Readers' Submissions

Yet More Daily Adventures In Bangkok

  • Written by BKKSteve
  • June 23rd, 2006
  • 14 min read


By BKKSW

I certainly hope I’m not boring the pants off the Stickman readers who are surely accustomed to more exciting topics and subjects, however when one decides to live in Bangkok as a full time expat then there are the day to day things that catch your attention and either through shear boredom or perhaps because you think the information might be useful to someone else you drag out the old keyboard and make a post. And because we have what is it a 800 word minimum post limit? Then at times I’ve got to add about 600 words of bullshit to be able to give 200 words of information. However, I do try to spice up the bullshit and make it more interesting when I can, like adding Tabasco to tomato soup or peanut butter to chocolate or whipped cream to. well you get the message I’m sure.:) Anyway, this is one of those times you’re getting 600 words of bullshit and I’m going to do my best to include some insight and commentary to make it worth your read.

Btw – I suppose you could call me an expat. I draw a pension (and have since before I was 40) and could easily live off it here in the Kingdom, and I have moved here, but I also have other income coming in from a variety of sources all over the world because of the nature of my work. So do we call that an “workpat” but without a work permit? So far I haven’t sold services in Thailand, or cashed my checks in a Thai bank, and there is some controversy about the legality of day trading from here and “technically” needing to hold a work permit since you’re here when you do it. Maybe someone can write about that. But in my case I travel to other countries, do my job (akin to collecting information), come back to Thailand and put all my information together (package it) and send it off to those who pay me for it. who then kindly send checks to an off-shore account other than the states. So. work permit required? Maybe. For certain I’m not taking any Thai jobs away, that’s for sure. I wish a lawyer who knew this sort of stuff would write about it.

I’m going to assume that since my last 4-5 posts have been so close together most of you will remember my wife is currently in the states leaving me here in Bangkok all alone which is certainly a hardship, especially when the massage girl is doing her thing…: ) And that while she used to take care of all the bill paying and banking that I’ve had to make arrangements to take care of these mundane chores for myself and set up my own bank accounts, on-line banking, etc, etc. I’ll admit to being lazy about these things. The last time I licked a stamp was back in the late 80’s, since then it’s been on-line banking ever since Checkfree corporation went into business and acoustic modems went on sale. I have electronic records of every bill I’ve ever paid going back to the mid-80’s except for my times in Thailand when all you’ll see are large ATM withdrawals.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with withdrawing 25,000 baht at a time and sticking it in your pocket hoping no one sees you and getting the hell out of the area as fast as you can while making sure no one is following you then sticking the baht in your “safe place” back at your house and doing it maybe four days in a row until you have enough baht on hand to pay the rent, bills, etc, and all the while you’re hoping no on rips you off and discovers your secret coffee can in the shoebox at the rear of the top shelf of your closet. But friends, frankly that gets old and while I’m a big believer of having a fair amount of cash on hand while staying in a foreign country (get out of jail and then the country in a hurry money in case something really bad happens), and I always carry enough cash to eat, stay at a hotel, pay for a massage, etc. in my wallet. I just think that routinely carrying around large sums of cash puts you at risk for foul play, especially in a country where many of the men are making 5,000-10,000 baht a month. They see you take 25,000 baht from the ATM, and the thoughts of a slight rap on the head and being a few months ahead financially is pretty great is it not? And this is from a guy who walks into the Toyota Dealership with 1.2m baht in my knapsack in cash to pay for my SUV without thinking anything of it because everyone is carrying a knapsack around and no one saw me put the money inside it like many of the professional thieves who stalk the ATM machines.

So a better solution was needed.

Before moving to Thailand permanently this last time I opened a Bank of America account because BofA has a branch over on Wireless road and I’ve used them in the past for large transfers and received great buy and sell rates though and you didn’t hear it here. if you have NEW perfect condition $100 US bills. in any large quantity. you can. probably illegally. sell them for 2-4 baht above the going buy rate from several unmentionable shops. It’s important that the series of the bills be correct, the condition be perfect, and so on. because as we know everyone and their brother and uncle is counterfeiting US currency and certain series, quality, etc, eliminates the possibility of getting stuck with bogus bills. So if you often travel to and from a country where you can get your hands on large sums (above 5k, preferably above 10k) of these bills and want a better exchange rate there are places to get this done. Do so at your own risk however.

