To gain an idea of the approx. rate you should be getting it is quite easy to look up the spot rates on the internet or by looking at financial programs such as CNBC where the cross rates are scrolled across the bottom of the screen.
Online a simply search on Google will do well. Look to use the 6 digit Alphabetical codes to get a spot rate such as GBPTHB (Great British pounds vs. Thai Baht), or USDTHB. For holders of Australian Dollars the code is AUDTHB, and for Those from Eurozone countries, EURTHB. A full list of currency codes can be found online covering every country in the world using a 3 digit alphabetical code for each country.
This search will usually bring up an option to visit a Google or Yahoo Finance page in the top results that will provide current up to
the minute spot rates along with a chart that can show the previous prices for the last 24hrs, 1 week, 1 month, or 1 year. Quite useful if you wish to see some historical reference for your currency over the longer term. Still with now in mind, the thing to look for when judging the rates on offer at various banks or currency exchange services is not only the rate on offer to you as a seller of a given currency but also the rate on offer to those who are looking to buy it.
For example if the mid point of the Thai baht against the US dollar is approx. 30, but if you are only getting offered 27 baht per dollar, and buyers have to pay 33 baht then there is a 20% spread (3 baht out of 30 or 10% each way). Therefore if you changed your money with this exchange service and then changed it back again you would lose 20% of your money. This would be a relatively bad deal and yet many people queue up at currency exchange services in European airports where spreads are 30% to 40% or more and even pay a commission fee on top of the bad rates for the privilege of being ripped off. Currency Exchange places to avoid are Travelex and Thomas Cook in the UK, Europe and Australia as the spreads are really quite shockingly bad. It is a wonder that
they even have customers, and yet they have long queues most of the time!
Most people are uninformed and feel that since these are big companies with a reputable presence in the market they will get a fair deal and so trust the company to do just that. Not a good move at all. The thing to do is to avoid changing any money in your home country at the point of departure and hold on to it until you get to Thailand. To be fair all of Thailand’s main banks do give a much
fairer deal as compared to most banks or exchange services overseas. Look for spreads to be as close as 10% to 15% or less. There is also no commission to pay!.
For small and medium amounts of money up to say US$1,000 or equivalent these outlets are a good way to change money and feel hat you have got a fairer deal. There are some dealers in Bangkok who give even better rates with much less total spread than even the mainline Thai Banks. Look for Superich1965 exchange services with branches in Ratchadamri, Silom (Silom-Narathiwas ntersection), BTS Chidlom, BTS Phromphong, Saladaeng, K village, and Khaosan Road in Bangkok and in Khonkaen To further benefit from exchange rates at the above places look to change large bills only. Thus before bringing money into Thailand change all small bills to larger ones and you can benefit from a better rate. The exchange rate for a single $100 USD bill and 20 x $5 USD bills can be substantially different, even if the amounts of foreign currency add up to the same in USD terms.
An even better rate can be secured if you have travelers cheques. These are well worth purchasing in your home currency before leaving for Thailand as they will not attract any exchange rate at that point in time. So if you are in the UK buy Pound sterling travelers cheques. If in the US, then buy USD ones. Simply a commission fee is payable but you can consider travellers cheques to be insured cash since if they are lost you can get them replaced by the issuer.
Buy high denomination cheques such as 500USD or 100 GBP cheques. When cashing them in Thailand the exchange rate will be more favorable than cash. There is a small processing fee for each cheque that again favors high denomination cheques. The savings in exchange rate can almost completely cover the commissions paid at the start of the process. Thus you have almost free insured money. On the flip side, using a credit card or even debit card to exchange money either at a currency exchange kiosk or directly
from an ATM is expensive. So care needs to be taken here. Look to pay 2.5% to your local bank as a service charge at most currency
exchange booths and mainline banks. This may or may not be included in the exchange rate. Also note that you will be billed in your home currency and so the exchange rates will be at the mercy of the credit card issuer or bank overseas. As we have already established these banks give much poorer rates than the Thai Banks. Finally Thai ATMs charge 150 naht for each transaction using
an overseas credit or debit card. This is a loss of equivalent to US$5 for each withdrawal.
One way to get a good a good exchange rate is to send money into Thailand by Telegraphic Transfer. Ask your home country bank to send in the home currency only. Then the exchange will take place in Thailand at the Thai bank rates, which are better then even their cash or travellers cheque rates. Indeed you could see spreads as little as 3% from spot rates using this method. There will likely be a fixed fee for sending money so it is best to send larger amounts. Be aware that you will get the rate on the day of receipt not the day of sending, and that rates can move slightly in that time.
If you have money that you want to bring in to Thailand at todays rate but it wont be ready for transfer until some time in the future, then you can effectively fix the rate by using a hedging technique. Lest say the GBP rate is 50 Thai baht to One British Pound and you want to send a large amount but it is not available until a month or to later. Yet you wish to take advantage of this rate currently on offer today. The best way to proceed for an incoming transfer of say 10,000 Pounds is to sell the equivalent GBP amount against the
baht at a spread better on margin. This is a bet that the British currency will fall in value. Using this method if the pound falls say from 50 to 48, you will have a profit at the spread better even though you will have less money at the time of transfer. This “win” will cover the lost money at the time of transfer and will balance out to the original 50 baht with the spread better profits making up the difference. Conversely if the pound went up to 52 you would lose money at the spread better because you were wrong on the direction (you bet for the Pound to go down), but you would get more money on your actual exchange because the rate went up.
Again this will balance out to the original 50 to the pound you were seeking to fix. Of course you will lose the benefit of any rise in the currency, simply you would stop it falling. Spread betters in the UK and Australia such as IG Index will allow you to take a position ither way in a currency for very small margin and this could be a very good way to fix a currency rate in advance of any actual transfer. Finally another good way to get a better rate for your money is to open up a foreign exchange bank account. Not many banks offer this to individuals but some do. Then the transfer is done between accounts at a preferred rate. Look to open up this account in Thailand to take advantage of Thai rates. Either way you can compare rates using the details above on total spreads so as to be sure you have the best deal.