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Using a credit card in Thailand
Use a credit card that charges no foreign transaction fees and save money when you travel Thailand.
Credit cards are widely accepted in Thailand, especially in larger cities and tourist hotspots. While you can rely on Visa or Mastercard to pay for accommodations and food at high-end restaurants, the country still relies heavily on cash – so you’ll need some on-hand for taxis, small shops and restaurants, street stalls, markets and any excursions that lead you to small towns or villages.
Compare credit cards for use in Thailand
What credit cards can I use in Thailand?
While American Express cards are accepted in large supermarkets, gas stations and high-end restaurants, hotels and stores, Visa and Mastercard have a much wider acceptance rate.
Although you shouldn’t use your credit card to withdraw cash from an ATM, sometimes emergency situations arise. If you’re looking to make cash withdrawals, Bangkok Bank ATMs accept Amex cards, as well as many smaller banks’ ATMs.
Potential credit card fees in Thailand
You should always keep an eye on credit card fees, especially when travelling overseas.
- Foreign transaction fees. Most credit cards issued by Canadian providers come with a foreign transaction fee of 2.5%. You’ll need to pay this fee every time you use your credit card outside of Canada. Fortunately, there are a few credit cards offered in Canada that charge no foreign transaction fees.
- Currency conversion fees. If someone gives you the choice of paying in Canadian dollars or Thai baht with your credit card, always choose the local currency of baht. Paying in CAD with your card will subject you to a dynamic currency conversion (DCC) that can lead to poor exchange rates and currency conversion fees. Pay in the local currency and let your bank do the conversion.
- Cash advance fees. If you use your credit card to withdraw money from an ATM, you’ll face a cash advance fee as well as the cash advance interest rate, which is usually charged from the day you withdraw the funds. To avoid the high APR, use your debit card to withdraw funds from an ATM.
- ATM fees. Even using your debit card to withdraw funds from an ATM will likely have you facing an ATM fee. To avoid this fee, you can use a debit card issued by a bank that belongs to an international ATM alliance, such as the Global ATM Alliance that Scotiabank is a member of.
Can I avoid all of these fees?
Yes, here’s how:
- Apply for a no foreign transaction fee credit card to avoid this fee.
- Avoid conversion fees by always paying in the local currency.
- Avoid the high cash advance APR by using your debit card – instead of your credit card – to withdraw cash from an ATM.
- To skirt around ATM fees, you’ll need to use a debit card from a bank that belongs to an international ATM alliance – plus you’ll need to stick to ATMs that belong to that network.
ATMs in Thailand
Thailand is a mostly cash-based society and smaller establishments often won’t accept cards – which includes both debit and credit. Outdoor markets, tuk tuk drivers, small cafes and restaurants, as well as street food stalls and massage parlours will only usually accept cash. Using cash can be quicker and more convenient – and you’ll need some on you at all times.
The ATM cash withdrawal fee in Thailand is usually 220 baht, which is around CAD$9. You can minimize this fee by withdrawing larger sums of money at one time, which means you won’t have to take out cash quite as often. ATMs are easy to find in Thailand and can be found on busy streets, as well as within banks, convenience stores, transportation terminals and shopping malls.
Should I use my credit card to get cash?
No, avoid using your credit card to get cash from an ATM at all costs. You’ll end up paying a cash advance fee as well as interest, which will start adding up from the day of the transaction. If you need to withdraw cash from an ATM, use your debit card.
Do taxis in Thailand accept credit cards?
No. Also, rideshare services like Uber are illegal in the country. You will need Thai baht on you if you plan to take a taxi or tuk tuk.
Is it safe to use my credit card in Thailand?
Thailand is generally safe for credit card use, but caution is advised. Keep these tips in mind:
- Protect your PIN. Don’t write your PIN down anywhere. When entering your PIN, use the other hand to hide it from hidden cameras and onlookers.
- Select ATMs carefully. Use ATMs found in banks, shopping centres and otherwise busy areas. Avoid ones in isolated areas or unsafe districts.
- Keep an eye out for skimmers. If you feel that the card slot is not as smooth as it should be or if you think there’s a problem with the keypad, cancel your transaction and use a different ATM. Someone might have installed a card skimmer on the machine.
- Keep your card physically safe. Instances of pickpocketing and theft are common in Thailand. Take extra care when venturing out after dark and always keep a close eye on your wallet or purse at all times.
How to prepare before travelling to Thailand
Credit card usage in Thailand is safe, but you should use your card with caution.
- Carry at least two credit cards. Ideally, take at least two credit cards with you, with at least one being a Visa or Mastercard. That way, you can avoid being left without money if your primary credit card is lost or stolen. American Express cards are not as frequently accepted, but if you frequent high-end establishments, you may be able to use your Amex sometimes.
- Think about foreign transaction fees. Paying foreign transaction fees does not make sense when you can find cards that come with no foreign transaction fees. For each transaction, you’ll save yourself 2.5%.
- Inform your bank. Banks monitor accounts to minimize fraudulent transactions. If your bank sees an unexpected purchase made in Thailand, it will have a good reason to temporarily block your card. Let your bank know of your travel plans in advance.
- Carry emergency numbers. If your card ends up lost or stolen, you should know which number to call. Write down your credit card providers phone number and carry it on you at all times.
- Know how you’ll get cash. You should carry at least some cash on you at all times. Use your debit card to withdraw cash in order to avoid the cash advance interest rate that comes with using a credit card. You can also exchange Canadian dollars for Thai baht or make use of travellers’ cheques.
You can avoid unexpected problems by asking yourself these simple questions before you leave for Thailand:
- Which cards should I take? Carry at least one Mastercard or Visa card and have at least two credit cards with you.
- Did I inform my bank? Unless you want to deal with the possibility of a blocked card, inform your bank before you head overseas.
- Will I pay extra fees? Check if your current credit card charges foreign transaction fees. If it does, consider applying for a card that charges no foreign transaction fees.
- Where will I get money from? Use your debit card to withdraw cash from an ATM – avoid using your credit card unless it’s an emergency. You can also consider converting Canadian dollars to Thai baht or cash in travellers’ cheques.
Using a credit card in …
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