Banking in Paradise: 5 Familiar Names in Thailand

(Photos and text by Maria Aspan.)

Foreign Options Foreign Options

Thailand seems very well banked, but it's dominated by domestic and other Asian banks. I found very few branches or ATMs for familiar names, even at the airports. (Image: Maria Aspan)

Mobile Money Mobile Money

I saw several ATMs and currency exchange counters inside trucks. The setup seems like either the ultimate in convenient cash or the next great idea for fraudsters on the go. (Image: Maria Aspan)

Citi's Country Citi's Country

Citigroup, which likes to tout its large international business, was by far the most visible U.S. bank in Thailand. Citi only has three branches in the country, all in Bangkok, but its advertising was all over Thailand - including on the awnings over hotels and shops. (Image: Maria Aspan)

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Sky High Sky High

Citi also advertises heavily in Bangkok's public transit system. Ads like these posted in the city's elevated "Skytrain" stations promoted the bank's 200th anniversary, which Citigroup celebrated in June. (Image: Maria Aspan)

Launder and Go Launder and Go

The other familiar bank name I spotted in Bangkok was Standard Chartered, which has 31 branches in Thailand. The U.K. bank found itself in the U.S. spotlight this summer, after it agreed to pay New York regulators $340 million to settle money-laundering charges. (Image: Maria Aspan)

Taking Credit Taking Credit

MasterCard, Visa and American Express all advertise heavily in Thailand - sometimes very loudly. (Image: Maria Aspan)

Merchants Prefer Cash Merchants Prefer Cash

Although some businesses advertised their "preferences" for Visa or MasterCard, actually using a credit card was more difficult. Even at a relatively chic resort hotel, the owner tried to convince me to pay for my entire stay in cash, citing the swipe fees he would have to pay otherwise. Even in Thailand, it seems, you can't escape the interchange wars. (Image: Maria Aspan)

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Several well-known U.S. banks and credit card companies call themselves "global." During a two-week vacation in Thailand, an American Banker editor put their claims to the test.

 

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