Update 2019: what is the best credit card for Thailand and Southeast Asia?


Are you looking for the optimal credit card for your travels? Here you can find out which providers can save you a lot of money abroad. I compared the credit cards and show you which cards you can use to withdraw money and pay in foreign currency free of charge outside of Europe. And of course also whoever reimburses you the foreign fees of the local banks.

Luckily, the times when you had to worry about how traveler checks work and how much cash you have to take with you on your trip are long gone. Myanmar, the last Southeast Asian country, introduced ATMs some time ago. Other countries such as Thailand or Vietnam have had good coverage for many years.

Accordingly, if you have your passport and a credit card with you, not much can happen to you on the way.

Based on my experience and intensive research, this extensive contribution has been created. If you don't have the time to read it in full, here is a brief summary:

The most important information about travel credit cards at a glance

  • By choosing the right credit card, you can still save a lot of money on your trips.
  • mehr erstattet. The foreign fees of up to 5 euros per withdrawal, which are incurred at ATMs in Thailand or the Philippines, for example, have not been reimbursed by the banks comdirect and DKB since 2016.
  • At the moment you can only get these foreign fees back with the 1plus Visa Card from Santander . It is the only card that really does not cost you cash in any country in the world. And with that my recommendation as the best travel credit card .
  • In addition, the Santander credit card also allows free payment in foreign currency, which only a few other free credit cards allow (for example, if you pay for hotels, flights, tours, etc. outside Europe in local currency).
  • Employees can apply for the Santander credit card. The bank often requests proof of salary from the past three months. However, there is still no binding statement in which case trainees and students receive the card. The Santander credit card is also available for students and can in principle also be issued to the self-employed.
  • As an alternative to the Santander card, the Genial Card from Hanseatic Bank has been available since September 2019. This is permanently free of charge, you can withdraw cash free of charge worldwide and pay in foreign currency. Only the foreign fees of the machine operators are not reimbursed.

The alternative with a current account. In the event that you also need a checking account or your application to Santander is rejected, there are other attractive offers:

  • If you also need a free current account, I recommend the popular DKB credit card , which is interesting for both travel and everyday life at home due to the attractive overall package. However, since 2017 only if you use the account “actively”. This means that there are at least 700 euros received per month. If you meet this requirement, you can pay and withdraw money in foreign currency free of charge (except for the foreign fees). Ab sofort bietet die DKB bei diesem Konto besondere Angebote für Studenten an (ISIC-Studentenausweis mit vielen Vorteilen). Update: The DKB is now offering special offers for students with this account (ISIC student ID card with many advantages).
  • If you need a checking account that saves you money for your travels, for example, but remains unused for many months of the year, comdirect is the better choice. With this card you can withdraw cash free of charge worldwide and you have a free checking account with no obligations. Here, however, I also recommend the Santander credit card or the Genial Card so that you can also pay for free in foreign currency (in restaurants, hotels, etc.).
    It is generally advisable to use several credit cards. Below I name other interesting credit cards.

Tips and information about credit cards when traveling

The following article is quite long. If you are already familiar with topics such as foreign fees, foreign currency etc. and only want to update yourself here, you can jump directly to the advantages and disadvantages of the individual cards via the table of contents.

You can do the following with a credit card at home and on the go around the world:

At ATMs:

  • Withdraw cash

On the Internet:

  • Book and pay for flights, rooms, tours. The same applies to eVisa applications.
  • Make reservations (often the card number is only required as security)

In hotels, restaurants, shops, car rental companies, etc .:

  • pay bills
  • Deposit collateral (for example, credit card data is read in when renting a car and at the reception of expensive hotels)

In contrast to a credit card, you cannot pay with the EC card on many websites or make bookings. When traveling through Southeast Asia, you cannot use them, for example, to pay at the checkout in a hotel or supermarket.

With EC cards with the Maestro or Cirrus symbol, however, you can withdraw cash at ATMs. However, your bank will charge high fees for this. Cards with a V-Pay symbol are useless in Southeast Asia. The payment system is not accepted there.

