You may find yourself in Thailand for a myriad of reasons, whatever the case, if you want to send money from Thailand to South Africa – I’ve done all the research for you.
Here is the solution:
Is It The Best Way To Send Money From Thailand To South Africa?
For my more-than-a-year stay, I sent money from Thailand to South Africa almost monthly. So I wanted to make sure I was doing it the best and simplest way possible.
Knowing that I was heading to Thailand and that I would have to constantly send money back to South Africa, my first thought was “international transfers are the best thing ever…” Turns out they are – for financial institutions, not so much for you.
I wanted to find the most cost-effective way to do this and began my research a few months prior to leaving. Since then, I have re-examined the options as new agencies and services have arisen and kept my system the to cheapest way possible.
Before blindly taking this as gospel, I encourage you to do your own research. Compare companies, systems, methods, rates and confirm that this is in fact the best way to do it. If you find something better, please let me know!
Let’s look at some terms that we will be using here and make sure we are all on the same page.
- Conversion rate: the ratio at which one currency is exchanged for another.
- Commission: the percentage charged by the institution or company for using their services.
- Fee: the cost of the transaction.
- IBAN: international bank account number.
- SWIFT: Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication.
- BOP: Balance of Payments (reason for transaction).
At the beginning of the research stages, I compared exchange rates of the major banks in South Africa. Besides the major forex scandal of 2017, they all seem to maintain a similar and fair rate – it would be too blatant to overcharge here.
How about commissions? Each bank charges commission on the amount being transferred and even though the percentages vary, they are all in a similar region.
Fees? Of course! Why wouldn’t there be. Back in 2018 the fees were in the range of R200 to R300 per international transaction; on the receiving end that is.
I went in to a few of the major banks and spoke to the Forex consultants on at least two occasions each, so the information WAS accurate. I’m not being very specific or naming names and numbers as it’s been a while since I updated my knowledge on this.
There is a reason why I didn’t feel the need to; we will get into that in a bit.
Getting A Thai Bank Account
Any of these options would be a lot more challenging without a bank account unless you have some willing and helpful local friends.
Luckily, bank accounts aren’t too difficult for foreigners to open in Thailand and are A LOT cheaper if you do it yourself. Take your passport and a positive attitude to your nearest branch and get going. You will probably be limited to a savings account, but that ain’t so bad.
The small fee charged for opening your account is often deposited straight back into your account for you to withdraw and use. From there, most banks charge a yearly fee (after the first year) of around 600 to 800 THB.
Let me just empahasize again: if you are going to Thailand with a company or agency and they are offering to open a bank account for you, they will probably charge you a lot more than necessary. It’s easier, sure, but not cost-effective – and we are talking about money here.
Which bank should you choose? Even asking locals brings about a sense that it’s much of a muchness. Let’s skip the names and suggest one of the main three colours: Green, Blue and Yellow. We went Green.
What Are The Options For Sending Money?
- International bank-to-bank transfers.
- Online foreign exchange.
- Cash-to-Cash or money movers.
- Carrying actual currency (local exchange).
Bank-to-Bank International Transfers
Sending money from Thailand to South Africa via an international transfer can be a little tricker than you first think.
You Get Three Options:
- Sender pays fees and commission.
- Beneficiary (receiver) pays fees and commission.
- Sender and Beneficiary pay their own fees.
In my case, I owned both the bank accounts, so it was not a case of convenience, but rather of cost. Simply, my findings were that paying your own fees on either side was the best option. Whether it’s because the fees would have to first go through a conversion rate or someone snuck in some interest I’m not sure – that’s just how it panned out.
Before you can make the transaction you have to make sure the facility is open to you and activated. Some bank accounts limit international transfers completely, while some just need a simple activation and, of course, others inherently allow it.
On the Thailand side, you definitely need to activate it. You will need to enable online banking and submit a form with lots of juicy details (you can get all of this from the bank itself and perhaps even the app or website).
- IBAN (Usually just your account number, but not always).
