Thailand: Cash, Don’t Leave Home Without It!

Travel Blogger Meet-up Part 13

On his recent trip to Bangkok, Thailand, to attend a Travel Bloggers Match-up organized by Digital Innovation Asia, Michael Taylor discovers that his Hong Kong ATM card doesn’t work the way it used to.

On previous trips to Thailand I haven’t bothered changing money before leaving Hong Kong. I have simply withdrawn cash from ATMs after my arrival in Bangkok or Phuket – usually at the airport.

I did this because I had read somewhere that ATMs offered better exchange rates than airport money changers.

On my last trip, however, I made a last minute decision to exchange some money at the airport in Hong Kong before my departure, and it’s a good thing I did. I was scheduled to arrive in Bangkok after 1 am. I knew I would tired.

Also, there would be no one at the airport to meet meet, and it would be too late to call anyone if there were a problem. I decided I should have at least enough money to get to my hotel by taxi. I exchanged double the anticipoated amount – to play it safe.

The taxi ride from Bangkok International Airport to the Rembrandt Hotel Bangkok in Downtown Bangkok cost me less than I had expected. The leftover cash was sufficient to cover the incidental expenses I incurred during my first several days in the Big Mango.

ATM to the Rescue? Not!

When my reserves started running out I headed for the nearest ATM to withdraw some cash. On my first attempt, I was informed that the amount exceeded my daily allowance. Ditto on my second attempt.

On my third attempt, I was informed that I had exceeded the allowable number of attempts within a 24 hour period!

Fortunately I was with a friend at the time, and she lent me some money.

Over the next few days, I made several unsuccessful attempts to withdraw cash using my Hong Kong ATM card.

At some point I discovered that the Cirrus, Maestro, and other logos that used to be printed on the back of the card had been replaced by a UnionPay logo on the front of the card.

Letter to the Editor

I vaguely remember reading a letter in the South China Morning Post a few weeks back complaining that HSBC had switched to a new network and it wasn’t as convenient as the old network.

Is this was the letter writer was complaining about?

I decided to try using an ATM card issued by a US bank. I didn’t want to do this owing to the excessively high fees, but I had no choice. My withdrawal was both successful and costly.

I’m heading into town in a short while. I will stop at the local branch of Hang Seng Bank to find out what in the world is going on with my ATM card.

And on future trips I will make sure to take sufficient cash – something that had never seemed necessary over the last 25 years.

Does anyone remember traveler’s cheques?


One Reply to “Thailand: Cash, Don’t Leave Home Without It!”

  1. What I didn’t know at the time was that the Hong Kong Monetary Authority had implemented a new law that if you wanted to withdraw cash from ATMs overseas, you had to get that authorized ahead of time. Unfortunately, that was not widely publicized and I was one of the MANY people not aware of this. A second problem was that HSBC had switched to a different network, which was prevalent throughout mainland China but not in other countries.

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