Are you planning to transfer money from the UK to Thailand, to emigrate and buy a property? If so, you might see yourself starting a new life and career in bustling Bangkok. Alternatively, you could be planning to retire and relax on the stunning beaches of Phuket. In either case, there's lots you'll need to know beforehand, to make your dream of living in The Land of Smiles come true. This includes:
With this in mind, you'll be pleased to hear that we've compiled this helpful article, to tell you lots of things you might like to know, to transfer money to Thailand to buy a property. Read on for our useful information.
1a. How to Choose A Bank in Thailand
When you transfer money from the UK to Thailand, you'll need a Thai bank account both to receive your funds and, if you intend to buy a condominium, to pay for your property purchase. To open a Thai bank account, you'll have to travel to Thailand.
In Thailand, there are banks that are more popular among the expat community. For example, Karsten Aichholz at the authoritative Thai expat website Expat Den recommends Bangkok Bank and Kasikorn Bank. This is because they "hold a reputation as being easier to work with and more lenient with foreigners than other banks," says Mr. Aichholz. Meanwhile, Richard McCully at Life in a New Country recommends Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) too.
Typically, as a foreigner it's easiest to open a bank account in Bangkok, Thailand's capital city. This is because the bank facilities tend to be more sophisticated there, and more staff speak English. In particular Karsten Aichholz highlights Bangkok Bank's main office on Silom Road, and Kasikorn Bank's branch on Sukhumvit 33.
2a. How to Open A Bank Account in Thailand
To open a bank account in Thailand, you'll need the following:
- A minimum deposit. For example, to open Bangkok Bank's Savings Account, you'll need ฿500.
- If you're a foreigner with a work permit, you'll need your work permit and your passport.
- If you're a foreigner without a work permit, you'll need your passport, plus one of the following documents, or a reference letter from one of the following organisations:
- A. A permanent residence in Thailand document.
- B. Your embassy in Thailand.
- C. A foreign bank where you have an account, sent via SWIFT.
- D. A trusted individual. This could be a Thai bank employee or client, or the CEO of a business.
- E. A government or education institute, like a university, located in Thailand and trusted by the bank.
- F. A letter from the company where you're going to be employed, if you're in the process of applying for your work permit.
- G. A document proving ownership of a fixed asset like a condominium, sale or purchase.
- H. A property reservation agreement valued above +฿100,000, with a reference letter from the property developer.
You'll also need to provide contact addresses for both Thailand and abroad.
As of August 16th 2016, in line with Thai law ‘Deposits Protection Act B.E. 2551’, the deposits in your Thai bank account are guaranteed by Thailand's government, up to a limit of ฿1,000,000. This is from the previous limit of ฿25,000,000.
- If you're a foreigner with permanent residence in Thailand, you'll need your Passport, Residence Certificate or Alien Certificate, plus a House Registration document.
In addition, according to Karsten Aichhol at Expat Den, you can even open a Thai bank account with a tourist visa and a passport, although this is becoming more difficult.
3a. How to Transfer Money from The UK to Thailand
When you transfer money from the UK to Thailand, you'll want the following:
- To pay low fees.
- To get a highly competitive exchange rate.
- To transfer money to your Thai bank account swiftly.
With this in mind, I'm pleased to tell you that Pure FX charges just £15 for priority international transfers worth below £50,000. You'll get a highly competitive exchange rate, and Pure FX offers same-day transfers for most mainstream currencies.
Pure FX has over 800 excellent reviews from highly-satisfied existing clients on the independent reviews platform Feefo. Also, we've won Feefo's "Outstanding Service Award" for the last 3 consecutive years, in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Pure FX is a trading name of Foreign Currency Direct Plc which is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority as an Electronic Money Institution (Firm Reference Number 902022).
3b. How to Register An Account with Pure FX
To register with Pure FX, simply visit https://www.purefx.co.uk/register and enter your details. This takes two minutes, is free, and you come under no obligation to transfer money with us. Then, you'll be contacted by one of Pure FX's friendly, professional currency dealers, who'll walk you through the process of setting up your account.
