer which waives these fees. The other major advantage of using a Citibank Plus Transaction Account is that it allows instant global transfers to any other Citibank account you own. So if you are an Aussie with an account in Thailand, all you have to do is transfer money into your Thai account.
- Tip: You can avoid the local ATM fee by using the Citibank Plus account at Citibank ATMs in Thailand (there are only a couple in Bangkok).
Travelling to Thailand with an Australian credit card
Credit cards have a reliable acceptance rate in Thailand, especially Visa and MasterCard branded products. Similar to Australia, American Express can be used in less places and Diners card even fewer still. Travel friendly credit cards waive fees for currency conversion when you make a purchase in baht at the point of sale in Thailand. There are a few financial institutions which waive this fee. When comparing cards, weigh up the additional benefit on offer, such as complimentary travel insurance or an increased frequent flyer points earn rate when you spend in baht.
- Tip: Some credit cards offer complimentary international travel insurance when you charge the cost of your return travel ticket to your card.
Using traveller's cheques
Unlike other countries, traveller’s cheques can be easily cashed in Thailand at exchange offices and banks. However, debit cards and travel cards have largely replaced traveller’s cheques. Although you can get a better rate transferring funds using traveller’s cheques, there’s a fee of about 150THB charged for each cheque you try to cash.
Paying with cash in Thailand
Make an ATM withdrawal when you arrive or exchange Australian dollars at an exchange office or bank to get Thai baht. You won’t pay a commission to get cash changed, but avoid exchange cash at hotels, hostels and guesthouses as you’ll get a bad rate. As always, avoid changing money at airports.
- Tip: Treat Thai banknotes and coins with respect. It depicts the royal family.
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Interview with Justin about travel money in Thailand
Justin visited Southeast Asia with his friends. Thailand was the only country they visited. They flew into Bangkok and spent some time temple-spotting and exploring Koh Sahn Road before jumping on another plane and heading south to Phuket. He spent three weeks in Thailand.
What credit cards/debit cards/ travel money cards did you take with you?
Justin took these cards with him to Thailand:
Why did you take these cards?
- Velocity Global Wallet. Justin took this prepaid travel money card to Thailand because he could convert Australian dollars to Thai baht and spend in Thailand without paying additional fees for currency conversion.
- Bankwest Debit Card. This account was linked to his savings. He transferred money between his Bankwest and Velocity accounts when he needed to top up his Global Wallet with additional funds.
- CBA Low Rate. He took this card with him to use as a backup.
What about ATM withdrawals?
Justin says he got charged ATM fees when he used the Velocity travel card to withdraw baht from ATMs in Thailand. He says he paid about 210THB ($7.80) per withdrawal, which was the total charge from both the ATM operator and Velocity. He says he paid a fee every time he made an ATM withdrawal.
Were there any places that you found your cards weren't accepted?
Justin says he had trouble using his travel card at certain ATMs. He says to look for the MasterCard or Visa logo at the ATM machine for an indication of whether your card will be accepted. He says there were instances when MasterCard was preferred over Visa, particularly merchants in Phuket markets. He says when he shopped in Phuket, the businesses owners would add a tax to the price of the item for using a Visa card.
How much cash would you need for a ten day holiday?
Justin says it depends on where you’re going and what you’re doing. He says he spent about $2,000 on tours, shopping, food and going out over three weeks.
What money tips do you have to anyone travelling to Thailand?
He says be realistic about how much you’re going to buy when you calculate your travel budget and how much money you’re going to bring. He says also be conscious of travel card reload times. A BPAY payment can take up to 3 days to clear (even longer if you try and reload over the weekend or a public holiday). He also says you’re going to need cash, especially if you want to do some market shopping. Finally, Justin says Monday is cleaning day in Bangkok, many of the street food vendors take the day off so you’ll have fewer choices for cheap street eats.
Buying baht in Australia
It’s best to wait till you arrive in Thailand before buying Thai baht. The best way to get baht is to make an ATM withdrawal using an account which doesn’t charge an international ATM fee or currency conversion fee. You can do this at the airport as soon as you arrive as well as throughout your trip when you need more cash. You’ll pay a couple of dollars each time you withdraw baht from a Thai ATM. However, this will be cheaper than paying the exchange office commission and Visa and MasterCard give you one of the best rates on the market.
If you do want to purchase baht in Australia, you can buy foreign cash at these financial and foreign exchange institutions:
ATM withdrawals in Thailand
Thai ATMs charge a 180THB fee when you make an ATM withdrawal using your Australian issued credit, debit or travel card. Aeon ATMs charge 150THB per for each withdrawal. Using a Citi card and a Citi ATM is free.
- Tip: Currently, there are no ATM machines on the island of Ko Lipe near the Malacca Strait, so make sure you’re carrying more than enough cash when you travel there.
Finding cash and ATMs in Thailand
Why you’ll need a combination of travel money options
As they say, you should never carry all of your eggs in one basket. The same runs true for your travel money. No one product will be the ‘best’ option for your holiday, so using several methods will give you greater accessibility and security.
For example, a line of credit could give you the peace of mind that you won’t be stuck without money in an emergency. Plus, the additional perks such as complimentary travel insurance and rewards could come in handy. A travel card can be valuable if it allows you to load Thai baht; however, you’ll pay ATM withdrawal fees charged on both ends. A travel debit card such as the Citibank Plus will let you withdraw money for cheaper. Spread your travel budget across a couple of cards so you have multiple ways to spend and access your money depending on the situation.
More than half a million Australians visit Thailand every year and it’s mind boggling to think of how much we’re paying to the banks for international transactions. Be savvy with your budget and apply for a product which saves you at least the currency conversion and international ATM fee. If you have any questions about travel money products for Thailand or using travel money in Thailand, ask a question using the form below.Back to top
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