I went on 2 week holiday to Cambodia. First, I noticed that I could see many brands for different banks, everywhere. Second thing, like in Thailand QR code payments were pretty popular and there were many places where I could pay. The third thing getting money from ATM also costs money (around 4 – 5 USD for the machine owner). So I decided to learn a little bit more about banks, talk with local people and ask what are the requirements for foreigners to open bank accounts there.
Why do you need a Cambodian bank account?
If you spend a short holiday in Cambodia you probably don’t need it, but if you spend more time there you can really consider opening it. What is interesting Cambodia has a big market of e-wallets that allows paying with KHQR unified system of QR code payments in Cambodia. If you also want to pay locally, you can just consider opening an e-wallet instead of a local bank account. If you live in Cambodia for the long term you can want to open a Cambodian bank account to not pay for using ATMs and to be able to transfer money locally easily.
Which account to choose?
You could think that because you can find many Banks in Cambodia you have a big choice and it is not easy to decide where to open a bank account. But honestly, this is not true. There is one bank in Cambodia that is significantly better than other, has better customer service, more branches, and an app that works much better. My Khmer friend told me, that even if you have other bank accounts, you still need this one.
If you ask Khmer people where you should open a bank account, most of them going to tell you that you need to open this one. This is also the bank you going to see really often in public spaces.
- need proof of accommodation for 6 months to open
- can get a debit card Mastercard / Visa / Union Pay
- no minimum deposit for account opening
- everything available in English
- QR code KHQR payments
- 4.3 ⭐ in google play for the mobile app
Everyone told me if I would like to open a bank account in Cambodia I should open one in ABA. I saw their QR codes in many places. They are the biggest bank in Cambodia and have many branches and ATMs around the country. I asked in headquarter about the requirements for an account opening, and the only requirement is a rental contract for more than 6 months (can also be a hotel reservation) and a passport. So I need to say that the requirements are not too hard.
You can open an account in the branch – Bank website: ababank.com
As I said other banks are not that interesting, but still some of them are recommended on other websites.
- ACLEDA Bank – acledabank.com.kh
- Sathapana Bank – sathapana.com.kh
- J Trust Royal Bank – jtrustroyal.com
- Canadia Bank – canadiabank.com.kh
One night just for an experiment I tried to download every possible e-wallet/bank app to my phone and test if I can register. The wing was a microfinance institution but some time ago changed to a bank. Wing has a lot of branches everywhere in Cambodia. I managed to register on the mobile app but identity confirmation failed, so I just decided to go the next day to the headquarter in Phnom Penh (3 minute walk for me). They ask for some documents, my address, and to show my visa (1-month tourist). And they opened a bank account for me, so I managed to open a bank account in Cambodia on a tourist visa. I tested it with my friends and I was able to transfer money through KHQR code system and withdraw money from a virtual card to Zen.com.
What is KHQR?
KHQR is a system created by the National Bank of Cambodia to allow payment with QR codes between banks. Before every bank had a different QR code system, so people were not able to pay merchants that had a bank accounts in different banks. Now it looks like a copy of a Thailand PromtPay, everyone with a bank account can pay with QR codes for TukTuk, street food etc. The system is not as popular as in Thailand but it looks like it is growing pretty fast.
Maybe you don’t really need a bank account? What is different in Thailand is that not only bank account users can pay by national QR code system, but also e-wallet owners. Additionally what is needed to open many e-wallets is only a phone number. I tested with true money Cambodia and I was able to easily open an account there and also get a free online MasterCard.
How to send money to Cambodia?
This is probably the most complicated part. It looks like many banks in Cambodia are not that well connected to the world bank system. So everything depends on the bank. After some research, I think that the best and cheapest way is to get money from ATM (in Cambodia or your home country) the fee in Cambodian ATMs is mostly around 5 USD, if you find a good card you will pay nothing or 1% for getting money for your home bank. If Bank is connected to the SWIFT system (ex. ABA), you can just send money through SWIFT transfer. And another probably the most recommended option by many people, but not that cheap is to use worldremit or westernunion.
How to send money from Cambodia?
I tested a few options and I’ve found a free (or almost free) option to send money from Cambodia to Europe (which should be also possible for other countries). When I opened my Wing bank account, I also applied for a virtual MasterCard card. I am easily able to top up my Zen.com account with USD from my Wing account, I also tried with Revolut, I had a problem at the beginning because Revolut doesn’t accept Cambodian cards, but when I make a proxy with Curve for Revolut I was able to transfer my USD from Cambodian account to Revolut completely for free.
The article is also published in Polish on my blog.