This will include us asking you about your planned money transfer to Thailand, such as how much you intend to transfer, and what's your timescale. This way, we can provide you with our most helpful service. We'll also ask you to comply with legal due diligence and anti-money laundering requirements, such as sending us a form of identification and proof of address.
3c. How to Transfer Money to Thailand with Pure FX
Once you've opened an account, to transfer money from the UK to Thailand with Pure FX, just call your currency dealer, and tell them how much money you'd like to transfer. He or she will tell you the pound to Thai baht exchange rate for that time.
When you accept the exchange rate, you'll then transfer your money from your UK bank account to Pure FX, where your money is safeguarded in line with Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) requirements and is held within segregated bank accounts. We'll then transfer your money to Thailand.
Please note, if you're transferring money from the UK to Thailand to buy a condominium, you'll need to transfer your money in pounds sterling (GBP) to your Thai bank account, then ask for your Thai bank to convert your funds from pounds to baht there. This is to comply with Thailand's legal requirements on foreigners buying property. We'll go into this in more detail, in the Money Transfer Requirements to Buy A Condominium section.
4a. Requirements of Your Thai Bank to Receive Your Funds
When you transfer money from the UK to Thailand, for your Thai bank to receive your funds, you'll need to provide the following information on the payment:
- The name of the recipient and the account number.
- The amount of money you're transferring and the currency. As I've mentioned, if you're transferring money to Thailand to buy a condominium, you'll have to transfer money in pounds sterling (GBP), then ask your Thai bank to convert your funds into baht. I explain why in our section on Money Transfer Requirements to Buy A Condominium.
- Your Thai bank name and address.
- Your Thai bank's SWIFT code. For example, Bangkok Bank's SWIFT code is BKKBTHBK, while Kasikorn Bank's SWIFT code is KASITHBK. You can find a comprehensive list of Thai banks' SWIFT codes here.
- The reason for your transfer. This is because Thai banks are legally obligated to report this information to Thailand's central bank, the Bank of Thailand.
If you've made an international money transfer in the past, such as from the UK to the Eurozone, you will have included your foreign bank account's IBAN (International Bank Account Number). However, only European and Middle Eastern banks use IBANs, so you won't need this to transfer money to your Thai bank account.
4b. What Fees Thai Banks Charge to Receive Your Funds
When your money arrives in your Thai bank account, they'll deduct a fee. For example, Bangkok Bank's fee is 0.25% of the total amount, from a minimum fee of 200 baht to a maximum fee of 500 baht.
You can find a full list of the fees charged for receiving money transfers by Thailand’s most popular banks for expatriates here.
In addition, if your money goes to any intermediary bank from your UK bank account to your destination Thai account, the intermediary bank could also deduct a fee. To learn more about this, speak to your Pure FX currency dealer.
4c. Money Transfer Requirements to Buy A Condominium
As I mention in Requirements of Your Thai Bank to Receive Your Funds, when you make your payment to Thailand, you're legally obligated to state the reason for your transfer. This is so that your receiving bank can report this to the Bank of Thailand.
However, when you're transferring money to buy a condominium, it's especially important to state the purpose of your transfer. This is because, under Thai law, if you're a foreigner buying a condominium in Thailand, you're legally obligated to show that all your funds come from abroad.
With this in mind, on your payment to Thailand, be sure to include all the details of your condominium purchase. For example, this could include the buying price, address such as condo name and room number, and chonote number. This will ensure that the Thai authorities accept the payment.
If you don't state the reason for your transfer on your payment, Thailand's authorities could reject the payment, and return your funds to your UK bank account. If this happens, you'll have to make the payment again, which would mean paying the relevant fees twice.
