Saturday, February 8, 2014

Banking in Thailand

Dealing with money in Thailand is quite different than what I considered normal in the US.  First of all, they are very cash based society.  In the US we are rapidly going away from cash and moving to electronic transactions for almost every thing you pay for or buy. 

There are street vendors everywhere and of course they do not have electronic means for you to pay for things.  But in addition most stores do not have he capability to accept credit or debit cards. Don't get me wrong there are places that will accept your credit card.  Large establishments that are frequented by tourists etc. will gladly accept your Credit Card.  But if they do, they will likely want to charge you a fee to accept the credit Card.  They do not like the fact that the Credit Card company takes a cut of the price of the merchandise that you buy. 

One of the things that I do at the office is take care of all of the mission expenses.  One of my major responsibilities is to put cash (Thai Baht) on the Missionary MSF (Missionary Support Funds) debit card.  For missionaries serving in Thailand it is about $180 USD per month. These funds are intended for the missionary to use to support his personal needs such as food. 

So each month about the 25th I process the request in a computer system called IMOS (Internet Mission Operations Software).  I get the Mission President to approve and four business days later the money is in the bank so that missionaries can get to it.

I have had to teach the missionaries some rudimentary facts about international finance.  I put an amount of Thai Baht into their account (5800 Baht for Elders and 6000 Baht fro Sisters),  the Church and the Bank uses a Dollar to Baht rate to put the equivalent amount number of US Dollars into the account.  So if a missionary accesses his account he will see the value in US Dollars. When the missionary is ready to access his funds he goes to a ATM.  They will then draw out their funds in Thai Baht.  However they will draw the money out at a much different rate that I put it in at.  So they will loose money on the difference of the exchange rates.  In addition at all ATMs except AEON Bank ATMs they are charged a withdrawal fee of between 150 to 180 Baht (from $5 to $6 ).  Also the bank charges them an international transaction fee of about $2.25.  So I encourage them to take all of their money out once each month.

In addition to the MSF Funds each apartment of Elders or Sisters has a house fund.  The size of this fund ranges from 6,000 to 40,000 Baht (depends upon number of missionaries in the house and location of house).  These funds are used to pay for utilities, transportation, house furnishings, cleaning supplies, maintenance and repairs, and medical expenses etc.  A Missionary is assigned in each house to account for this money and pay the house expenses.  When they have gone thru a major portion of their  house funds they send me receipts which I reconcile and then put that amount of money back onto their MSF card which they cash out to use to pay the house expenses.  So I have lot's of fun training each new house leader.  It is good training for Missionaries who have not paid bills or handled financial records in the past.

When a missionary needs to pay the water bill or electric bill, they take the bill to 7/11 store (yes the same as the 7/11 you have in the states) and pay it there.  For a 10 Baht fee it is accepted - of course  it must be cash.  There are 7/11 stores everywhere in Thailand.  There are two of them across the street from us about 100 yards apart.

There are lot's of banks in Thailand.  What I find interesting is that each bank has essentially chosen a different color.  So many of the Thai's and missionaries refer to the bank by its color.  The yellow bank is the Krungsri bank.  The Orange bank is the Thanachart bank etc. the pictures below account for the major banks that I see regularly or do business with regularly.  There are 4 or 5 other banks in the mall that I did not take a picture of.

Light Blue Bank - I have many landlords that use this bank

Blue Bank

Purple Bank - I do some business here



Pink Bank


Islamic Bank - I have not done any business here

Orange Bank - Mission Checking account is here - I go here often

Green Bank or K Bank

The K bank advertisement - thinks that you can get rich as a customer


Aeon Bank is where I get cash  - limited to ~ $600 per Day

Aeon - has agreement with Bank of America and other American Banks - Missionaries and I can get cash here without a fee


Yellow Bank - Ayuthaya Bank - KrungSri is the first part of the name

Thai Military Bank
5th floor of Central  Plaza Mall - some of the banks
I am required to write checks from the Church account and pay bills - cash again.  So I write the check - sign it, and then get a second signature from the Mission President.  I then walk to the subway and go one stop north to the Central Plaza mall.  I take the escalator to the 5th floor. There I find a branch of every Bank in Thailand.  This makes it very convenient for me.  I can cash my check at the Orange Bank (Thanachart Bank) where the Church has the Mission Bank account. I then can go to any other bank to pay landlords or vendors by making a deposit into their account.
 


5th floor of the mall - more of the banks
Banks have fees for almost every thing.  I pay a check cashing fee at my own bank.  The fee is based on the value of the check.  The fee is 10 Baht for every 10,000 Baht.  So a 9,000 Baht check would be 10 Baht.  For a 45,000 Baht check it would be 50 Baht and so on.

In addition I pay deposit fees. So if I pay a landlord the bank will charge me a fee.  This depends on the bank somewhere between 10 and 30 Baht (between 30 cents and a dollar). 


I do sometimes write some large Checks (In Thai money anyway.) The largest bill that they use is a 1,000 Baht bill (equivalent to ~ 30 dollars).  So if I cash a check for 100,000 Baht ($3,000) I walk out of the Bank with 100 1,000 Baht bills. The bank teller will count the bills and then they will use a machine to count the bills to verify they gave me correct amount of bills. They show you the machine counter as it does it's thing.



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