- How much you plan to send and in what period of time.
- Who you are sending the money to.
- Whether it’s recurring or once off.
- Where the funds are coming from.
- Bank phone number.
- Bank address.
- SWIFT code.
- Brach code.
- BOP code.
The above all relates to your South African account, but you have to submit it in Thailand; you may need to do this in person, so as always, take your passport with you (make a copy too).
I know it seems like a lot of work and that’s because it is. This whole process also takes quite a bit of time to set-up and can be a nightmare if you have restrictions back home that you never sorted out before you came.
Finally, You’re Ready To Transfer. How Do You Do It?
You can either take the cash into the bank, transfer from your account in the branch or do it yourself online. The choice is yours, but I would suggest going to the branch. The websites are translated into English, but not very well and when you are dealing with your hard earned cash, there’s no room for errors.
Once you have made the transaction, it will take around 5 to 10 business days to clear in your account back home.
Online Foreign Exchange
Now I have done extensive research into these, but we are talking about sending money from Thailand to South Africa, which is very specific, so I’m only going to focus on PayPal.
I’ve found about 3 others that will allow you to send Baht to Rand, but with the costs, effort and time being almost identical I went with the safer option.
Unfortunately ZAR is still an ‘exotic’ and minor currency, so it’s not extensively covered by most of the services out there.
How To Send Money To South Africa With PayPal
If you are technically, financially or computer savvy, you can just follow the steps below. I’ve gone into much more detail with each step afterwards if you’d like more clarity.
- PayPal account in South Africa.
- FNB Online / Forex account linked to SA PayPal.
- PayPal account in Thailand.
- Link PayPal to Your Thai Account.
- Send money from Thailand to South Africa via PayPal.
- Withdraw money in South Africa to any bank account.
Step 1 – PayPal Account
We are still in South Africa for this portion.
Do you have an email address? Yes? Then you are sorted for creating a PayPal account if you don’t already have one.
It’s so easy, but I have a few warnings for you, so listen up.
Go to the PayPal website and create a personal account (business can work too, but it’s more complicated when it comes to authorisations, so just keep it simple.) It’s free.
Now they will encourage you to do three things: link a card, link a bank account and lift your restrictions.
I’d suggest lifting the restrictions first and this is done by submitting proof of identity that has to match the credentials used to create the account. Baring in mind, if it doesn’t match, your account will be stuck. That’s it. You can’t unlink cards or accounts, can’t delete the account… nothing.
That’s why I say do that first.
After a few days you should be notified that your account has had its restrictions lifted and you are verified. Then proceed to link a card if you so desire.
DO NOT link a bank account yet and DO NOT link your card before lifting restrictions. As said above, if your account is unverified and you’ve already linked a card you cannot unlink it or link that card to any other PayPal account.
It’s a slower process, but trust me, I’ve been through it. Twice.
Now I said don’t link a bank account yet because:
Step 2 – FNB Online Forex Account
The only bank that allows you to withdraw from PayPal in South Africa is FNB. If you have an FNB account YAY! If not, don’t stress – just make sure you do this BEFORE you leave South Africa.
FNB allows you to create an online profile and account, specifically for foreign exchange and PayPal. The whole process can be completed online and via the call center, but I strongly suggest you go into the branch.
Begin the application online (it’s pretty self-explanatory) and if all goes well, then that’s awesome… Chances are though, there will be a hiccup or two that will require you to present yourself in person.
Once you have the online profile up and running, you can link your PayPal account to it. FNB provides you with a clear guide on how to do this and get it verified.
Next, on the FNB site, you input the bank account you wish to withdraw the funds to. This works as a local bank-to-bank transfer so you will need the usuals: bank name, branch, account holder, account number etc.
You can withdraw from PayPal into any South African bank account – it just goes via FNB.
Step 3 – Thai PayPal Account
Now you have a pathway from your South African PayPal account to your South African bank account. Let’s get the other side sorted.
