And this is everything you need to know about Cash, Credit cards and ATMs in Vietnam.
1. Currency in Vietnam
How does the currency of Vietnam look like?
The official currency used in Vietnam is the Vietnam Dong (VND). The Vietnam dong (VND) come in polymerized and normal paper notes with multiple zeroes. Note that Vietnamese people don’t use coins.
Paper notes include VND 1.000, VND 2.000, VND 5.000. These are the smallest bills
Polymerized notes include VND 10.000, VND 20.000, VND 50.000, VND 100.000, VND 200.000 and VND 500.000. VND 500.000 is the upper limit.
Getting a grip on all those zeroes can be challenging for the first-time visitor to Vietnam. Here is one thing to remember, the smallest bills are made by normal paper and the higher bills are made from polymer.
For the current exchange rate, it changes over time. You must check it on the internet or through smartphones’ apps for the exact information.
Exchanging money in Vietnamese currency
Vietnamese people like using cash than cards for most monetary transactions. Although paying by cards is becoming more and more popular but you can only use cards in places such as restaurants, shopping malls,…
Since sidewalk sales are everywhere in the country and those never accept cards, so bringing cash with you is still the optimal choice.
Also, any payment by other currencies except the VND is illegal in Vietnam. You can only make a payment by Vietnam currency. It’s a must to exchange your money to VND while travelling in Vietnam.
Where to exchange Vietnamese currency?
First off, I want to note that it’s better to come to Vietnam to exchange money than exchange money in your home country. Why?
You will get a much better rate when you exchange your currency in Vietnam. So wait until you arrive here. Many currencies from around the world are widely accepted for exchange, including US dollars, pounds, euros and Australian dollars.
So where to exchange money in Vietnam. You have a few options:
Banks is properly the safest places to exchange your money. At Noi Bai Airport (Hanoi) or Tan San Nhat Airport (Ho Chi Minh City), you will find some Vietinbank and Exim Bank currency exchange stalls after immigration and customs. However, these booths usually apply an unfavorable exchange rate. Therefore, you should only change a small sum enough to cover your taxi fare and other necessities, and then head to town for a better rate.
Banks will let you change foreign currencies and most travelers’ checks. You’ll be charged a commission rate of between 0.5 to 2 percent for the latter.
You can easily find currency exchange counters of popular banks in Vietnam, like Eximbank, Vietcombank, Vietinbank, Agribank, etc, around the city.
If you have the intention to exchange money at banks, always bring new notes; any damaged or dirty notes will be charged an additional two percent of the note’s face value.
Another option for exchanging money is at hotels. Larger hotels can offer competitive rates with banks, but smaller hotels (like those in the Old Quarter of Hanoi) may tack on an additional fee for the service.
Gold and jewelry shops
Exchanging money at gold shops is very simple. No form needed to be filled out, no passport required and it’s very straightforward.
The rates in these shops can be surprisingly fair, with no fees (unlike those in hotels and airport bureaux de change). You can find gold and jewelry shops in Hanoi Old Quarter – particularly Hang Bo and Ha Trung streets. They offer better deals, as do gold and jewelry shops in Ho Chi Minh City’s Nguyen An Ninh Street (near Ben Thanh Market).
>>> Check out How to prepare for a trip to Vietnam
Tips for exchanging Vietnamese money
You should check the current exchange rate first. You can do this by searching the internet or by currency apps on smartphones. It will give you an idea of what the rate is and what you are offered should be reasonably close to it.
Make sure the notes that you’re going to exchange are in good condition. Damages may not be accepted or you will an extra fee to cover.
Make sure when exchanging, you are given a range of VND notes, including some lower denomination. When purchasing low-cost items, if you give them the 500.000 dong notes, they might don’t have enough changes to pay you back. So having a range of notes that include 20.000, 50.000 and 100.000 dong notes will make it easier.
Make sure you count the money before leaving the exchange stall.
Tips for using Vietnamese money
There can be some mistakes in distinguish between two VND denominations. Many tourists have overpaid with VND 100,000 bills, mistaking them for the similarly greenish VND 10,000. Just remember that the one made by polymer always have a higher value than the one made by normal paper.
