Opening a Bitcoin Wallet in Thailand / Philippines?
I’ve always been a bit of a fish when it comes to investing, stocks / shares / bonds etc. (why don’t they teach us this in school?) and had only vaguely heard of Bitcoin. A friend of a poker friend bought a ton of the cryptocurrency in late 2013 when it was on a huge upswing, then it TANKED big time.
View the value of Bitcoin currency on XE.com
So being scared off by that I never considered opening a Bitcoin account in Thailand. Then recently more and more people started talking about Bitcoin. I saw news articles about how it’s back and on a two year high.
Dante had asked me if I knew about it (always lazy to do his own research) and I said I’d look into it when I got time. Then the price of Bitcoin jumped another 21% in 4 days 😀 I was too slow.
Learning about Bitcoin
About the same time a friend from Vietnam came over to Thailand, and needed some Baht in cash. He couldn’t be bothered to deal with 180 Baht ATM fees using his foreign card. I suggested he go to the SuperRich currency exchange by Asok BTS and swap VND for THB there.
Instead he said ‘never mind, I’ll do a Bitcoin trade‘, and whipped out his smartphone. After a few seconds he handed it to me to put in my Thai bank and account name. Within minutes the money was in my account to withdraw for him.
He explained that he used LocalBitcoins.com to quickly trade Bitcoins for cash anywhere in the world. You just enter how much you want to trade, pick one of the traders (go for one with 100% feedback and 100+ trades) and then your Bitcoins are held in escrow until you get the money (they send first).
Pretty cool. Now I was really motivated to open a Bitcoin wallet myself, and never deal with money changers or ATM fees again (all I needed was a friend with a local bank account, and my phone).
My first Bitcoin account
So I started looking into opening a Bitcoin wallet in Thailand, he recommended Coinbase as one of the most well-known international wallets. So I went for that.
It turned out Coinbase have quite high withdrawal fees in my case though. To cashout Bitcoins to Thailand I’d first need to convert it to Euros incurring an uncapped 1% fee.
Maria’s reaction to Coinbase’s fees
Then when I wired those Euros to my Thai bank account I’d get charged again – Kasikorn takes a 0.25% foreign currency exchange fee, minimum charge 200 baht, maximum 500 baht – so to withdraw say 3 Bitcoins (about €2000) I’d be paying about €33.
Finding a Thailand Bitcoin wallet
So I started Googling around for a Thailand based Bitcoin wallet, found Coins.co.th, and transferred some of my Bitcoins there to test it out. Bitcoin transfers are free, you just copy paste the wallet address (a one-line alphanumerical code) and hit send.
Coins.co.th use inter-bank transfers within Thailand instead of wires, so there’s no wire fee, and on their end they only charge 20 baht for withdrawals.
You need to verify your ID and upload a selfie of yourself holding it (bit weird) but the site looks safe and legit. Once verified I tested a cashout and it arrived within the hour.
The same company are also based in the Philippines (Coins.ph) and have a mobile app of the same name. Perfect for me living in Bangkok and doing visa runs to Manila every 2-3 months.
The Coins.ph app
There isn’t a Coins.co.th mobile app yet but the PH one uses the same balance interchangeably. So if I ever need to send money to someone in the Philippines or do a trade, I’ll be using that.
Both the TH and PH sites use two-factor authentication for added security.
Before when I was using my Kasikorn online shopping card to pay for things online I’d have to enter a one-time password (OTP) sent to me by text message.
That was really annoying because when outside Thailand the texts don’t arrive, and I could never work out how to use international roaming. I don’t think Truemove has it.
No More SMS OTPs
With Coins you don’t need a TH or PH phone signal, only an internet connection. Just install the app ‘Google Authenticator’ and it sends you the OTP in that app, not by SMS.
There’s been a spate of hackings of Thai bank accounts because hackers can spoof your phone number to receive the OTP by text. Google Authenticator stops that happening – no one can do anything without physically having your phone – but Kasikorn don’t support it.
Using Bitcoin to Pay for Stuff Online
As well as being like a second bank account (in case a Thai bank employee steals my balance, I’ve read horror stories about that too) I can use my Coins.co.th account to top up my mobile or pay utility bills.
Coins.co.th mobile top up
I tested it and it delivered phone credit to my True SIM card in seconds. I’ll never have to go to 7/11 and queue up for phone credit again in my life. And I can send load to a Pinay in need.
I haven’t tested it on an electricity / water bill yet, but it supports a range of stuff. You can pay for your Thaicupid date’s credit card bills or university tuition fees too 🙂
Over time more businesses will accept Bitcoin payments, so far some massage spas are already accepting it (wonder how many Bitcoins for a handjob?), tailor shops, bars, Muay Thai gyms – the full list is on the Coins.co.th website. I expect AirBnb and Agoda to accept it soon too.
Buying Bitcoin as an Investment?
Your Bitcoin balance on the Coins website will fluctuate every day based on the rising and falling value of Bitcoin currency. It’s pretty fun to watch.
Bitcoin value increase Nov 2015 – Nov 2016
Bitcoin has more than doubled in value over the last year (1 BTC is worth $750 today, up from $330 this time last year) and it’s a pretty steady uptick, hopefully it continues to rise.
Another thing I’ve considered doing in Thailand is a time deposit with Citibank, you lock away a lump sum of money for a fixed amount of time and collect high interest. But it’s a hassle to open a bank account in Thailand as a foreigner, some banks reject you without a work permit, and there’s a ton of paperwork.
If Bitcoin keeps rising like this it seems a way better investment than any savings account. In the time it took to write this blog post so far my balance has gone up 1000 baht.
Making Money Online Trading Bitcoin?
You can also make side income as a trader on LocalBitcoins.com, start by posting trade at close to the market value to build up positive feedback, then adjust the margin as you get more customers.
For example at the time of writing 1 BTC = 25921 THB. Most people will pick the first trader because he has 3000+ trades and can do up to 100k at a time. He’s buying each bitcoin for 25440 THB so he earns about $14 profit every trade, and it only takes a few seconds.
Just get alerts on your phone every time someone requests a trade (you get 30 mins to respond) and post ads at times of the day when you’re awake. A couple trades a day and you have enough to live off in South East Asia. If you have bank accounts in several countries, you can reach more customers.
No More ATMs?
I haven’t tested it out yet but you can also send money to the Philippines using the app and withdraw it at certain ATMs without the need of an ATM card.
Same applies to Thailand, there are options for bank cash pickup and cardless ATM withdrawal.
Sending money to Thailand with Bitcoin on Coins.co.th
Bitcoin in the Philippines & Thailand – History
Coins.ph came first, established in 2013 by Ron Hose and Runar Petursson, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Based in Manila, today they provide the Bitcoin payments option for Metrodeal and CashCashPinoy.
Bitcoin in the Philippines has had a much smoother history than Thailand, where the first Bitcoin exchange, Bitcoin.co.th, went offline at one point after indications from its central bank that Bitcoin is illegal. That decision was then reversed.
Invite a Friend
Use the links on this page to get 1000 free bits to test out Coins. Top up your phone on me 🙂
Then invite a friend that may be interested in Bitcoin in the Philippines / Thailand – you each get 1000 free bits. The more people that start using Bitcoin, the stronger it becomes as a currency!
Get $10 free when you buy $100 of Bitcoin on Coinbase via this page (avoid the withdrawal fees by transferring to a more local wallet). Then invite a friend for another $10 each.