You will need another email address and another PayPal account. I set mine up as soon as I got to Thailand using a local IP address, this makes it a whole lot EASIER as you are taken straight to the Thai PayPal site, where connecting your accounts will be seamless.
A VPN could get you sorted with this while still in South Africa, but you’re going to have to wait to get your bank account sorted that side anyway, so I suggest you bookmark this page and continue as you arrive. (Bookmark: CMD+D on a Mac / CTRL+D on a PC).
The billing address of the card and account you are going to connect are very important, so let’s only get to linking at step 4.
Don’t have a second email address? Set it up for free! You can use your same name and surname (remember, that’s important) but your email address will be different.
Step 4 – Linking Your Thai Account
The process varies slightly from bank to bank, but once you have your card and account be sure to activate online transactions. This will not work without doing that.
It’s not difficult and if you’ve already got the account and aren’t sure how to activate online capabilities, head to your nearest branch and they can help you out. (Most of the time it can be done via the call centre or USSDs, but if you haven’t changed your language settings that can be a mission too – sometimes even the translated messages don’t make that much sense.)
Thai PayPal – check. ✅
Thai Bank Account – check. ✅
Activated for Online use – check. ✅
If you are only planning to send money from Thailand to South Africa and not the other way around, you don’t even need to link the bank account. I did it for good measure, but only ever used the card to send money.
Head to the ‘balance‘ or ‘summary’ tab on PayPal and click ‘add a new card‘. Fill in all the details ensuring to use the correct billing address for your account created in Thailand (the Thai address you used, which really should be where you are staying, but no judgements here).
Within a few days you will notice a small transaction come off your account, enter the amount accurately on your PayPal account and BAM! you’re sorted.
This whole process can be run in reverse, to send money from South Africa to Thailand, so add your bank account too if that’s something you are interested in. It’s a lot easier to withdraw in Thailand than South Africa!
Step 5 – Send Money From Thailand To South Africa
Time to send money from Thailand to South Africa, yip, we made it!
Ah, wait, did you set your currency to USD on both sides? You can log on to PayPal account and click “manage currencies” on the summary page. Set USD as your primary to make the process the most efficient, it’s all explained here.
Okay, now we’re ready to send.
- Sign into your Thai PayPal account and go to “send & request”.
- Type in the email address of your South African PayPal account.
- Input the amount you wish to transfer in USD (or whichever currency you chose if not USD).
- Choose the appropriate option: sending to a friend or paying for a service. I always sent it to a friend…
- Select your funding source if you added more than one card or you have money on your PayPal wallet.
- IMPORTANT: change the currency conversion to “convert with card issuer” (major banks have a better conversion rate).
- Click “send payments now”.
The money should transfer to your South African PayPal account immediately.
Step 6 – Withdraw The Money in South Africa
The money should be in your South African PayPal account now. You can log on to check if you wish, but it’s not necessary.
On the FNB Online site, you go to the PayPal tab under Foreign Exchange and you can see the funds in your account.
If you wish to withdraw some or all of it you can simply click on the withdraw button and type in the amount you wish to take out (again I will remind you, it’s in USD). You will need to enter a BoP code for each transaction.
It will take between 5 to 10 business days to reflect in your account.
Cash-to-Cash or Money Movers
Basically, Western Union.
You can use Western Union online and in person, but PayPal is still the cheapest way to do it online so this option is if you’re planning to do it in person with cash.
A simple Google Maps search will show you where a nearby branch is. They are all over Thailand so finding one shouldn’t be an issue.
Forms, again. You will need to provide the usuals: a BoP code, your address, source of funds, credentials and of course the pick-up point. The money can be collected in South Africa as cash or can be transferred into a bank account for a little extra.
Western Union is the fastest option here, so if there’s an emergency or urgency, this is your go to. Remember that with great speed comes great hidden costs. Make sure you get ALL the fees explained to you, but pay special attention to the conversion rate.
They’ve been known to offer “no commission” which may seem enticing but is often worse.
