Although you can work with cash for a while, when living in Vietnam there is a need for a bank account. This enables you to keep your money safely stored and allows you a card so you are able to have the freedom to spend as you need. This article will give you some advice on cards and banks in Vietnam.
Getting a bank account in Vietnam
It is important to note that you cannot just walk into a bank in Vietnam and get your own bank account – instead, it needs to be linked to your temporary resident card (TRC) which is the card that you receive as your visa once your organisation has organised your contract etc.
As a result, you need your company to assist you with the bank account as there will be a need for their information etc. Most organisations will have a system set up for ex-pats and they will know which bank to recommend (usually the same bank that the organisation uses) and assist you with the process. However, if you are the first ex-pat that your organisation has worked with, then they may be unsure of the process and you will need to go with the bank with someone from your organisation to get your account sorted out.
Type of account
In Vietnam, it is possible to have accounts in both dollars and the local currency – the Vietnamese dong. The advantage of having a dollar account is that you will then be able to send money back to your home country easily – so check with your organisation to see if this is possible.
If you do have a dollar account then only dollars are able to be paid in however you can withdraw in dollars or in VND. The use of dollars is a very sensitive topic in Vietnam so even if you have hundreds of dollars in your dollar account and now want to take them out, you will be asked the reason why you need to take the dollars out – and you may even be asked for proof e.g. an air ticket to another country etc. Even though on paper your account is in dollars, there is a charge for taking out dollars – so check with the bank to see what these charges are.
With both the dollar and Vietnamese account you are able to take out Vietnamese dong without charge – both in the bank itself as well as with your debit or credit card.
Credit cards and debit cards in banks in Vietnam
When you have a bank account set up then you will be eligible for both a credit card and a debit card – these can be used everywhere – including online – so are very useful to have.
The debit card is the easiest card to obtain in banks in Vietnam. This card uses only money that is in your account – with no overdraft facilities. It is the card that you use to withdraw money from the ATM’s and can be used for online shopping as well.
When using your debit card to get money out of the ATM please note that in most machines there is a small limit as to how much Vietnamese dong you can take out at one time. Typically, this is 3,000,000 VND (approximately 150 US dollars). If you require more ( e.g.. for paying the rent in cash ) then you can put the card straight back into the ATM and re- withdraw. However, this technique can only be used three times before it stops working.
A credit card will be offered in banks in Vietnam, if you are receiving a good salary. And with this card, you use the money and then pay it back at the end of the month. Hacking cards is quite prevalent in Vietnam, so do keep an eye on the card and its transactions – if something pops up that you are unsure about ( hackers often start with a very small amount to test it out ) then get in touch with the bank immediately!
Your credit and debit cards are linked to your visa situation and your temporary resident’s card. So, every time that your TRC is about to run out then you will be asked by your bank to come in and bring your new information so that the card can be reissued. This is often a difficult process ( not least because of the banking hours ),as there is a short time frame before getting your new temporary resident card and the card running out. However, there is no way around this situation.
The most annoying thing about banks in Vietnam is that the majority of them work only Monday to Friday from 8 am (or 9 am) to 5 pm – so for many people who work, these times correspond with the times that you are working.
Due to this, many organisations are aware of the need for you to sometimes visit the bank during your working hours, so if you have some non-teaching time then do ask your organisation if you can go along and visit the bank.
All (or almost all) of the banks offer online banking. Vietnam is very advanced regarding online services so the online banking system is generally well set up. You are able to carry out online banking with either a desktop/laptop or with your phone and they are secure systems.
With the online banking you are able to transfer funds online – both to private accounts as well as for the basic services of electricity/water/internet etc.
It is important to note that the bank has a lot of charges – these are from the issuing of a card to a monthly charge for this and that. These charges are not highlighted when you join the banks in Vietnam and are not made clear. Instead, they are automatically deducted from your account each month. In some banks, these charges are waived if you have a certain amount of funds in your account – so it is worth asking to see if you are almost at the amount needed.
Can’t get a bank account?
Do not worry if you are not able to get a bank account – although it really helps with the convenience of day-to-day life, you can still get paid for your work with a cheque. A cheque in Vietnam is very easy to cas. You simply go to the allocated banks in Vietnam (which is related to the bank which issued the cheque ) with your passport and cheque and they will be able to cash it instantly without any questions asked.