Opening a bank account in a foreign country sounds scary, especially if you are in a non English-speaking country like Vietnam. However, having a local bank account is essential, especially if you plan on transferring money from overseas. It is also extremely convenient as you can use local apps such as GrabPay instead of having to carry large amounts of cash around. Fortunately for you, opening a bank account in Vietnam is actually an extremely simple process. No more awkwardly fumbling around in your wallet for cash!
Which Bank Should I Go With?
When it comes to the choice of banks, you are definitely spoiled for choice! You can opt for international banks such as HSBC, ANZ, UOB, Citibank, or Maybank, just to name a few. Alternatively, you can also opt for local banks such as VietcomBank, ACB, Sacombank, Techcombank, and many others. On a related note, check out this blog post by ODM on interesting promotions that banks have offered customers.
International BanksInternational banks are generally safer to go with, especially if you intend to transfer money from overseas accounts. However, international banks have relatively strict requirements and a higher minimum deposit amount for foreigners. According to the staff at the HSBC branch we visited, most international banks in Vietnam only allow foreigners to open an account if they are staying in Vietnam for more than 1 year.. Make sure to take note of this, as this information is not stated online. Read through the minimum requirements online before you actually visit the branch.
Local BanksThe staff at the HSBC branch we visited encouraged us to open a bank account with a local bank instead, as we were only staying in Vietnam for 5 months. The most highly recommended bank was VietcomBank, which has the most extensive network of ATMs and branches. VietcomBank is a state-owned bank and rated as the strongest bank in Vietnam, so it is a safe option to go with. Local banks have much more lenient requirements for foreigners, including a lower minimum deposit and duration of stay in Vietnam. Interestingly, the marketing for local banks can be improved greatly to attract more customers, especially since there are so many banks to choose from. Many banks give away promotional products, such as these promotional headphones given away by Citibank HK. This is a great way to attract more customers.
What Do I Need to Open a Bank Account?
Regardless of whether you choose to go with an international or local bank, the criteria and documents required are similar:
- Minimum Age: 18 and above
- Account application form: This can be found on the bank's website. You can print and fill it out before going to the bank to save a significant amount of time. Alternatively, you can choose to fill this out at the bank itself. If this is your first time opening a bank account overseas, it is recommended that you fill out the application form at the bank itself. The bank staff would guide you through the details and simplify the entire process.
- Original Passport: Most banks will require you to bring your original passport to open an account, as this is the most common form of identification for foreigners.
- Copy of Passport
- Copy of valid visa entry: Bring a copy of both your visa stamp on your passport, as well as a copy of your visa acceptance letter.
- Copy of labor contract: You are required to provide proof of employment for the duration that you are staying in Vietnam. This is most commonly your employment contract. If you are an intern, you can use your internship acceptance letter.
- Proof of local address: This is the address that you are staying in Vietnam. If you have already secured a deposit at a house or apartment, you can bring along the receipt or contract. Alternatively, most banks will allow you to use the address of your Airbnb or hotel if you are staying mid-to-long term. Some banks, such as VietcomBank, allow you to use the address of your company.
- Minimum Deposit Amount: Varies widely. Check the bank's website to find out. HSBC's minimum deposit is 3,000,000 VND. VietcomBank has a much lower minimum deposit amount of 50,000 VND.
What is the Process of Opening a Bank Account?
You will be glad to know that the process of opening a bank account in Vietnam is extremely simple, and takes less than an hour.
1) Prepare documents: Print out all the documents before you arrive in Vietnam to save time and hassle. If you are already in Vietnam, don't worry! You can print out and photocopy the documents any of the countless print shops around (Use Google Maps).
2) Go to a branch: With all of your documents and passport with you, head over to a branch. An appointment is not necessary. If you decide to go with Vietcombank, head to the central branch at Vietcombank Tower. This is the biggest branch in Ho Chi Minh, and most of the staff speak English fluently. It is recommended that you visit the branch in the morning, as it is much less crowded.
3) Set up your Account: Tell the front desk staff that you wish to open a bank account. Depending on the crowd, you might immediately be able to proceed to a counter. This is where you would submit your documents and sign forms. The staff will explain the fees, requirements, and other important information to you. You would also be required to make the minimum deposit here. We found the staff to be extremely pleasant and efficient, and the whole process was completed in about 30 minutes.
4) Collect your debit card: Your debit card would take about 10 days to prepare. You would be given an appointment slip which you can present at the branch at the stated date to collect your debit card. You need your debit card to make withdrawals from ATMs. If you need to withdraw cash urgently, don't worry! You can visit any branch and present your Passport to make withdrawals.
5) Congratulations! You have opened your very own Vietnamese bank account!
The fees charged by banks varies across different banks. This is the chart of fees that the staff at VietcomBank gave to us. You can waive some of the fees, such as the debit card issuance fee, simply by asking the staff.
Other Important Things to Take Note of:
- Most banks only operate from 8am to 5pm in the weekdays. Banks are closed during weekends and holidays. For that reason, it is recommended that you arrive in Vietnam a few days before your work/school/internship starts to set up your bank account.
- Bring enough cash before arriving in Vietnam if you intend to secure a deposit at an apartment before opening an account.
- If you intend on transferring money to and/or from overseas accounts, ensure that your bank provides you with a Swift Code.
- Bank transfers from overseas would take about half to a full day to reach your account. It might only be deposited in your account the next day.
- Remember to sign up for Internet Banking and Mobile Banking.
- For your own security, when at any print shop, remember to ensure that you have logged off your account before you leave.