Asia Banks, ATM cash machines, transfers,
debit, credit, prepaid
for foreigners, expat residents.
The two main international ATM networks
are PLUS and CIRRUS:
Check, Debit, Delta, Electron and Cashpoint cards
Maestro, Switch, Solo and Diners Club cards.
PLUS and CIRRUS are
international ATM networks (Automatic Teller
debit, credit and prepaid card cash withdrawals or advances.
ATM's will accept cards in many countries including the
Lao PDR. American Express
operates its own ATMs, or has agreements with partner banks in
other countries, such as BII (Indonesia) and Bangkok Bank (Thailand).
JCB (Japan) has similar facilities. See more examples below or visit
your bank's website.
While some banks in South-east Asia
and other countries
have ATMs and cards for domestic use only, many also issue
cards for use in international ATMs linked to the above networks.
These cards will show at least one network logo. The most widely
known and recognised are VISA
and MasterCard from PLUS and CIRRUS. If your card
is not VISA but has a PLUS
logo, you can use it wherever you see a VISA ATM;
Cirrus cards can use MasterCard ATMs. If your card shows one or more ATM
network logos, you will be able to get cash in local
currency in Thailand, Philippines,
Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Laos,
Cambodia and Vietnam and any other country where you see
Using ATM, Debit or Credit Cards
in other countries
When you use your ATM card
in Asia or overseas, (except Cambodia – see below) you will get
cash in local currency. You select the amount you want to withdraw,
for example 5,000 Thai baht (currently worth around US$150 or £75). You
should know in advance the approximate exchange rate of your bank
account currency. Most currency exchange shops and banks
advertise the rate for the country's money compared to others like the
US$ (USD), British £ (GBP), Euro (EUR), and maybe more such as Canadian,
Australian, New Zealand, Singapore or Hong Kong dollar, Japanese Yen (JPY)
You will receive the cash, and your own
bank will convert it back into the currency of your country. This will
appear on your bank or credit card statement (which you can also
check while you are travelling if you have internet banking).
The transaction will show the amount that has been withdrawn plus any
Get US dollars from ATMs in
As far as we are aware, in Asia
the only exception to the local currency payout is Cambodia.
In the capital Phnom Penh and
Siem Reap (Angkor Wat) the
US dollars. It's always a good idea to carry some US dollars in
'hard cash' as it can be useful for emergencies. If you are visiting
Cambodia, the ATMs there are an easy way to get them. You will need
between $30 and $45 to pay for your
Laos visa on arrival
and you can also use dollars to pay for goods and services in the Lao
Maximum cash withdrawal (daily
limit) at a foreign ATM
There are two factors here. The
maximum you can draw in 24 hours (or it might be per calendar day in
your home country) is a figure set by the bank that issued your ATM
card. You should know this before you travel. The other is the
maximum single transaction value at a particular ATM. This varies
between countries, banks and even different ATMs of the same bank. The
sometimes not apparent until you select the amount you want. However,
you can usually make several transactions at the
same machine, up to your daily limit (or the ATM's) unless the ATM runs out
of notes! Note that each transaction may incur a fee from your own
bank as well as the ATM bank too. Lao ATM limits are on the
Lao Banking page.
International ATM service in
Laos now has international ATMs. ANZ, JDB
(PLUS) and CIRRUS at all ATMs.
See Lao Banks
page for more about the
Laos banking system, kip currency and ATM locations,
fees etc. in Laos.
Many Asian banks, ATMs and retailers also accept American Express cards.
They can be used
to get cash either from the ATMs or branches of major banks in Asian cities.
Bangkok Bank also has a branch in Vientiane, Laos, but no ATMs;
instead use VISA/MC at ANZ, BCEL or
Bank (Singapore), Vietcombank (Vietnam), Express Teller,
Equitable (Philippines), Maybank (Malaysia), BII
Superkasa and Amex ATMs in Indonesia. This is by no means a
Bank access, transfers,
credit & debit cards, online banking
Good money management is essential while travelling or living
overseas. Credit or debit cards, and the more recently
introduced prepaid ATM cards, usually Visa or MasterCard are not
absolutely necessary for travellers, but they certainly make life easier when needing
instant or emergency cash, or to make airline or hotel bookings and
especially vehicle rental where a cash or other deposit is required.
Bangkok Bank (exchange rates)
a leading Thai
bank, has branches or representative offices in other Asian
countries, the UK and the USA.
Overseas Travel without Cash or
Travelling overseas without ATM or credit cards is possible, but not
ideal. If you don't have these facilities, or have a bad credit history,
being refused cards, further loans or credit, or you are paying too
interest rate on your existing cards and loans, then visit our
Credit Repair page for solutions.
