Whether you're thinking of enjoying a new lifestyle, opening a new business or teaching a language, one of the most up and coming destinations to settle in is Vietnam.
With a growing population of middle class, location-independent young professionals, Vietnam has placed itself as a formidable Asian business hub. As China, the historic manufacturing powerhouse, has begun to slow its ascent, Vietnam has taken over as the place of choice to do business with its lower manufacturing costs and increased infrastructure. As Vietnam continues to grow, the government has made it easier for foreign business owners and investors to build their enterprises there through creating favorable interest rates.
Even if starting a business isn't exactly what you’re looking for, Vietnam is still one of the most beautiful destinations in the world. Exhibiting a vast and rich landscape from the Nha Trang coast to the rolling plains of the Muong Hoa valley and various mountain ranges dotting the countryside, the country has a mix of scenery, urban centers and ancient architecture that's been preserved for hundreds of years.
If you’re one of the many expats ready to move to the beautiful Asian nation, one critically important piece that’s often forgotten during the planning stages is how to get your banking done. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about opening a bank account in Vietnam.
Absolutely. Vietnam gives you the freedom as an incoming expat to open a bank account within its borders. But, like anywhere else, there’s a right way and wrong way to go about it. Making sure you complete the process correctly will save you plenty of headaches down the road.
Creating a bank account while living in Vietnam is a relatively simple process, compared to other countries that require a ton of red tape, waiting and legal action. To start an account you'll need to bring the following documents with you to the bank of your choice when you go to apply.
- A passport
- Stamped visa that's good for three to six months
- Application form
- Minimum deposit depending on which bank you're dealing with
- Valid mailing address
- If you're an expat in the country on a work visa then you'll also want a copy of your work contract
The process itself can be done in an afternoon and most banks don't require extra fees to open a new account.
Most banks in Vietnam allow you to create an account online, provided you have all of the correct documents. A big plus is that there are international banks like HSBC, Citibank and AZN that have a strong presence in major cities like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. So, if you already have an account with these banks, you can link your existing account when you're all set up in Vietnam. Another option you can take is to create an account with these banks prior to leaving your home country so that the account is already set up with the international bank upon arrival.
Like banks all over the world, banking in Vietnam will come with its own set of fees you should be aware of for services throughout your stay. Some of the most common fee types include:
While you typically won't experience ATM fees when using your own bank’s ATMs, using a different bank’s ATM will come with a fee in Vietnam, which varies from bank to bank. When using foreign debit cards you’ll see fees ranging from VND 20,000 to as high as VND 55,000. Additionally, the total amount that you're able to withdraw at a time is relatively low, sometimes as low as VND 2,000,000 which means these ATM transaction fees can add up. You should also know that not all ATMs will tell you the exact fee for removing cash, and will only display a message letting you know there will be fees. It’s equally important to know the kind of exchange rates you should expect to ensure you’re getting the mid-market rate at the ATM.
Vietnam is currently in a large growth phase with more and more people hoping to get in on the ground floor of its economic rise. What that means for you is that services like opening a new account with a bank can be done without paying an upfront fee. However, it should be noted that a minimum balance must be maintained to keep the account. For example, Asia Commercial Bank (ACB) has a minimum of VND 100,000 to open an account and you’ll be charged VND 1,000 a day if the account is under that minimum value.
When you're transferring money internationally between banks your bank will likely charge a fee or even tweak the exchange rate they're giving you. Make sure that you understand what the mid market rate is. This is the actual exchange rate and should be used to ensure that you're getting the best rate. Some vendors will also hide their extra fees by giving you a inflated exchange rate in their favor. If moving money regularly between your foreign and Vietnamese accounts, the smart move would be to use TransferWise to get the real exchange rate without any additional markup or extra transfer fees.
All in all, the bank you choose should reflect the services you need most and their proximity to your work or home. While that choice will be different for everyone, some of the most popular banks in Vietnam include:
Vietnam Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Industry and Trade is a state-owned Vietnamese bank and the largest bank in Vietnam. Some perks for customers include:
- Trading in multiple currencies, including USD and EUR
- Accounts can be used as collateral for loans at VietinBank
- Account ownership is transferable
- Deposits in VND are insured
The Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam, or Vietcombank, represents a wide network of branches and and ATMs across the country. A very popular choice among Vietnamese residents, some benefits for customers include:
- Credit and debit cards
- Online banking
- ATMs all over the country
Popular for being a larger international bank, HSBC has a fairly ubiquitous presence in Vietnam. Customers at HSBC enjoy:
- Overdraft protection
- Global debit card
- Discounts from the HSBC Privilege Club
- Trading in multiple currencies including USD, EUR, GBP, AUD and more
- Online and phone banking
- 24/7 customer service hotline
ANZ offers customers some of the most favorable fees for withdrawals, but doesn’t have a lot of branch locations, especially compared to the non international banks. That being said, it’s still a popular bank in Vietnam thanks to perks like:
- Easy transactions
- Free checkbook
- Multiple currency accounts
- ANZ Smart Account option
If you're an expat in Vietnam and you're planning to use your existing bank account for the time being, or indefinitely to fund your account while in Vietnam, you may want to use TransferWise. TransferWise helps you avoid the ugly exchange rates and extra high cost transfer fees that many banks charge.
The smartest way to handle your money in your new country, hands down, is by having a secure bank account. Going to the bank with the correct documents on hand will make setting up your new account simple and stress free, and you’ll be enjoying financial freedom in the Asian nation in no time. Good luck opening your bank account in Vietnam!