Travel money Vietnam 2021: How to pay & how much to bring

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Travel money guide: Vietnam

Everything you need to know about using cash and cards in Vietnam

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Exchange currency online Compare cash pickup

Forget the sunscreen and swimsuit — planning your travel money options should be on top of your Vietnam vacation prep list.

The official currency of Vietnam is the Vietnamese dong (VND). Because the dong is tied to the US dollar, you can use your money at most hotels and big shops. To make things easier, prices are often quoted in US Dollars in tourist areas. But beware — you’ll pay twice as much if you pay with your US dollars, so exchange your money before you arrive in Vietnam. Let us help you compare your options to find the best way to manage your money on your Vietnam adventure.

Our picks for traveling to Vietnam

American Express® Gold Card logo

Our pick for travel credit card

American Express® Gold Card

★★★★★
Finder rating: 4.6/5
Transferwise Multi-currency logo

Our pick for multi-currency debit card

Transferwise Multi-currency

★★★★★
Finder rating: 4.5/5
SoFi Money logo

Our pick for 0% transaction fee debit card

SoFi Money

★★★★★
Finder rating: 4.6/5

Travel card, debit card or credit card?

Credit cards can be used for big ticket purchases in Vietnam. For example, in Hanoi mid to high-end hotels, restaurants and retailers will take Visa and Mastercard — you’ll struggle to find merchants who take American Express credit cards and prepaid travel cards. Everywhere else you’ll need to pay with cash.

If you bring your debit card, you can expect to pay between $1 and $2, on top on any fees your bank charges. Find a debit card that allows you to withdraw from any ATM without charging a fee. You should never use ATMs to withdraw money from your credit cards — they charge high fees and interest on your withdrawal immediately.

Vietnam is a popular destination for experiencing the rich culture and natural beauty for rock bottom prices. Plan to bring a number of payment options on your Vietnamese vacation for peace of mind. Credit cards are good for bigger purchases, and you can earn travel rewards, but cash is what you’ll need the most. Only carry the cash you need, keeping the rest on your debit or prepaid cash card.

These are your options for spending money in Vietnam

Trying to decide how to pay for your vacation to Vietnam? Compare these travel money options and see what works best for you.

Using a credit card

Travel credit cards give you the most purchasing power on expensive items like hotels and flights when traveling in Vietnam. Find yourself a credit card that waives foreign transaction fees. Carrying a credit card gives you the added benefit of travel insurance and discounts, depending on your provider. For added savings, take advantage of the interest-free period by paying your balance in full each month.

Cards that offer travel perks and waive fees often charge an annual fee, so make sure the fee is worth it before you bring it along on your travels. If you’re ever in a jam, credit cards also offer cash advances, though we don’t recommend it. You’ll pay high fees and interest rates apply the moment you get your money.

Pros
  • Use for big ticket purchases
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Accepted worldwide
  • May come with benefits like travel insurance
  • Interest-free days when you pay your account in full
  • Emergency card replacement
Cons
  • Fees and interest for cash withdrawal

Using a debit card

A travel debit card could be a good travel money choice to take to Vietnam. You’ll have access to cash each time you come across an ATM, without carrying lots of cash on you all at once. Because you’re spending your own money, you avoid interest charges. The Citibank Plus waives the fee for international ATM withdrawals and doesn’t charge a monthly account keeping fee.

  • Tip: A debit card can be used to shop over the counter, online and for ATM withdrawals in Vietnam.
Pros
  • Use at stores and hotels, online and ATMs
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Spending your own money means avoiding interest charges
Cons
  • International ATM and currency conversion fees
  • No access to cash advances

Using a prepaid travel card

Travel cards can lock in conversion rates once you load USD. Use it for purchases without worrying about rates each time you spend — debit and credit cards often charge 3% for each transaction.

Where you save in the conversion rates you may pay in fees. You’ll pay fees each time you load the card, ATM withdrawals and sometimes even an inactivity fee.

  • Tip: Banks that provide travel cards make money by applying a higher margin to the exchange rate. You can get a better rate using a debit card or credit card.
Pros
  • Lock in exchange rate when you convert USD to VND
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Emergency card replacement and backup cards.
  • Reloadable online
Cons
  • Come with lots of fees for loading and reloading, inactivity and ATM withdrawals.
  • Businesses won’t accept prepaid cards

Paying with cash in Vietnam

Cash is king in Vietnam, so be sure you have access to plenty of it. Make sure you don’t get any damaged or ripped banknotes — merchants in Vietnam won’t accept them. Dongs are delicate, so carefully place money in your wallet rather than in the bottom of your bag or pockets.

  • Tip: Exchange your money at banks or other licensed exchange stores — Vietcombank doesn’t charge a commission. There is a black market for exchanging money in Vietnam that charges a lower exchange rate and, most importantly isn’t legal.
Pros
  • Payment flexibility
  • Convenience
Cons
  • More difficult to manage expenses
  • High risk of theft

Using traveler’s checks

Security is the main advantage of using traveler’s checks. Each check has a unique serial number and can only be cashed with photo identification. Fees are the main disadvantage. Banks charge you to get check and to cash them. You’re better off using a debit or travel card which lets you make cheap or free ATM withdrawals to get Vietnam dong.