I always take two credit cards from different providers with me on a trip. It can always happen that there are problems with withdrawing money. There can be many reasons for this. Sometimes a card is not accepted, sometimes the machine is broken. However, there may also be a problem with your account. You may have forgotten to debit and have now exhausted your credit line. Or your card has been blocked due to suspicious account activity. Then it is an advantage if you have a second option.

By the way: For emergencies, I still have 150 euros in cash with me, which I can change when there is no longer any way to withdraw money. But that has never happened in all these years.

Both Visa and Mastercard are widespread in Southeast Asia and have a dense network of acceptance points. The distribution at Amex and Diner's Club is less good.

With all common hotel and flight booking portals, payment with Visa or Mastercard is possible.

You should take a little time to choose your credit card. Because costs lurk everywhere. Depending on the provider, these can include:

  • Issuing fees for opening an account
  • Credit card creation costs
  • Account management fees (often a minimum monthly deposit is required to avoid them)
  • Fees for payments in a foreign currency
  • Cash withdrawal fees
  • Foreign fees at the ATM

The Santander credit card is currently the only one that does not incur any of these fees and the third-party fees are reimbursed.

Many credit card providers charge fees of up to EUR 100 or more for the annual use of their card, at the latest from the 2nd year. But there are also a number of providers who offer their cards for free. To compare them, you should take a look at the following points.

Many credit card providers charge you fees when you withdraw cash from ATMs outside of Europe. The amount is based on the amount withdrawn. Here are a few examples of what large German banks charge for withdrawing money, for example in Thailand (based on the total amount):

  • Deutsche Bank: up to 1.75%
  • Sparkasse: up to 3.5%
  • Postbank: up to 1.85%
  • Commerzbank: up to 3.5%

With the credit cards that I present under point 6, however, withdrawing money is free worldwide!

Regardless of whether your bank charges you for withdrawing money outside of Europe, in some countries the ATM operators may charge you an additional fee.

You can withdraw 5,000 baht from an ATM in Bangkok. The Thai bank will charge you an additional 180 to 220 baht for this withdrawal (this is approximately 5.07 to 6.20 euros).

Fees are independent of how much you withdraw. And they are due again with each further withdrawal! Even if there are no costs from your bank, that's a lot of money. If you withdraw money every three days during a three-week vacation, you will get around 25 euros.

The only bank that will reimburse you this amount in the future upon request is the Santander Bank .

The comdirect bank stopped these goodwill payments on February 15, 2016, the DKB on June 1, 2016.

In the following countries in Southeast Asia, an additional fee per withdrawal is charged:

  • Cambodia $ 4 - $ 5 (€ 3.54 - € 4.43)
  • Laos 20,000 - 40,000 KIP (€ 2.06 - € 4.12)
  • Myanmar: 5,000 kyat (€ 2.87)
  • Philippines 200 PHP (€ 3.37)
  • Thailand 180 - 220 baht (€ 5.07 - € 6.20)
  • Vietnam: 20,000 - 50,000 dong (€ 0.76 - € 1.91)


  • Exchange rates from 06.05.2018
  • In some countries there are isolated banks in the countries mentioned, from whose ATMs it is free to withdraw money.

Most banks will charge you an additional fee for your foreign assignment if you do not pay in euros but in the respective national currency ("foreign currency").

You pay the bill for your hotel in Thailand or your diving course in Indonesia with a credit card. The amount is shown in the local currency "Baht" or "Rupee". In this case, you will have to pay fees of between 1.5 and 2 percent of the invoice amount at almost all banks.

Exceptions include Santander, the Genial Card of the Hanseatic Bank and the DKB (see below).

Which credit card is best for Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia

In this case, the decisive factor for "best" for me is immediate cost avoidance. There are credit cards with which you can participate in bonus programs or receive discounts. I'll go into that in point 9.

The following is about how you can immediately save money and avoid fees. The DKB Visa card has long been the ultimate in this matter. But since the third-party fees are no longer reimbursed, an additional look at other cards has been worthwhile. In addition to the DKB, these are the credit cards from Santander, the Hanseatic Bank, comdirect and N26.