In addition, a further reason to state the motive of your transfer on your payment is that, this way, you can request a Foreign Telegraphic Transfer (FTT) form from your Thai bank. In Thailand, all money transfers are considered foreign (FTT) or local (ACH). When you buy your condominium, you'll need your FTT form to show to Thailand's Land Office, to prove that the funds come from abroad. Please note, the FTT form is also called the 'credit advice' or 'transfer certificate'.
4d. Foreign Currency Deposit (FCD) Account Vs Local Baht Account
If you're transferring money to Thailand to buy a condominium, you'll need to transfer your money in pounds sterling (GBP), as I mention. That said, when your money arrives in Thailand, you can choose to either hold the funds in pounds in a Foreign Currency Deposit (FCD) Account, or convert them into baht immediately, in a local baht-denominated account.
The advantage of an FCD account is that, if you initially keep your funds in pounds in Thailand, you can choose when to exchange them into baht, rather than convert them on arrival.
In turn, this lets you keep an eye on the foreign exchange rate, and exchange your funds when the pound to baht exchange rate is favourable. This could be useful, if you don't plan to purchase your condominium immediately, and want to try and maximise your baht total.
That said, it's worth noting that, if you decide to open an FCD Account in Thailand, the minimum initial deposit and maintenance fees will probably be higher than with a basic baht-denominated Savings Account. For example, Bangkok Bank's minimum initial deposit for a Foreign Currency Account is £690 or currency equivalent, compared to ฿500 for a baht-denominated basic Savings Account.
You can find an overview of Thailand's most popular expat banks' FCD Accounts here, along with a comparison of their Savings Accounts, and money transfer requirements.
4e. Thai Banks' Exchange Rates to Convert Into Baht
When you transfer money from the UK to Thailand to buy a condominium, you're legally obligated to make the payment in pounds, so that you can demonstrate to the Thai authorities that all the funds for your property purchase come from abroad. Then, when your money has arrived in Thailand, your Thai bank will convert your pounds into baht.
As a result, it's worth comparing the Thai banks' exchange rates, to see who offers the best exchange rate for converting GBP to THB. For example, Bangkok Bank says that, when they receive your money, they'll use their Telegraphic Transfer Buying Rate to exchange your pounds into baht. It would be worth asking a staff member at Bangkok Bank what this Telegraphic Transfer Buying Rate is beforehand.
In addition, it could be worthwhile asking Thailand's expat community what their experience is with Thai banks' exchange rates. For example, Karsten Aichholz at Expat Den writes that "Bangkok Bank seems to offer the lowest fees and best exchange rates when receiving an international transfer in a foreign currency."
5a. Thailand's Legal Restrictions on Foreigners Buying Property
When you transfer money from the UK to Thailand to buy a property, it might help you to know that Thailand has specific laws governing foreigners' purchase of property. Please find these below:
A. In Thailand, foreigners cannot buy land. Given this, if you plan to buy a property in Thailand, it will not be a house, but rather a condominium. The only legal way around this restriction is for you to set up a company in Thailand with a local resident, and buy land this way. Before you do this, it would be a good idea to take legal advice from a Thai solicitor.
B. It's very difficult for foreigners to obtain mortgages in Thailand. This is true regardless of your salary, status or how long you've lived in Thailand. Given this, if you plan to buy property in Thailand, you'll most likely need to have all the funds already available in your UK bank account.
C. As a foreigner buying a condominium in Thailand, you must demonstrate that all the funds for your property purchase come from abroad. As a result, you must transfer money from the UK to Thailand in pounds, then have your Thai bank exchange your funds into baht.
D. On your payment, you must also state that the reason for your transfer is to buy a condominium, so you can claim your Foreign Telegraphic Transfer (FTT) form, to show the Land Office. I explain these points in more detail above, in Money Transfer Requirements to Buy A Condominium.
E. In Thailand, all buildings must have majority Thai ownership. This is to say, where you intend to buy a condo, it must be in a building with up to a maximum of 49% foreign ownership. This is especially important to keep in mind when you're buying a used condo, as the seller might not know what proportion of foreign owners occupy the building.
