Opening a bank account has different challenges the world over. Some institutions in certain jurisdictions make the process needlessly complicated, others are free to adopt a more ‘old-fashioned’ attitude to banking.
I’ve been living in Thailand since December 2012 and since I moved here, friends have put me off opening a bank account here as I do not have a Thai work permit or business visa. The rules for client on-boarding in Thailand have supposedly toughened up in the past 12 months as the government’s Anti-Money Laundering Office has tried to raise banking standards across the country in response to a few bad reports from the international AML community.
In the past, any foreigner could walk into a bank with their passport, give any random address without providing proof and receive a fully functioning savings account with ATM card. No KYC required.
Since new standards have been introduced, foreigners have found it increasingly difficult to open bank accounts in Thailand. The standards however, are applied varyingly. A Malay friend of mine with a business visa and work permit was asked by his bank if he had those documents, but was never asked to produce them as proof. Another acquaintance, who is has overstayed on his visa and is in the country illegally, opened an account without any comment from the bank.
As an experiment, I thought I would try out the new account opening rules.
Friends had already told me which bank to go to for a no questions asked account. So, one afternoon I went to the bank armed with my passport , containing my visa and a few strands of an address which is near where I live.
The cashiers observed me with some alarm when I asked about opening the account, more in connection with a farang showing up unaccompanied by a Thai friend to translate. To my surprise, the customer identification process began immediately. Qs from the bank staff, As are my responses.
Q1. “Oh. You staying here long time?” asked the cashier. I nodded my confirmation.
Q2. “Where you staying?” –
A2. “In the fishing village.”
At this point the staff conferred with each other, and called on an expert to verify this information. The cashier at the forex counter lived in the fishing village too. She didn’t recognise me, nor I her. This could have been a set back, but it wasn’t.
Q3. Where in fishing village?
A3. “The Coconut Restaurant” – which is almost true. I will be living next to the restaurant in a blue wooden bungalow. I could have given the Blue Bungalow as my address and it would have been ok.
The staff conferred again, decided they didn’t know where the restaurant was, but that it didn’t matter and asked me to write down my name and address and hand over my passport for, what I assumed would be, verification.
I then sat with a bank clerk who spoke and read English well enough to ask me a few more questions, but none of which were remotely associated to the account purpose or how long I planned to be in Thailand. Still, I expected them to ask me to produce a work permit. No request came, just as I was told.
Would anyone like to guess if I got the account or not?
Answers on the back of a KYC form addressed to me at the Blue Bungalow, Thailand.
- Opening a bank account in Thailand (thebigmangolife.com)