Advantages and disadvantages of each credit card

Santander 1plus VISA Card


  • no annual fee
  • Withdraw cash free of charge worldwide.
  • Foreign fees will be reimbursed to the cardholder on request (there is no other card).
  • Pay worldwide in foreign currencies (national currencies) without charge.
  • 1% discount for refueling worldwide (if the Santander Visa Card was paid to me, maximum 400 euros in sales per month)
  • You can use your existing checking account for the debits.
  • Update: Video-Ident has been possible since July 2019, so you save a lot of time when registering. Upon request, a bank employee will fill out your application after you have registered.


  • 13.16% borrowing rate if you do not fully balance your account on time
  • comparatively high fees for special services (replacement card, new pin number, etc.)
  • Cash withdrawals a maximum of € 300 per day
  • Only 5% of the amount is debited as part of the monthly statement. You have to transfer the rest by hand. Otherwise interest is due.
  • No binding statement as to whether and on what terms students, trainees, unemployed, etc. can apply for the card.


The Santander Bank credit card is without question. Withdraw money worldwide free of charge, reimbursement of foreign fees and no fees on credit card payments in other national currencies. These are the prerequisites for the ideal travel credit card.

However, the Santander Bank naturally has nothing to give away. If you fail to balance your credit card account in time, you will be charged quite high debit interest of 13.6%. That is almost twice as much as at the DKB. The fees for special services such as card replacement, ordering a pin, etc. are much higher here. Nevertheless, the Santander credit card is the new number 1 for travel credit cards for Southeast Asia. It is also the right choice for you if you frequently withdraw money in countries such as Thailand, Vietnam or Cambodia and also pay for hotels, flights, tours or restaurants in the local currency on site or online. But always keep an eye on where costs may arise and transfer the amount you have spent on time to avoid debit interest.

-> Apply for the Santander 1plus VISA Card now

Attention: It is still unclear whether you have to have a permanent job at the time of application. Some students report that their application was rejected. I have already sent a request for an official statement to Santander. In this regard, I am also looking forward to experience reports.

Update 02.12.2016: The self-employed have been issued the card repeatedly.

Update 01.08.2018. According to the bank, students also receive the card.

Awesome card from the Hanseatic Bank


  • permanently no annual fee
  • Pay worldwide in foreign currencies (national currencies) without charge.
  • Withdraw cash free of charge worldwide.
  • 100 percent settlement by direct debit possible
  • Apple Pay
  • immediate credit line of up to € 2,500 possible
  • You can use your existing checking account for the debits.
  • Fast video identification process


  • 12.82% borrowing rate if you do not fully balance your account on time
  • no reimbursement of foreign fees in countries like Thailand
  • only for applicants residing in Germany


The Hanseatic Bank's Genial Card is a really good deal for travelers. No annual fee and no worldwide withdrawal fees, as well as paying in foreign currency make the credit card an ideal travel companion.

Only the foreign fees of the machine operators are not reimbursed, which is currently only available from Santander. For this you can increase the monthly debit from the preset 3% to 100%. Then you no longer have to worry about transferring too late and then having to pay high debit interest. This is not possible with Santander and many other Kreedsit cards.

Also positive: Free partner card possible, Apple Pay, contactless payment and registration via video ID.

-> Apply for the Hanseatic Bank Genial Card now


The DKB has recently changed its business model several times. Although the third-party fees are no longer reimbursed, it is still an attractive overall package. An important change came into effect on December 1, 2016: The DKB would like to have more active customers who actually use the account in everyday life and not just three weeks a year during the holiday season.

For the DKB, an active customer is someone with a monthly receipt of at least EUR 700 on the account. As a thank you for this, the fees for payments in foreign currency (for example in a hotel in Thailand) will no longer apply. That is a significant improvement. This regulation also applies to new customers in the first year, regardless of the amount of money received.

After that, however, the following applies: Without the € 700 monthly payment, you have to pay fees for some services (1.75 for withdrawals outside Europe and 1.75% for payments in foreign currency). In this case you are better off with Santander's offer or - if you don't get a contract there - with comdirect.

Students will immediately receive a voucher code for the international student ID card from ISIC (for one year) when the contract is signed. This saves you money in selected online shops, restaurants and bars (more than 150,000 discounts in over 130 countries). In addition, there are student flights on favorable terms, services for stays abroad as well as cheap travel insurance. In order to receive the voucher, you have to enter "Students" as an activity when opening an account. It is then sent by email and takes about three weeks.


