|

Money in Vietnam: A Tourist Guide to ATMs, Cards and Exchange

This is for all travelers to Vietnam who want to know how to handle money and payments in the country of the Dong.

I will tell you all about withdrawing from an ATM, exchanging currency, and paying by card.

Do you want to know which ATMs don’t charge an access fee? (hint: TPbank)

Do you wonder if you can use Revolut and Wise in Vietnam? (Yes, no problems at all)

This is the full guide to money in Vietnam for tourists!

Currency in Vietnam

The currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese đồng with code VND.

First things first – don’t laugh at the name! It’s the name for the copper material of the coins in Vietnam’s ancient past. In modern times it just means money, plain and simple.

It’s one of those currencies with a lot of zeroes. Rampant inflation after 1985 resulted in one of the weakest currencies (unit for unit) in the world to this day. And the proliferation of the joke that everybody is a millionaire in Vietnam.

2 banknotes of 500.000 Vietnamese dong each
1 million VND is around 42 USD

There are no coins in Vietnam anymore.

The banknote denominations are 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10.000, 20.000, 50.000, 100.000, 200.000, and 500.000.

All banknotes 10.000 and over are now made of polymer making them very durable (unlike money in Uzbekistan where you also have to carry lots around and they get ruined pretty quickly being of cotton)

The biggest banknote of 500.000 VND (~21$) means you don’t have to carry a thick lump of money like with the Indonesian Rupiah.

Can you use your card in Vietnam?

Yes, you can use your foreign card to pay for some things in Vietnam.

Foreign card payments are not that common though. It’s only true in cities and popular tourist hotspots. Bigger hotels, bigger supermarkets, and most tour operators will accept payment by foreign cards.

However, most still charge 2% to 4% commission.

Smaller supermarkets, traditional open-air markets, family-run guesthouses, etc. of course still only accept cash. Imagine going to a floating market on the Mekong Delta and trying to pay by card, ain’t happening mate!

3 debit cards (Visa and Mastercard) from Monese, Revolut and Curve
Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in Vietnam

All kinds of cards are accepted: Visa, Mastercard, Maestro, and American Express.

ATMs in Vietnam

ATMs are everywhere in the cities of Vietnam. You won’t have to walk more than a few meters to find an ATM.

In more remote locations like Ha Giang region in the far north or rural villages around Sapa finding an ATM may prove to be an impossible task.

TPbank has the best ATMs (and the most stylish)!

Visas and Mastercards will almost always be accepted by ATMs. For Maestro and AMEX you may have to try a few ATMs.

The maximum withdrawal amount on ATMs is between 2 and 5 million VND. The maximum is at TPbank ATMs at 5 million.

Withdrawal Fees

Here comes the tricky part – avoiding those pesky ATM withdrawal fees. I’m not talking about the fees you get charged on your end from your bank – those you can avoid by using a FinTech solution like Revolut, Curve, or Monese.

Most ATMs in Vietnam charge a withdrawal fee between 20.000 and 50.000 VND (0.8-2$).

ATMs without withdrawal fees

After searching for a while I found only 2 banks that offer free withdrawals – TPbank and VPbank as of 2024.

Although most ATMs will tell you if there’s an access fee, some in Vietnam don’t. You will only realize you paid a 50.000 VND fee when you check your bank statement. Urghh!

If you want to avoid these fees, only use TPbank and VPbank!

VPbank is the best ATM to withdraw money in Vietnam
I became Pavlov’s dog every time I saw a TP bank ATM in Vietnam.

And yes, I did try most of the other different banks, including Agribank, Vietinbank, Vietcombank, BIDV, Shinhan Bank, HSBC, and more that I don’t remember the names of. They all charge an access fee.

Some travelers report that Saigon Commercial Bank (SCB) also doesn’t charge a fee. I haven’t tried myself. If you do, let me know in the comments below.

You can find TPbank ATMs on Google Maps. They’re not the most common but there are at least 1-2 in every city (and more in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City).

It’s easily recognizable by its vivid purple colors (although it may have started rebranding to green and red).

Exchanging Money in Vietnam

You don’t have to exchange money in Vietnam if you have a card with low fees like Revolut. It will probably turn out to be more expensive due to the exchange rate margins.

But I understand if you carry cash when traveling and exchange it for the local currency. It’s normal and safe. So here’s how to be prepared about exchanging money in Vietnam.

What currency to bring

As with almost anywhere in the world right now, the US dollar is the best foreign currency to carry to Vietnam.

You will have no issues exchanging these currencies too:

  • Euro;
  • British Pound;
  • Japanese Yen;
  • Chinese Yuan;
  • Swiss Franc;
  • Australian Dollar;
  • New Zealand Dollar;
  • Canadian Dollar;
  • Singaporean Dollar;
  • Malaysian Ringgit;

If your currency is not on the list it’s a good idea to change it to something more widely accepted.

I once tried to exchange 20 euros in Vietinbank where they told me they only change US dollars. But the bank next door, Agribank gladly accepted the euros and exchanged them in a few minutes.