Prepaid ATM or pre-funded
VISA Debit Cards
If you haven't been able to repair or alleviate your credit problems, but still want to
be able to shop on or off line, or without cash or checks, or being able to get cash
on demand at ATM's around the world, there is an alternative, the
prepaid VISA card for US
These enable you to spend money you already have in the bank
or prepaid to the card issuing company. There's no risk of overspending
or coming home to bills for purchases on credit. There are several ways of funding
beforehand. No credit status check or history is required for the issue
of this type of card.
and Internet Banking
Another advantage of online banking is being able to check the
fees and exchange rate you pay for
cash advances abroad. These vary greatly between banks, ranging from
free and sometimes $4 minimum per transaction – often making it
expensive to draw out small amounts from ATM's
abroad. In Indonesia (Bali), different banks and even different ATMs for
the same bank don't necessarily offer the same transaction maximum
Before you leave home, find out what your
bank will charge you, and consider getting a second account and ATM card
from a bank with low or no fees. Internet banking also lets you to see what you
have paid for cash withdrawals.
International money transfers
– via banks, agents or online
While 'high street' banks offer
international transfers, usually by wire or 'SWIFT' to accounts
at banks in many foreign countries, their charges including exchange
rates differ widely. This is important if you want to have your home
country pension or other regular payment sent to the bank account where
you or your dependants are living. The receiving bank will often make a charge too
and usually you will only be able to work out what these transfers
once the money is in the overseas account. Apart from bank to bank,
there are other ways to make transfers is by using reliable, independent companies
to make real-time transfers. You may get better exchange rates and
low or zero fees.
There are other ways to arrange a remittance or an urgent money transfer overseas
for yourself or a family member or friend could be a 'godsend' in an
emergency. Even if you don't have a bank account, sending money abroad
is quite easy nowadays.
MoneyGram are well known in this field and agencies can be found in
most countries that travellers visit and expatriates live and
work in. Transfers can even be arranged online from a smart phone or at an internet shop.
As well as providing other services, emergency
money transfers and remittances can be arranged instantly using a credit card on line.
This is useful because there are often more internet shops than ATMs or places that accept credit cards in some
towns! You can transfer cash quickly to yourself, or relatives and friends,
quickly and easily; and to many cities, towns and even villages in Asia and
Opening local bank accounts,
cash (debit) and credit cards
savings accounts with ATM cards at Asian banks is possible in
Bali), the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia; in Thailand and
the Lao PDR,
for work permit holders. However, it depends on the bank and the
branch; retirees or non-residents may also be successful.
Usual access is by ATM card. If possible, ensure this is linked to one
of the networks mentioned at the top of this page if you want to use the
card in another country.
Some Asian banks now have online banking facilities
for account checking, local bill payments, transfers between accounts
and to other local
Credit cards from foreign banks are difficult to
obtain, even with proof of funds or regular income. Again there are exceptions.
In Thailand, for example,
some branches of Bangkok Bank (maybe other Thai bank branches too) will issue an
international Visa or MasterCard credit card to a foreigner
holding a business visa and work permit, but a fixed
deposit of 25% more than the limit may be required as a guarantee. In
Singapore a non-resident with substantial funds on deposit at
Standard Chartered Bank may be given a local credit
card but cash advances are limited in accordance with government
Foreign currency accounts (US$, Sterling, Euro
etc) may be opened by foreigners in some
Thai and Lao banks including fixed term deposits (see
below); this may also be the case in other Asian countries.
Enquiries about banking services for foreigners should be made in person
manager or at least someone in authority who speaks good English, and perhaps
on the recommendation of another foreign resident who already has
an account with the branch. It's important to be fully informed about
the country's foreign
exchange laws, deposits, withdrawals and repatriation of funds.
Fixed Term Deposits in
Banks use different compounding periods
calculating interest on fixed term deposits.
Lao banks offer high interest
rates for local currency fixed deposits,
but compounding can be from once annually
to interest on daily balance. Compare the various banks for the best
effective interest accrual and ask for an explanation of their rates
before arranging a fixed term deposit.
US Bank Accounts for
non-citizens and non-residents
there are others such as
the most popular and convenient online payment service is
PayPal (part of eBay).
PayPal is free to join and allows
virtually anyone to make
secure purchases over the internet. If you have one it can be linked to your credit card
(or bank account) and
enables you to pay for goods and services from web sites that cannot
accept credit cards directly. You can sign up for a free account at
Site. Use PayPal to purchase virtually anything online: software, e-books,
or services which you can then immediately download from the vendor, or
physical products for delivery by mail or courier
services. SE Asian countries with bank account linking include
Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia (there may be others).
Payments can be made over the internet using PayPal by credit card
like Visa, MasterCard and American Express
for services and products supplied by PayPal members. Although
payment is processed via PayPal, it is not necessary for purchasers
to open a PayPal account themselves.
If you're planning a visit to Indonesia and looking for a
good choice of hotels with discount prices, visit
Hotels in Jakarta for more information.