  • no annual fee
  • special offers for students
  • Withdraw cash free of charge worldwide (however, foreign fees apply in some countries)
  • free checking account
  • Pay worldwide in foreign currencies (national currencies) without charge.
  • 0.7% 0.4% interest on credit on the credit card
  • with 6.9% lowest borrowing rate
  • Cashback in many shops, restaurants and online shops
  • Fast registration with video indent
  • A positive aspect in passing: The DKB supports many sustainable projects, for example in the field of renewable energies. It also provides loans for day care centers, hospitals and nursing homes. The Focus Money awarded the DKB 2018 as the “most sustainable company”.


  • no reimbursement of foreign fees
  • 700 euros in payment per month are mandatory, otherwise 1.75% will be charged for payments in foreign currency and 1.75% for withdrawals outside of Europe


The offer of the DKB is still great. Although the reimbursement of foreign fees, which was an important advantage in Southeast Asia, is no longer available, it offers you many other advantages. It is not without reason that the Focus Money DKB current account (edition 16/2015) was awarded the “Best Current Account” in the online accounts category. DKB-Cash also came first in the n-tv test. The option of paying as an active customer in foreign currency free of charge since 01.12.2016 makes the card a top product.

The DKB card is preferable to the Santander or to be used in combination with it if you occasionally happen that you cannot pay the credit card expenses immediately or that you also need a good checking account and maybe not as often in Thailand Co.

If - for whatever reason - you cannot deposit EUR 700 a month into your account, I would not use the DKB credit cards in Southeast Asia. If you can manage that, the DKB is a good choice

-> Apply for the DKB VISA Card now.

Comdirect (VISA)


  • no annual fee
  • Withdraw cash free of charge worldwide (however, foreign fees apply in some countries)
  • free checking account
  • free girocard
  • 50, - Euro starting credit (bonus)


  • Foreign fees are not reimbursed
  • 1.75% when paying in foreign currency


Comdirect's offer is similar to that of the DKB. It is better if you do not want to use the account as regularly and deposit less than 700 euros a month. If you have entrances of this amount or more, the DKB offer is more attractive. However, comdirect currently has a starting credit of 50 euros as soon as you use the account. A combination with Santander is worthwhile because of the fees for payments in foreign currency.

-> Apply for the comdirect VISA Card now

Because the N26 account is always recommended in forums and groups, I list the offer here:


  • no annual fee
  • Good app with lots of options
  • Account opening in a few minutes
  • pay free of charge in foreign currency
  • pay with Apple Pay


  • Foreign fees are not reimbursed
  • 1.7% fee for withdrawals in foreign currencies, unless you have the N26 Black tariff (currently EUR 5 per month)


An interesting account of the young company. Above all, the many features of the app make it interesting. As a travel credit card for Southeast Asia, however, N26 can only be recommended in the Black tariff

-> Apply for N26 now

Norisbank (Mastercard)


  • Withdraw cash free of charge worldwide with the Mastercard
  • Withdraw cash free of charge with the Maestrocard throughout Germany.
  • free checking account and free credit card.


  • Foreign fees are not reimbursed
  • 1.75% when paying in foreign currency
  • Credit card availability limits start at EUR 500 and only increase after three months with regular payment. You cannot increase the framework through transfers.


The Norisbank offer is attractive if you also need a free current account. With the Maestrocard you can withdraw money free of charge from cashgroup machines. As a travel credit card, the Norisbank Mastercard is particularly attractive in countries without foreign fees. The low availability limit at the start is a disadvantage for the spontaneous.

-> Apply for the Norisbank Mastercard now

Summary and recommendation

In the table you will find an overview of the most important points.

Bank Withdrawal fees outside Europe Reimbursement of third-party fees? Fees for paying in foreign currency borrowing rate
Santander € 0.00 Yes 0% 13.6%
Awesome Card € 0.00 No 0% 12.82
DKB € 0.00 No 0 or 1.75% 6.9%
comdirect € 0.00 No 1.75% 8.95%
N26 € 0 - 1.75% No 0% 8.9%

The credit card market is on the move. After DKB and comdirect were THE Traveler credit cards for many years - praised by travel blogs and magazines - we are now faced with a new situation. The foreign fees repeatedly demanded in Southeast Asia are no longer reimbursed by both banks. The Spanish Santander Bank took the opposite step in 2016 and is assuming these costs. Will it become the new number 1 among travelers?

