When traveling to a new country, in addition to figure out what to see, how to explore and the budget, tips and tricks especially about how to spend and how to make use of your money should be prioritized. Every traveler to Vietnam have to exchange their money into Vietnam currency since other currencies are not widely used in this country, some payment by other currencies are even illegal. To prevent this, you need to know how to exchange your money in Vietnam.

Is Vietnam safe for your money?

If you are wondering, this review is all you need to know about Cash, Credit cards and ATMs in Vietnam for a safe trip.

1. Currency in Vietnam

1.1. How does the currency of Vietnam look like?

The official currency used in Vietnam is the Vietnam Dong (VND). The Vietnam Dong (VND) comes 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.

[2019] Exchanging Money In Vietnam - Cash, Credit Cards and ATMs

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.

1.2. Exchanging money in Vietnamese currency

Vietnamese people prefer 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 traveling in Vietnam.

1.3. 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

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.

The government-run Vietcombank can exchange dong for US dollars, Euros, British Pounds, Japanese Yen, Thai Baht, and Singapore dollars. Banks in major cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City 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.

Always bring new notes; any damaged or dirty notes will be charged an additional two percent of the note's face value.

(This figure is updated on July 1st, 2019) 

  • Hotels

Another option for exchanging money is at hotels. Larger hotels can offer competitive rates with banks, but smaller hotels 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).

1.4. 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.

[2019] Exchanging Money In Vietnam - Cash, Credit Cards and ATMs

 

1.5. 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.

[2019] Exchanging Money In Vietnam - Cash, Credit Cards and ATMs

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.

 

[2019] Exchanging Money In Vietnam - Cash, Credit Cards and ATMs

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 a lower per-transaction withdrawal limit 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 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.

None of the Vietnamese banks give free withdrawals from foreign accounts. The transaction fees also vary from banks to banks. Normally, transaction fee 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.

 

4. Can US Dollars Be Used?

Not very often. Shops that used to accept payment in dollars are now obliged to ask for payment in the local currency only. You're better off exchanging your money at banks or other authorized currency exchange centers.

Besides, paying in Vietnamese dong gets you better value than paying in dollars. Better to spend day-to-day using VND, while keeping a stash of dollars around for emergency purposes only.

 

5. Do You Need to Tip in Vietnam?

5.1. Tipping in Vietnam

Tipping is not expected in Vietnam and a service charge of between 5% - 10% is often already added to hotel and food bills. Nevertheless, if a local guide or private driver has provided excellent service, a small tip will certainly make them happy.

Don't allow anyone to grab your bags at the hotel or in transportation hubs unless you are willing to tip them. Taxi drivers commonly round up fares and keep the difference as tips.

Major hotels and restaurants in Vietnam add a 5% service charge to bills, so you can choose not to tip at these places. Elsewhere, small tips are always a good thing. Waiters, hired drivers, and guides should be tipped.

5.2. How to calculate the tips

  • Restaurants and bars: Many restaurants don't require tipping, as a 10% service charge is already tacked onto your bill.

  • Porters: A tip with American coins will be greatly appreciated.

  • Hotel Services: Government-run hotels will add a 10% service charge on your bill.

  • Taxi: Tips aren't necessary, but a small gratuity will be greatly appreciated.

 

6. When to Haggle

There’s one golden rule to shopping in Vietnam: bargain, and bargain hard.

“Fixed prices” at most tourist shops aren’t really fixed at all; the listed prices are about 300% higher than the last price you can pay if you dicker long enough. Bargaining is an exacting discipline, and quite exasperating for the novice traveler who’s not used to the grueling back and forth.

And Vietnamese sellers aren't exactly the most cheerful bargainers. In areas with high tourist traffic, sellers sometimes refuse any attempts at bargaining down, knowing that there will always be another tourist willing to pay the prices they quote.

So, in Ho Chi Minh City, sellers at Ben Thanh Market (high tourist traffic) will gouge you hard, while their counterparts at Russian Market (low to middling tourist traffic) will give you some leeway.

It all boils down to: you're a tourist, pay tourist prices. The only effective way of avoiding the “foreigner tax” is to get a Vietnamese friend to haggle on your behalf.

 

7. More Vietnam Money Tips

Don't mistake one bill for another. As if the multiple zeroes aren't confusing enough, some VND denominations can look very similar to the untrained eye. Many tourists have overpaid with VND 100,000 bills, mistaking them for the similarly greenish VND 10,000.

Warning: polymer notes stick. The 2003-issue Vietnam dong are made of long-lasting polymer, not paper: and these plastic notes can stick together, presenting another risk you'll overpay for your goods. Flick or peel your notes carefully when paying for a purchase.

Avoid paying in high-denomination bills. Very few vendors will willingly change your VND 500,000, so 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.

When visiting a pagoda, leave a small donation just before you leave.

These above are some tips for using your money properly in Vietnam. Hope it can be helpful, visit VieGo for more tips.