If you buy a condo in a building where the majority of owners are already foreigners, you won't be allowed to register, and will have to ask a Thai partner or friend to complete the purchase. So if you're in doubt, ask what proportion of owners in the building are foreigners beforehand.
F. The building where you buy your condominium must be governed by Thailand's condominium act, so that the condo can be registered in your name. Be sure to check this.
G. In Thailand, it's illegal for foreigners to make payments to their Thai spouses to finance a property purchase, and then claim that the property is theirs. Any money that a foreigner transfers to their Thai spouse is legally considered a gift, and means that the foreigner cannot claim rights of ownership to any property bought.
This is important to keep in mind, if you're thinking of how to get around Thailand's laws on foreign property ownership. That said, you might be happy to transfer your money to your Thai spouse to buy the property you want, and forego rights of ownership, if your relationship is strong enough. It will be worth consulting with a Thai solicitor on this subject.
H. It's legal to transfer your money to Thailand, then buy your property, while you're in the UK. To do this, you'll have to contract a Thai solicitor and give them power of attorney to act on your behalf, during the property purchase. If you're thinking about this, Expat Den has An In-Depth Guide to Hiring A Lawyer In Thailand.
6a. Multiple Payments to Buy Your Condominium
When you buy a condominium in Thailand, you must demonstrate that all the funds come from abroad, like I mention. That said, you don't have to transfer all your money from the UK to Thailand to buy your condominium in a single payment. Instead, you can transfer your money in multiple payments, to suit the payment schedule of your condominium.
For example, UK expat in Thailand Richard McCully, at Life in a New Country, says that if you're buying a condo which is under construction, the deposit will be relatively small, just ฿50,000 – ฿100,000. Then, you might pay 25% of the outstanding balance a month later, 25% more 6 months before completion, then the remaining 50% balance when the condo is ready.
Remember that, if you decide to transfer your money to Thailand in tranches, to suit your condo's payment schedule, you'll have to follow Thailand's money transfer laws on every payment. These include transferring the money in pounds, stating that the reason for your transfer is to buy a condo, and claiming a Foreign Telegraphic Transfer (FTT) form for every payment. I detail these laws in Money Transfer Requirements to Buy A Condominium.
In addition, whether you choose to transfer your money all at once or in tranches, it's important to give yourself enough time to meet the payment schedule. As a rule of thumb, it's a good idea to transfer your money to Thailand at least a week before you need to make your payment, to give time for the payment to go through. This will ensure that buying your condo goes smoothly.
Also, it's worth remembering that, if you transfer your money to Thailand in tranches, the pound to baht exchange rate you receive from your Thai bank will change each time. In turn, this might impact the overall baht total you receive, which could affect whether you have enough baht to buy your condo.
To overcome this, you might consider transferring your money to a foreign currency account in Thailand, to initially retain your money in pounds. Then, when you're confident that the pound to baht interbank exchange rate is favourable enough to guarantee that you'll receive the baht total you need, you could exchange your pounds for baht.
Alternatively, if you prefer to transfer your money from the UK to Thailand in tranches, to convert into baht immediately, you might consult with your Thai bank beforehand, to see what exchange rate they'll give you. Also, if you've exchanged pounds to baht with your Thai bank in the past, you could use the exchange rates they previously given you as a reference guide for how much baht you'll receive.
7a. Requirements to Retire in Thailand
If you intend to retire in Thailand, you'll have to apply for what's commonly known as a Retirement Visa. Under Thai immigration law, this is called 'an extension of stay based on retirement'. To receive your retirement visa, you have to comply with strict criteria, both to receive your initial retirement visa, and for your annual extension. Please find below the steps to get a Thai Retirement Visa, plus the criteria to meet:
A. You must be over 50 years old.
B. Before getting your retirement visa, you must first obtain a non-immigration visa. To do this, you'll have to supply the Thai embassy with a copy of your passport, and proof that you have enough funds to reside in The Land of Smiles. Under Thai law, there are three methods to demonstrate that you've got enough funds, which I explain below, starting with The 'Lump Sum in Your Thai Bank Account' Method.