All of these costs and comparisons are explained here.
Carrying Actual Currency
I’m not going to talk about safety, that’s your call.
You can carry up to 50,000.00 THB across the border per person and an unlimited amount of a foreign currency, but you need to declare anything upwards of R250,000.00
These numbers have a tendency of shifting, so please throw on your research cap if you are planning to do this and confirm the values.
When converting currency, avoid doing it at the airports. The best place to do it is at a major bank and then a money exchanger at a mall away from ports of entry and exit.
Which To Choose
It’s probably quite clear which is my favourite.
I chose PayPal because I would need to make multiple transfers, I didn’t necessarily need it within less than a week and I opted for the cheapest option over all.
Many people have asked me about this process and they are always taken aback when I say that PayPal is the cheapest, but let’s look at the factors.
A fee is a flat rate and you are going to get it no matter what. This means that the best way to reduce the impact of it is to reduce the frequency of the payments. If you can make one transfer during your entire stay, that’s the best option. The fee never increases meaning that it is linear growth, the fewer the transactions, the less the impact.
Commission is a percentage. This means that no matter how big/small or few/many the transfers, the impact remains the same. You can compare commissions, but please take a holistic glance. Companies that try to sell you on ‘no commission’ or ‘low commission’ are still making their money, it’s just harder to see.
The Conversion Rate
Conversion rate. This is the most crucial aspect and yet it’s brushed aside or merely accepted. Granted we don’t all keep tabs on the Forex market, but this is where the market makers catch you out. A small buffer added to the buy rate or dug into the sell rate makes a huge difference overall. It’s exponential, meaning that the more you transfer at a bad rate, the more you lose.
Now we have a catch 22. A bad conversion rate suggests making many smaller transactions and the fee argues for fewer, but larger, transactions. What do we do?
What To Do
Compare conversion rates (and even keep tabs on them to predict trends if you’re so inclined) and then make the largest transaction you can as few times as possible.
In our instance, the banks have the biggest say. This is why we set the conversion to be done via the card issuer and not PayPal when transferring. They can offer the lowest conversion rates because of the monopoly they have, literally, owning the market.
Smaller money movers may leverage their mass world market as a selling point, but they have to use conversion rates decided by the banks. If they didn’t add their own little piece on top of that as well, they would only be making money with their fee which is not lucrative or worthwhile (remember they offer “no commission”). Inherently, therefore, the banks have to have the best conversion rate.
“…but you don’t like international bank transfers” I hear you cry. Yes. Let me ease your confusion.
We only want the banks for their conversion rate, not their fees. The bank fees and commissions for international transfers are taken off of both sides and they are not the most forgiving costs.
Following so far?
So how do we play to the best of the conversion rate, fees and commissions if the institution that has the best rates has the worst fees and commission?
PayPal. We convert using the banks, then transfer for free and only pay the fee and commission which is shown to you before you transact.
Again, FNB then does their own little trick with conversions and fees on the other side, but being a withdrawal of foreign currency rather than a transfer, it still ends up being cheaper.
As few transactions as possible.
Convert via card issuer.
Are You Sure?
I did a lot of research, many times. I quite enjoy calculating all of it and comparing the different possibilities, but I must say that these fees, rates and commissions change often. New services are also opening up all the time… Just, don’t merely take my word for it, double check.
This is the solution I have always come to and have stuck to it in other countries too, not just Thailand.
A few people I know have opted to carry cash, which is very effective, but I couldn’t wait until I went back. Others used money movers – I can assure you that my chosen system was a LOT more efficient than the latter.
Some Of The Companies I Looked Into Are:
TransferWise (as soon as they make it possible to send money from Thailand to South Africa with them, throw away everything I said and use it! I’m still waiting though…)
There’s more than enough information on these and more out there, but they are either geared solely towards the US and/or the major currencies, or they are just too costly to even consider for us.
