Money in Thailand: Card and Cash Safety Tips for Travelers


Traveling in Thailand is no fun without money. Protect your cards against dodgy ATMs, ID swiping vendors, counterfeit currency and more with these tips.

Money in Thailand: Card and Cash Safety Tips for Travelers

Counterfeit currency

The 1000 Baht note is Thailand’s largest paper denomination and is widely avoided by street vendors and transport operators because of the high number of fakes in circulation.

It’s common to have shop owners question the validity of the bill or simply refuse to take it, explaining it’s too difficult to break the bill.

Spotting a fake Thai baht note

Genuine 1000 Baht notes, (roughly US$30) can be verified by a range of security features.

  • The watermark of Thai King Phumiphol situated in the white space on the right-hand side of the note. The watermark can be seen if held up to light. Fake bills usually will not have this watermark.
  • On the opposite side of the note, you will see six markers which have a metallic sheen. Fake bills will usually not contain this feature or, if they do, the markers will not have a metallic sheen.
  • A genuine note feels dry and smooth. Counterfeit bills feel ‘greasy’ or ‘slippery’ due to the cheapness and freshness of the ink used to print them.
  • The fiber of a genuine bill is sturdy and made with strong materials. A counterfeit bill uses cheap paper and is easy frayed or torn.

Card skimming

Card skimming at ATMs and EFTPOS machines is rife in Thailand‘s tourist hot spots. It‘s hard to spot an ATM or EFTPOS machine that‘s been tampered with because they don‘t look like the ones you’re used to at home. Whenever possible use only the machines inside banks, hotels and reputable businesses. Avoid markets, smaller businesses and even some tailors, cash is the better option.

If you‘re using an ATM that has ‘eaten‘ your card, look for a plastic slot that‘s holding it.

If your cash doesn‘t come out, a ‘friendly local‘ may give you some advice, like re-entering your pin to get the money. This is, of course, a scam. He‘ll be memorizing your PIN to use with the card his device has just captured.

Most Thai banks and reputable ATMs will charge a withdrawal fee of THB 150-200 per withdrawal.

ATM panic code myth

You might have heard that if you‘re being forced by thieves to withdraw cash from an ATM, that if you enter your PIN backward it triggers an alarm and the police will be called. Don‘t believe it, it‘s not true.

Shopping with cards safely

Before you head to Thailand, advise your bank of your travel dates. As well as letting the bank know when you are, it will help highlight any mysterious transactions which may appear after you arrive home.

Never let your credit card out of your sight, whether you are at the shops, in a restaurant or any business. It only takes a swipe to record your data and a look at the security code on the back.

Some crafty shopkeepers have been known to memorize credit card numbers and security codes. Not much you can do about that, except check your bank statements regularly and report any irregularities.

Watch out for scams, too. Know what you’re likely to encounter with our guide to scams, and learn how to not get ripped-off!

Avoiding rip-offs in Thailand

Thailand is cheap, really cheap, unbelievably cheap – if you‘re a local. Everyone else is fair game. You will pay more for everything. You can call this a rip-off and let it bother you, or you can call it an unofficial tourist tax and cop it with grace. It’s usually only small change.

But there are other rip-offs which cross the line:

Entry fee rip-offs

The fare or entrance price is on a board written in Thai for locals and English for everyone else. If you could understand the Thai script, you‘d see how much more you‘re being charged.

Menu rip-offs

the same goes for bar and restaurant menus, the price for farangs is often higher. Have a look at the Thai language script, the numerals are usually decipherable. Compare the menus side-by-side – items are usually in the same order on the page or board, so you can spot the corresponding prices. Even if the prices are written in words instead of numerals,

Tuk-tuk rip-offs

Tuk-tuk drivers may give you change in scrunched up notes. By the time you‘ve unfolded the bills, counted them up and worked out you‘ve been short-changed, the tuk-tuk is gone.

Taxi rip-offs

Taxis are one of the biggest sources of complaints by travelers. If the driver won‘t use the meter, get out and find one that will. The fares they quote are always at least double the metered fare.

Learn more about using Thailand’s taxis and tuk-tuks with our Thailand transport guide. It’ll save you from being ripped-off.

Tout rip-offs

Touts and “travel agents“ acting as middlemen or ‘fixers‘ will inflate the price of tickets astronomically. Often it‘s hard to spot them because they‘ve set themselves up in official-looking offices with names very similar to the legitimate business. There‘s even a fake tourist bureau near Bangkok‘s airport where taxi drivers on commission deliver you. The bureau agent will say they‘ve never heard of your hotel, hinting it‘s a scam, but the real scam is the alternative accommodation where they send you – a less-than-adequate overpriced and poorly located establishment.

Are you covered for rip-offs?

If you are swindled, scammed, hustled or bustled out of your money, then sorry, but travel insurance can‘t help you there. But say you cop a spatula in the face from an angry chef who wants you to pay $300 for his specialty rice, and you are injured. You are able to make a claim based on any medical costs you sustain.

If a c.r.a.z.y tuk-tuk driver carts you at warp speed to a gem shop, and you have a crash and get injured, you are able to make a claim.

If you get food poisoning from restaurant food and fall violently ill, you could potentially miss a flight or a pre-booked tour. If this is the case, contact your tour provider or airline to see if you can reschedule, or get a refund. If neither of these is possible (but most of the time they are), you can make a claim to be reimbursed for any deposit you may lose.

It basically works like this, we can‘t insure you for acts relating to your gullibility. But if you get preyed upon and get hurt, you are able to claim.