C. Once you've got your non-immigration visa, you obtain your one-year retirement visa, which you'll renew annually. To get this, you'll need to provide 1) a copy of your passport, 2) photos, 3) proof of your departure date from your country of origin, 4) your Thai bank book, and 5) a letter from your Thai bank.
D. Next, you obtain an 'extension of stay' notice and a 're-entry permit'. This allows you to re-enter Thailand if you ever leave. You can read more about getting this here.
E. You must report to Thailand's immigration services every 90 days to confirm your presence and verify your address.
F. You must apply for an annual extension of your retirement visa. You can renew your retirement visa up to 45 days before it expires, and it's best to do this well in advance.
By following these steps, you’ll comply with Thailand’s immigration rules for your Retirement Visa.
7b. The 'Lump Sum in Your Thai Bank Account' Method
The first way to meet Thailand's financial requirements to qualify for a Retirement Visa is to have a lump sum in your Thai bank account.
In particular, you must have ฿800,000 in your Thai bank account, at least two months before you apply for your visa. Alternatively, you can also have the sterling equivalent of £19,290 (at today's interbank exchange rate) in your Foreign Currency Deposit (FCD) account. You will also need a letter from your bank verifying your account balance, and a copy of your bank book.
When you Retirement Visa has been granted, you can withdraw funds from your Thai bank account three months later, and the balance must remain above ฿400,000.
Then, when you apply for your annual Visa Extension, the balance in your Thai bank account must be at ฿800,000 at least three months before your application.
7c. The 'Monthly Transfers to Your Thai Bank Account' Method
The second way to meet Thailand's financial criteria for a Retirement Visa is to make monthly money transfers to your Thai bank account. To be specific, you must transfer a minimum of ฿65,000 a month, or £1,570 at today's interbank exchange rate.
When you make these transfers, they must appear as Foreign Telegraphic Transfers (FTT) in your Thai bank account. This is because, according to Thai immigration rules, you're obliged to make "money transfer from overseas every month" to qualify for the Retirement Visa.
This is worth noting, because not all money transfer methods show up as FTTs in your Thai bank account. This is especially the case, if the money transfer company uses an intermediary bank in Thailand, before transferring your funds to your Thai bank account. In addition, some Thai banks are inconsistent about registering international money transfers as FTTs, so you'll need to make sure your Thai bank does this.
In addition, to comply with the 'monthly transfers' criteria for your Retirement Visa, you'll need a letter of certification about these transfers, on deposit at your Thai bank.
Then, when you make your annual Visa Extension, you'll need the letter of certification from your Thai bank, demonstrating these 12 monthly international transfers. You'll have to do this, because as of January 1st 2019, the UK Embassy has stopped issuing income certification letters to British emigrants in Thailand. This is to combat affidavit fraud.
Please find here a translation of the Immigration Bureau's financial requirements for the retirement visa, using the 'money transfer' method.
7d. The 'Monthly Transfers' Method and Your UK Pension
If you intend to retire in Thailand, one possibility for you could be to use your UK pension to comply with Thailand's 'monthly transfer' method, to qualify for your Retirement Visa. However, if that's the case, there are a few points to bear in mind first.
The first point to keep in mind is that, when the UK's International Pensions Centre transfers funds from the UK to Thailand, they use Thailand's local 'BAHTNET' network. As such, UK pension payments might appear in your Thai bank account as local payments, rather than FTT payments. If so, this could complicate things when you apply for your Visa Extension.
The second point to consider is that the UK's International Pensions Centre does not transfer funds to Thailand at the interbank exchange rate. Instead, they use an intermediary bank to transfer your pension to Thailand, and this bank will apply its own 'pounds to baht' exchange rate.
You might find that the exchange rate you receive from the UK Pensions Service's intermediary bank could be improved. If this is the case, Pure FX's offers a Regular Payments Plan (RPP) at highly competitive exchange rates. This is free to set up, you come under no obligation to use us, and you could increase your baht total when you transfer your UK pension to Thailand.
Lastly, it's worth noting that, if you tell the UK International Pensions Centre to transfer your pension to Thailand, this will indicate that you've retired overseas. As such, your pension will be frozen, rather than rising by the current annual minimum of 2.5%, in line with government policy. With this in mind, you might consider receiving your pension in your UK bank account, then transfer this to Thailand, to ensure your receive your annual pension top-up.
7e. The Combination 'Lump Sum And Monthly Transfers' Method
In addition, you can also meet the financial requirements for a Thai Retirement Visa, with a combination of the 'lump sum' and 'monthly transfer' methods. To be specific, if your monthly transfers are below the ฿65,000 stipulated above, you can use this together with a lump sum in your Thai bank account that adds up to ฿800,000 a year.
For example, if you make monthly transfers of just ฿50,000, then you can deposit an extra ฿200,000 in your Thai bank account, to reach the required total.
8a. Thai Restrictions for Foreigners with A Retirement Visa
As a foreigner living in Thailand with a retirement visa, you must obey strict rules, both to ensure that your retirement visa is granted, and for your annual renewal. These include making sure that you have enough funds in your Thai bank account, and reporting to Thailand's immigration department every 90 days, to confirm your address. In addition, there are additional restrictions for foreigners living in Thailand which it's helpful to keep in mind. Please find these below:
A. It's illegal to work in Thailand, if your right to residence is based on a Retirement Visa.
B. If you're a married couple planning to retire in Thailand, it's advisable for both of you to obtain a Retirement Visa. This is because, even though under Thai law it's possible for just the husband to receive a retirement visa, and the wife to become his "dependent", this can cause difficulties later on. Particularly, if the husband dies, then the wife's "dependency extension" is nullified.
9a. Further Reading
I hope you've found this article useful. To help you further when you buy a condominium or retire in Thailand, please find below some further reading:
- Thai Visa: This is an exceptional forum with a wealth of information about all aspects of moving to, living and retiring in Thailand.
- Expat Den: This is an excellent website with lots of comprehensive guides about how to emigrate to and live well in Thailand.
- Life In A New Country: This is British expat Richard McCully's useful website about life in Thailand, including buying a condo.
- The Thailand Life: This is a very useful website about living in Thailand, with posts on topics like where to live and visa renewals.
- Samui For Sale: This is a helpful website, focused on explaining Thai law to foreigners.
- Anonymous, "Condo Apartment Unit Transfer Tax and Fees", SamuiForSale.com.
- Anonymous, "Case Study: Steve’s Experience with Buying a Condo on Sukhumvit Road", July 10th 2018, ExpatDen.com.
- Anonymous, "CONFIRMED: Here is exactly what’s needed for retirement & marriage extensions (income method) from 2019", January 7th 2019, Forum.ThaiVisa.com.
- Anonymous, “Doing the 90-day report”, June 8th 2018, ThaiEmbassy.com.
- Chris Pirazzi, "Rental Contract", Slice-Of-Thai.com.
- Heinz Klaus Thiesen, "Money - Bank account in Thailand", Siam-Info.de.
- Jonathan Fairfield, "Thai immigration reveals new requirements for retirement, marriage extensions (visas)", January 6th 2019, Forum.ThaiVisa.com.
- Karsten Aichholz, "Opening a Thai Bank Account: A Guide for Expats and Tourists", November 2nd 2016, ExpatDen.com.
- Pat and Rae, "How to Ditch the Desk at 53 and Retire in Thailand", February 27th 2018, ExpatDen.com.
- Richard McCully, "Buying a Condo in Thailand: A Step by Step Guide", January 11th 2017, ExpatDen.com.
- Richard McCully, "Buy A Thai Condo", June 26th 2015, LifeInANewCountry.com.
- Richard McCully, "Which Bank is the Best to Use in Thailand", June 1st 2015, LifeInANewCountry.com.