  • Tip: Traveler’s checks are good for locking in a good exchange rate. So if you watch the forex market, get them while the getting’s good.
Pros
  • Security
  • Cash at any bank
Cons
  • Fees for purchasing and cashing checks
  • Not accepted by many merchants
  • Currency exchange rate varies over time

Compare travel credit cards

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
American Express® Gold Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 6 months
4x at restaurants including delivery and Uber Eats; 4x at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 annually (then 1x points) and 3x points on directly-booked flights
$250
Earn up to 4x points on select purchases, a bevy of travel perks, and a welcome offer worth up to $600 with this upper-mid tier travel card. Terms apply, see rates & fees
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, a value of up to $750 through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Plus up to $50 statement credit towards groceries.
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on up to $1,000 on groceries until April 30, 2021, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
$95
Earn a signup bonus worth $750 plus up to $50 statement credit towards groceries with this popular travel card.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
75,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 6 months, plus 10x points at US gas stations and US supermarkets on up to $15,000 in combined purchases in the same timeframe
10x points at US gas stations and US supermarkets on up to $15,000 combined in the first 6 months, 5x points on directly-booked flights on up to $500,000 annually, then 1x points after that and on other purchases
$550
One of the most valuable premium travel cards, featuring two welcome offers worth up to $4,500, multiple travel credits and unrivaled lounge access. Terms apply, see rates & fees
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Compare up to 4 providers

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Buying Vietnamese dong in the US

While you’ll get a better rate if you wait to get Vietnamese dong in Vietnam, you can purchase dong in the US from your bank or a foreign exchange provider like Travelex. If you’re flying into Vietnam directly, and you want to get a visa on arrival (VOA), be ready with cash to pay the fee when you pass through customs. Here are some popular ways to exchange your US currency into dong.

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A guide to the Vietnamese dong banknotes

The Vietnamese dong is the major currency used in Vietnam. The dong comes in denominations of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, 100,000 and 200,000, each a different color. Be sure to pay the right amount when you make your purchases, and always count your change. Familiarize yourself with what the currency looks like and how it works will avoid confusion when handling your money.

Vietnamese 1000-DongVietnamese 2000-DongVietnamese 5000-Dong
Vietnamese 10000-DongVietnamese 20000-Dong

The main banks in Vietnam are:

  • VietinBank
  • Agribank
  • Vietcombank
  • Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV)
  • Military Bank
  • SHB
  • Techcombank
  • Saigon Commercial Bank (SCB)
  • Maritime Bank
  • VP Bank

Using an ATM

Mastercard and Visa cards can be used to make cash withdrawals from a majority of ATMs in Vietnam. The maximum withdrawal limit varies depending on the machine. Machines from American banks often have a higher daily withdrawal limit compared to Vietnamese banks. Although Vietnamese banks often charge a lower withdrawal fee.

  • Tip: Keep yourself and your money safe when using an ATM. Block your PIN from cameras and onlookers. And be sure to use ATMs in busy areas or inside a business.

ATMs in Vietnam

Cash pickup services in Vietnam

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
$1 Within an hour USD 3.99 22949.692 VND 22,858,123 WorldRemit sends money to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposits, cash pick-ups or mobile top-ups. Go to site Show details
$10 Within an hour USD 1.99 22603.717 VND 22,558,735 Special offers like free transfers and better exchange rates available for new customers.
Remitly has quick, affordable transfers around the world, with both express and economy options.
Go to site Show details
$1 Within an hour USD 8.00 22546.054 VND 22,365,686 MoneyGram has fast cash pick-up transfers to more than 350,000 agent locations worldwide. Show details
$1 3 - 5 days USD 20.00 22488.392 VND 22,038,624 Western Union sends money online to friends and family in 200+ countries around the world. Show details

Compare up to 4 providers

Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.

How much should I budget to travel in Vietnam?

Your money will go along way in Vietnam. Accommodation, food and tourist activities cost a fraction of the price of what they cost in the US. If you want a travel on a backpacker’s budget, $40 or less a day will do. For a more comfortable trip, you can budget $60 to $100 per day. If you have expensive taste, it’s easy to find a five star experience with prices to match at a budget of $200 a day. All prices are in US dollars.

HanoiBudgetMidrangeExpensive
MealsBudget meals
at a cafeteria
$1.50 USD
Western breakfast/lunch
$2.50 USD
Western style steak
$25 USD
ActivitiesSightseeing at
Hoan Kiem Lake and Turtle towerfree
Walking tour of Hanoi old town
$30 USD per person
Halong Bay overnight cruise
$190 USD per person
AccomodationHostel dorm bed
$5–$15 USD per night
2 star hotel
$15–$30 USD per night
5 star hotel
$150+ USD per night

Case study: Dean’s trip to Vietnam

We interviewed Dean, a finder.com user who traveled to Vietnam, and asked him about his experience using travel money. He spent two months in Southeast Asia, including a month adventure in Vietnam. He flew from Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh, finished his trip in Hanoi and took a bus to Laos. He was there for the Tet Festival in December — which Dean said is not to be missed.

Do you have any other travel money tips?

Dean says make sure you do the following:

  • Tell your credit card and debit card provider about your travel plans in Southeast Asia.
  • Make sure you’re covered by travel insurance.
  • You’ll be carrying cash on you so use caution and make sure it’s out of reach from thieves and pick pockets.

Compare travel insurance policies

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Our latest travel deals to Vietnam

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