Where to Exchange Money

Vietnam is a popular travel destination and exchanging money is common, widespread, and standard.

You can exchange at:

  • Banks (long procedure and % fee. Bring your passport!)
  • Airports (worst rates)
  • Exchange bureaus in a city (Best rates)
  • Hotels (just okay)
  • Tour Agencies (bad rates considering there’s usually a bureau nearby)
  • Gold and Jewelry stores (Subpar rates)
  • Dodgy guy at the market (you’re setting yourself up to be scammed)

Tips for Changing Money in Vietnam

Most of these are common sense and not any different from other countries. Here are my top tips:

  • Higher denominations = higher rates;
  • Damaged banknotes = lower rates + fee (if accepted at all);
  • Don’t accept foreign banknotes with ANY damage (if changing Dong back to USD for example);

Pro Tips and Common Scams

I’ve compiled some smart tips from my travels to Vietnam and fellow travelers’ confessions to give you a heads-up.

  • Polymer STICKS when even a little wet. Count your banknotes slowly and twice!
  • Never take any banknotes with tears or holes
  • Check banknotes against light (use your smartphone flashlight in the dark) to confirm they are not forgeries
  • Mentally ignore the last 3 zeroes to make calculations easier. 50.000 is just 50k, 20.000 is 20k.
  • Know the multiple of your currency. Say you use US dollars and 10.000 VND is 0.4$. Your multiple is 4. If the price of something is 40.000 VND, ignore the zeroes, multiply by 4 and you have 16, i.e. 1.6$; Quick maths: 230k VND? -> 2.3*4 =9.2 USD.
  • 10k, 50k, and 200k are in a similar shade. Be careful!
  • 20k and 500k are also in a similar shade. Be very careful with these two!
  • The most common scam is when you pay with 500k, the payee then secretly switches it to 20k and pretends he only received 20k. He starts being aggressive, it can get ugly quickly. Change to smaller notes at reputable establishments!

How much cash to bring to Vietnam?

This depends on your way of traveling and your budget. Using your card in Vietnam is pretty easy so there’s no need to go overboard with physical cash.

My advice is to have at least 200$ just in case something goes wrong with your bank cards and you need emergency cash until you sort it out.

Braised pork with noodles (bun cha) = 45k VND (<2$)!

When I went to Vietnam I had exactly that much stashed away but since I exclusively used my Revolut and Curve cards, I’ve only ever changed 20 euros once.

On the other hand, if you’re wondering how much money you need to travel to Vietnam, you can check out my backpacker’s budget report for Vietnam.

Example prices

These are actual price ranges from 2023. Inflation isn’t very high right now, so they should be similar in 2024. (Note: 10.000 = 10k, all prices in VND)

  • Coffee with milk: 10 – 25k;
  • Pho soup: 35 – 50k;
  • Banh Mi sandwich: 6 – 25k;
  • Passionfruit cooler: 15 – 25k;
  • Can of beer (supermarket): 8 – 20k;
  • Can of beer (street bar): 15 – 40k;
  • Museums: 20 – 200k;
  • Public bus ticket in HCMC or Hanoi: 6 – 10k;
  • 1-hour full-body massage: 200-400k;
  • Budget hostel: 30 – 220k (usually breakfast included); 
  • Mid-range hotels – 300 – 800k;
  • Half-day group tour – 500k – 1 million;
  • Overland bus travel – ~50k per hour of travel
A boat ride in Van Long Nature Reserve – 100k (~4$)

See my budget report for Vietnam for more details.

Bargaining

Bargaining is an inseparable part of shopping in Vietnam.

In the eyes of locals, any foreigner is rich. Thus, the first price you will hear will be at least x3 what the locals pay.

It’s not uncommon to get a price 10 times higher than the actual!

As a foreigner, you will never get the locals’ price. But if you bargain playfully and politely, you can easily get a 50% discount most of the time.

Tipping

Tipping is not mandatory in Vietnam.

It’s not expected and it’s not common. Vietnamese people rarely tip.

However, tipping is very much appreciated and will bring about a few smiles your way.

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s answer some of your most burning questions about money in Vietnam.

What is the ATM withdrawal limit in Vietnam?

ATMs commonly have a withdrawal limit of 2,500,000 VND (~100$).

Some ATMs (TPbank for example) allow you to withdraw up to 5 million VND.

Can you use US dollars in Vietnam?

You can use US dollars to pay for SOME things in Vietnam.

For example, tours are usually advertised in dollars and payable in dollars too.

For most daily transactions though, only Vietnamese Dong is accepted.

Can you use Revolut in Vietnam?

Yes, Revolut cards work in Vietnam. Both VISA and Mastercard work. You can withdraw from ATMs and pay on POS terminals with your Revolut card.

Similar fintech apps like Wise, Monese, Curve, N26, and Starling also work there.


If you are going to other Southeast Asian countries, you may want to read my money guides for them too:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *