In Thailand, Laos, Cambodia & Vietnam ATM’s like to charge you a withdrawal fee for you using their services. Not only is this annoying but on a long trip this starts to add up pretty quickly.
We are travelling with a Caxton FX card which is a pre-loaded VISA card. We are charged a 2.75% withdrawal fee each time we use it, this though is cheaper than our bank, especially on smaller withdrawals where our bank levies a minimum fee. The Caxton card also seemed to be one of the better cards for rates of exchange when we looked into it before our trip. It also stops those frustrating situations where your bank blocks your card for “suspicious transactions in Vietnam,” even though you have already told them you are in Vietnam and will be using your card, doh! Our liability on the card only goes as far as what is loaded on it, so if it is stolen or eaten by a cash machine it isn’t too devastating. We also have a Nationwide credit card which offers a very good exchange rate and no fees, anywhere that will take the credit card for point of sale transactions we use it as a first choice. For cash withdrawals though the fees are hefty so we never use it for that.
So when we do have to take out cash we are mindful of the additional fees the ATM’s charge and trying to keep these down. This is what we have discovered in each country:
There is no avoiding ATM fees it seems in Thailand. But, some ATM’s have higher fees than others. We found that Bangkok Bank was the best deal charging 150 Baht (c. £3) per withdrawal compared to a lot of other companies which were charging 180 Baht. This is a flat fee per transaction so we would do a maximum withdrawal each time (our card lets us take out £300 per day) even though usually we don’t like to carry so much cash on us. Annoyingly places charged anything from 3-5% for using a credit card so that wasn’t always available to use as often as we would have liked. We had to work it out each time, factoring in the 150 Baht withdrawal fee for cash, to work out if it was better to use cash or credit card in a given situation.
Again, there seemed to be no avoiding ATM fees in Laos. Like Thailand it was a per transaction fee which was 20,000 Kip or c. £1.60. However, unlike Thailand, the ATM’s restricted what you could take out per withdrawal to 1,000,000 Kip or c. £80 so it was working out way more costly than Thailand. We didn’t find any work arounds or better deals here. We did find that an ANZ cash machine lets you take out 2,000,000 Kip in one go, but it charges you 40,000 for the privilege. Again a lot of places charged for credit cards so we had to weigh up each time which was cheaper, cash or credit card depending on what the percentage levied was.
At last, a country where we found free withdrawals! We found that BIDC let us take money out with no charge. We also discovered Canadia bank had no fees, but had an explicit message that this was just for European issued VISA cards. All other ATM’s we tried levied a withdrawal fee. Again, some places charged for using the credit card so it was a case of weighing it up versus the Caxton charge to work out the best deal for us in each situation.
Hurray, another country with some free ATM’s! BIDV lets us withdraw money with no fee as does ACB, although this is like Canadia in Cambodia, it says it is only for European issued VISA cards. All other ATM’s we have tried levy a withdrawal fee. Credit card charges seem to occur less frequently here, but we have had the occasional place with a charge and this tends to be 3%, so obviously Caxton wins in those scenarios.