Some Useful Tips
Set Notifications To Email
Before you leave South Africa, change your notifications to email, not SMS. If you need to make any transfers or just want to be aware of what’s going on with your account, setting your notifications to email is cheaper than roaming on your sim card!
You cannot set this up if you are already out of the country, so make sure you do it well in advance. It took me three trips to the bank for them to finally get it working.
Getting Paid On The 10th
A lot of Asian countries process their salaries and wages on the 10th of the (following) month. If you have some debts to pay in South Africa at the end of the month, this gives you enough time to make the transfer.
Bookmark All Your Accounts
If you’re not completely sure of the process, you may forget the order from time-to-time. Bookmark (ctrl+D/cmd+D) this article as well as your login to:
– Thai bank online site.
– Thai PayPal site.
– South African PayPal site (or save the credentials & keep one bookmark.)
– FNB online site.
– Home bank online site.
You can create a folder and store all the bookmarks in order, so you remember and to make the process simpler.
If you don’t already have one, make yourself a budget or download a free template online.
Keep track of what’s coming in, what’s going out and what’s left – add as much detail as you’d like, but you cannot plan without it.
We keep a daily budget that is quite intricate, but it’s necessary as we have funds and accounts in all different places that need to be tracked (as well as our spending of course).
Use Cash In Thailand
You can use your card in Thailand, but it’s rarely done. Cash is king here and it’s safe enough to keep cash on you.
While in South Africa you can trust every establishment to have a card machine, that’s not the case here and it’s safer to have money on hand.
Activate Your South African Card
Depending on which bank you use, you should be able to activate your cards for overseas use on the App. Simply input the countries, layovers and dates – within 24 hours it should be good to go.
You CAN do this while overseas already, I have. Just make sure you do it before you use your card. Chances are (if you don’t activate it) it will work once and then you may end up spending hours on the phone with your fraud department or worse, your card could get swallowed.
Don’t Convert In Your Head
If you’re coming to stay in the country for a while, it’s not a bad idea to have a sort of “base-rate” for understanding the cost of living.
However, avoid constantly converting back and forth in your head. You are living in Thailand (or whichever country) and it’s never going to be a fair comparison if you are comparing to another country.
You need to compare the costs to one another. That’s the only way to truly grasp whether something is cheap, expensive or worthwhile.
Take Some Dollars
If you are already going to convert money to take with you to Thailand, it can come in handy to have some dollars.
We travel frequently and are in multiple airports, so it’s not feasible to try and get each currency each time. Using our cards is an option, but we always avoid that conversion rate, fee and commission when we can.
Carrying dollars is a good, universal way of making sure you can always grab a coffee in the airport or pay for the Visa on Arrival.
Taking Money From South Africa To Thailand
Taking Cash – Which Currency?
You want to avoid converting as much as possible. Every time you do, you lose a little (or a lot if you don’t go to the right place.)
I’d suggest converting whatever amount you wish to take with you into Baht before you leave. Again, the banks are the way to go and you will need to provide a flight ticket as proof of the journey.
Take about 50% in 1000’s, 25% in 500’s and 25% in 100s. This ensures that you can step off the plane and pay for a hotel as readily as you can buy street food from a vendor outside.
Withdrawing In Thailand
You can withdraw a max of 30,000.00 to 35,000.00 THB per transaction.
Believe it or not, I tried to make this as straight forward as I could. I just kept on adding pieces in that I felt were important because I wanted to help you see the whole picture.
So… I really hope this helps you. If you have any questions about how to send money from Thailand to South Africa (or just living in Thailand), pop them down below and I’ll get on it!
If you’re interested in why we even had to send money from Thailand to South Africa – we lived there for a year and a half!
“How did you survive?” You may ask. Well, we went to Teach in Thailand; here’s a recount of that.
Are you planning to teach abroad? Make sure you’re as ready as possible!
Travelling Within Thailand
If you are a massive fan of travelling (as we are) you might like 12Go Asia.
We booked all of our Southeast Asia transportation through them and were always more than satisfied; you can start planning your trip below.
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