With the additional option of also making payments in national currencies without additional costs, it offers the best conditions for this. If you want to save immediately, you will overlook the high debit interest and the high costs for card replacement, etc.

Anyone who does not want or cannot conclude the credit card contract with Santander is in good hands with the Hanseatic Bank or the DKB (with a current account / alternatively: comdirect). Basically, I recommend taking two different credit cards with you on your trip anyway.

The right card for you:

Recommendation 1: Santander - for everyone who only wants a good credit card to travel with.

Recommendation 2: Santander and DKB - if you also need a good Giro account in addition to the travel credit card.

Recommendation 3: Hanseatic Bank - if you don't get the Santander card or don't want to use it.

Recommendation 4: comdirect and Santander , if you need a current account and cannot guarantee an entry of EUR 700 per month.

It is generally advisable to have two credit cards from different providers with you!

Other credit providers advertise that you can use sales to collect bonus miles, payback points, etc. and later exchange them for attractive rewards. If you are interested, in any case calculate exactly, ...

  • whether it really pays off for you (have you ever tried to trade in air miles?)
  • how much bonus you get (in cash)
  • and how much money you would have saved with another credit card in the same time.

And remember: There are no points for taking off at the machine. If you pay three for four euros each time, you quickly get a decent sum. I also wrote that you can use different credit cards at the same time. For example, one that you use to make your purchases at home and collect points, and one that you use to withdraw money from ATMs abroad.

If you drive a lot by car, an ADAC credit card , for example, may be useful, for which you have to pay annual fees, but receive discounts on rental cars and fuel sales as well as insurance benefits

Other banks advertise with attractive rewards that you get when you close an account. Clearly 100, - Euro start credit sound attractive. However, also note what you get from it in the long term!

There is no general answer to the question of which credit card you can get the best out of. The individual requirements and wishes are too different. To find out, you can dig through the depths of terms and conditions and rewards for days.

Credit card usage and security tips

  • Don't panic if there is no money coming out of the machine. The causes can be of various kinds. Just try the next machine.
  • Take the numbers you need to have your account blocked in the event of a card loss. The central number in Germany is: 0049/116 116
  • You have a credit at the DKB card, but also at many other providers, that you can dispose of. Since the costs on vacation are sometimes higher, you should transfer money from your bank account to the Visa account in advance. This way you increase your availability and prevent you from standing at the machine and getting nothing.
  • When paying with a credit card, the credit card company also earns, of course. For example, if you pay a sum of 1,000 baht, the bank retains 2-4 percent before transferring the rest to the merchant. Therefore, smaller restaurants, hotels, exchange schools etc. sometimes add this amount to the price. Most of the time, this is already pointed out on signs or menus.

Tips on money finance at home and when traveling

  • If you also want to use your EC card to withdraw money outside of Europe, you should inform your bank in advance about the destination of your trip and its duration.
  • Also ask your bank if there are daily or weekly limits for withdrawals outside of Europe. You can have that temporarily increased.
  • Change money before the trip - that was it. The exchange rates at our house are so bad, it just isn't worth it. I always go to the vending machine at the airport and draw about 200 euros in the local currency.
  • If you want to change euros or Swiss francs to the local currency in the destination country, avoid the airports. Here you get the least for your money.

Conclusion on the best travel credit card

The Santander credit card currently offers me the best deal for travelers to Southeast Asia. This is due to the enormous amounts that you can save with third-party fees and when paying on site.

Here you can apply for the Santander credit card free of charge .

The Hanseatic Bank's Genial Card is almost as good.

However, there are different needs of every traveler. Therefore, use the points above to check exactly what is important to you. You can't go wrong with the DKB credit card .

Especially when things have to go fast, both are an attractive option because of the video identification process.

What experience have you had with credit cards while traveling?

Note: The article was created with great care. I regularly check whether the terms of use of the providers mentioned change. I also research for new offers. If you discover something that is out of date, I would be happy to receive a comment.

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