Now we’ve established that before moving here I opened a BofA account and signed up for their on-line banking. BofA offers “transfer” services that in effects lets you add and then verify accounts from other banking institutions (even those not your own, like my kids' accounts for instance when they need to borrow some cash) and then move money back and forth among these accounts. I do this often, in fact monthly on several accounts, and have never been charged a single cent for transfers from accounts “inside” the bank or accounts “outside” the bank. So, armed with a brand new Bank of Bangkok account and not wanting to make 4-5 trips to the ATM machine and then deposits at the bank in person each month (after all the entire goal of this banking thing is to do it all by computer and not have to take time out of my day to do bill paying activities) I decided to see if I could add a foreign bank to my list of “outside” banks. Brilliant idea if you ask me!!!

Going through the setup process I feed in “Bangkok Bank” and BofA comes back with the only choice of “Bangkok Bank Public Company LTD Corp” and it sounded close enough right? So I completed the rest of the process which is merely feeding in an account number. They don’t even ask you who owns the account. Only the name of the bank and the account and routing number. So now we move on to the verifying stage. To “verify” an account BofA makes two small deposits within the next few days that are under a dollar. like 25 cents and 86 cents. Then they send you an email and tell you to go to your bank, find out the amounts, and then go on-line and entre these amounts to verify your account. Once this is done you can transfer money into and out of the account at will.

Three days goes by. I get the email. I go to Bangkok Bank and they put my passbook (don’t passbooks bring up fond memories of your childhood when US banks used to have such cute things?) in their machine and it adds all recent activity. I see two small deposits, one for 12.98 baht and another for 24.74 baht. Can we see the problem yet?

Rushing home with this new information I log onto my BofA account on-line and go to “verify new accounts” and they ask me to entre the amounts in US dollars! Of course they don’t have a choice for entering baht! So. I hook up the headset to the Yahoo phone service (if you sign up for this service, tell them when signing up that you live in the states, then it only costs you 1 cent a minute to call anywhere in the USA from Thailand…J) because I know I’m in for the long haul and wait for the banks to open in the states.

After going through a slew of on-line phone prompts (I hate these things, the inventor should be slowly tortured in the secret detention camps I’ve heard they have in Europe.:) I’m finally connected to the on-line banking supervisor's supervisor explaining my situation for the 24th time. Of course we’re still not getting anywhere. According to them the new account sign up centre would never allow a foreign bank to be added to their list so I can’t be right and I’m making a big mistake! I read out the bank's name, routing number, etc, and they check it and agree that it’s in the system, but that it must be in the system by accident. Every heard of Google? They hadn’t, but while chatting away with them I Googled “Bangkok Bank Public Company LTD Corp” and found Bangkok Bank's website, searched under locations, and learned they have one single branch in the USA and it’s in New York! And somehow they managed to get hooked up in BofA’s account list and they’re not on any of my three other banks account lists because I’ve checked. I figure that if these nice BofA supervisors can’t help me soon then using the date / time of the transfer, and the going exchange rate for those hours, I can come pretty close using simple arithmetic, and after all you get three tries to enter the two amounts and verify your account before getting locked out and having to try again. I figure. I can try twice and if that doesn’t work then I can call up Bangkok Bank in New York and see what it will take to get the amounts of the two deposits which would probably involve going back to my local Bangkok Bank and working with the cheery manager who truly loves me and filling out more forms in Thai and kissing her ass more than several times.

So like a third grader I carefully work out the math and get my numbers. One number is easy, it can only round up so I know it’s right. The other number depending on if the transfer was made at 0100 or 0101 could be 82.49 cents (round down to 82) or 82.51 cents (round up to 83), but hey I have three tries and I only need two to see if this will work, and I can save the last for the call to Bangkok Bank New York. Right?