Warning: polymer notes stick. This will somehow make you accidentally overpay for your goods. Flick or peel your notes carefully when paying for a purchase.
Avoid paying in high-denomination bills. If you’re buying from a vendor, very few of them will willingly change your VND 500,000. Make sure you’re carrying smaller bills when going shopping.
Don’t change your currencies on the black market. The legal exchange rate beats black market rates any time; claims of better rates are probably just the lead-up to a scam.
2. Credit Cards in Vietnam
Visa, Mastercard and JCB are now widely accepted in Vietnam, especially in big cities, hotels, shopping malls, restaurants, spas and cinemas. Sometimes taxis also have a credit card machine.
A 3% commission charge is standard and those businesses which accept Amex often add on an extra 4%. However, this surcharge is not fixed. It tends to be larger in small business retailers than upscale and well-organized service providers.
Obviously, sidewalk stalls won’t accept card so you need to carry cash whenever you’re outside.
3. ATMs in Vietnam
Following Vietnam law, ATMs will only dispense VND, even when your account is originally in other currencies. The amount of money you want to withdraw will be automatically changed from your home currency to VND based on the bank quoted rate at that time.
Where to find ATMs in Vietnam?
You’ll find several ATMs at the airports or everywhere around big cities like Hanoi, HCM City, Da Nang and around tourist areas. Vietcombank has the most ATMs in Vietnam. A number of international banks also have ATMs across the country. These include ANZ, Citibank and HSBC.
ATMs in Vietnam operate 24/7. To find one, use Google Maps to locate the nearest ATM or look up on Google the aforementioned banks on Google.
Will your home credit or debit card work in Vietnam?
You must ask your bank to confirm whether your card will work in Vietnam. Most ATMs accept Plus visa debit and credit cards. ATMs that accept Cirrus and MasterCard are less common.
Chip-and-pin ATMs are rare in Vietnam. Make sure your card has a magnetic stripe on the back, as a chip-and-pin only card probably won’t work.
Most of ATMs in Vietnam use six-digit PINs. If your PIN is four digits long, just add two zeros in front. However, you’d better ask your bank about this.
Withdrawal Limits – Tips for using Vietnamese currency
The maximum amount allowed to be withdrawn and the withdrawal fee for each transaction vary from bank to bank in Vietnam. However, local banks have lower per-transaction withdrawal limits than global banks like Citibank, ANZ, etc.
Vietnamese local banks’ ATMs have rather low per-transaction withdrawal limits, ranging from 2.000.000 VND to 5.000.000 VND. Some of the global banks have a higher withdrawal fee which can be up to 8.000.000 VND to 10.000.000 VND.
Do note that ATMs in big cities have a higher per transaction maximum limit than those located in the suburbs. Once you leave the city, it’s rare to find ATMs that dispense more than VND 2 million per transaction.
>>> A complete guide for Vietnam Itinerary
Transaction Fees – Tips for using Vietnamese money
None of the Vietnamese banks give free withdrawals from foreign accounts. The transaction fees also vary from banks to banks. Normally, transaction fees ranging from 40,000 VND (~2 USD) to 100,000 VND (~5 USD) each time you withdraw money from ATMs.
So is there a way to avoid this fee?
The answer is yes. Here are several ways:
Use your home bank’s partner bank
Unfortunately, no bank in Vietnam is a part of an international fee-free network. However, check with your home bank whether it may have a partnership with a Vietnamese bank that allows you to use ATMs for free or at a reduced cost.
Use international banks: ANZ, HSBC, Citibank
ANZ and Citibank customers can use these banks’ ATMs in Vietnam without paying a withdrawal fee. HSBC also offers fee-free withdrawals, but only if you’re an Advance or Premier customer.
Also, if you need to withdrawals a big amount of money, use these international banks instead since they have much larger per transaction withdrawal limits than other banks. Do keep in mind, however, that their per-transaction fees are also on the high side.