Hunching over the laptop like a criminal hacker I carefully enter my first two numbers, a bead of sweat falls off my forehead and hits the keyboard as I press “entre” and it gets REJECTED!!! Do not pass go, do not get verified! Crap! Ok. concentrating more, sweat now stinging my eyes, I entre the second set of numbers and hit “entre” and get REJECTED AGAIN!!!! NOOOOOOOO!!!!! This can’t be happening. I really do know how to do division and addition and all that. I hold two masters degrees, I must know enough math to figure out the exchange rate right? Hmm. . Taking another look I see I made a typo!

Now I’m really sweating and have to make the choice to have confidence in my math and use up my third try, which if I’m wrong we start all over again and another week goes by, OR I spend a few more hours on the phone to the states calling the New York Branch of Bangkok Bank and do whatever leg work is required by the lovely lady manager who secretly dreams of feeding my testicles to the ducks. I decide to risk the third try. Using a towel this time to catch the sweat I enter the two numbers, double and then triple check them, and with a trembling finger hit “entre” and wait. and wait. and I know it’s taking to long. and waiting. and finally I get “CONGRATULATIONS!!! YOUR NEW ACCOUNT IS VERIFIED!!!” What a relief, it was almost orgasmic in intensity, for sure better than I’ve had in the last three weeks. J

Now to test the system. I transfer $1000 from my BofA checking account to my Bangkok Bank, and $200 from my Bangkok Bank account in Thailand to my BofA account in America. Everything looks good. Tomorrow I’ll go down to Bangkok Bank and confirm the transfer went through (only because it takes two weeks to set up the Bangkok Bank On-line banking and that isn’t completed yet) and I’ll log into my on-line BofA account and verify the $200 from Bangkok Bank made it. If so I’m one happy camper! This will mean that once my Bangkok Bank 0n-line banking is activated I can sit in the comfort of my home and pay ALL of my bills, never take more than I need for the moment from the ATM, and no more visits to the Bangkok Bank and the account manager from hell!!!

So far so good.

Meanwhile today I found time to call my travel agency and confirm that if I buy my tickets to Siem Reap on-line that I can save over 6,400 baht from using my travel agency! Since the only airline that goes there direct from Bangkok to Siem Reap in the “Boutique Airlines” Bangkok Airways. they charge more than twice as much for this 45 minute flight than I can get a ticket for all the way to Singapore where they have competing airlines! Business I suppose. add on airport taxes, Bangkok departure 500 baht fees, and it gets quite expensive to visit Siem Reap. No problem, I have the receipt from my Mai Noi where I had to pay over 4,000 baht in VAT taxes that I’m going to remember to take with me this time and get it refunded at the airport. That will help somewhat.

Anyway, until the next exciting thing happens to me…J I hope someone finds this transfer stuff useful. Using one BofA account you can effectively transfer money to all of the BG’s you’re sponsoring transfer fee free from just one account. and now this is the dirty part. once they (your bg gf) gives you those two deposits so you can verify the account. then you can transfer money from her account into your account! No kidding! I told my son I wanted to try this from his account and moved $100 into my account one day and back the next. and it worked fine. Now how’s that for a helpful hint? Don’t say I never did anything for you.:) Btw, earlier I mentioned that I was never charged a transfer fee from BofA into any of my stateside accounts? I was charged $3 for the transfer into the Bangkok Bank account and it told me this and asked me if I wanted to proceed before it completed the transfer. A call to both BofA and Bangkok Bank reveals I get the straight 100% buy/sell rate listen on their site for the day, no surcharges or percentages. IF this turns out to not be the case with my first transfer then I’ll make another submission. But I’m sure it is, otherwise my math would have been off when I did the arithmetic for the two deposit amounts so THREE DOLLARS a transfer no matter how small or how large. I worked up a $100 transfer and it asked me if I’d ok the $3 fee and I declined, and then I worked up a $50,000 transfer and it was the same $3 fee. and I declined. Same for all amounts.

I hope this helps someone who needs to make regular deposits. or maybe prompts someone else with a better plan (less than $3) that allows you to NOT have your retirement checks and other checks directly deposited in Thai bank accounts where you lose that control. Better days.

Stickman's thoughts:

Very interesting indeed.