One of the foremost things on every traveller’s mind is money.  Where to get it, how much to keep, how to exchange it, or how to pay for things are all questions that one must think about and understand before visiting a foreign country.  In Vietnam, and generally in the rest of Asia, cash is king, but a complicated one at that!  Before you arrive in Vietnam, take a few minutes to read through this information so that your trip goes without a hitch!

How to Spend Your Money

The front and back images of the money bills in Vietnam.  Make sure you know the difference because some of the colours are repeated!

The front and back images of the money bills in Vietnam. Make sure you know the difference because some of the colours are repeated!

Vietnam offers many opportunities to spend money, whether it be on shopping, travel or delicious food!  You can pay for things in Vietnamese dong (VND), US dollars or by credit card.  Spending in VND is often the best way to go to ensure that you get the best price.  Be careful with the bills – even though all the denominations are different sizes and colours, it can still be hard to differentiate.  For instance, the 500,000 and 20,000 dong notes are both slightly varied shades of blue, and the 200,000 and 50,000 are shades of red.  It is entirely plausible to confuse one for the other.  At the markets or local shops, make sure you carry small bills (less than 100,000) because they may not have change for you.  Many places also accept USD but you will usually not get a very good exchange since the merchant can set their own rate.

Some large stores, hotels and restaurants may accept credit cards but most of them will not!  Make sure you check beforehand.  Firstly, any establishment that allows credit card purchases will generally only accept Visa and MasterCard.  You may have some difficulty in finding places that accept American Express, Diners International or credit cards from other charge card companies.  You will most probably be charged a 2-3% transaction fee for credit card purchases.  On top of that, you may be charged an international transaction fee through your credit card bank or company, usually 3-5% of the purchase price.  If you are an avid traveller, it may be beneficial to obtain a no international fee credit card.  The best ones are the Discover It Card, Capital One Venture Rewards Card, Chase Sapphire Preferred, or the American Express Platinum Card.

In many instances, paying by credit card may not be an available option or may not be cost effective, but there are certain advantages to paying with a credit card.  The first is that Visa and MasterCard give you the best exchange rate of the week.  The exchange rate that they will give you will be better than what you will get for cash at the banks.  Another important consideration when paying for things with credit card is that there is often inherent insurance provided by either the charge card company (Visa/MasterCard) or your credit card company.  For large amount items such as hotels or flights, it may be beneficial to use your credit card, just in case there is a discrepancy or emergency.  Depending on your coverage, you can claim or dispute all sorts of things if you pay by credit card – hotel burglary, fraudulent transactions, insurance for jewelry purchases and more.  However, be very, very aware of the transaction fees and the associated costs, because the cost of using your credit card in Vietnam may not be justified.

How to Exchange Money

Although it is becoming more rare, the practice of exchanging USD at gold and jewelry shops is still prevalent in Vietnam. The exchange rate used to be significantly higher than banks and currency exchange booths but the difference is much smaller now.

Although it is becoming more rare, the practice of exchanging USD at gold and jewelry shops is still prevalent in Vietnam. The exchange rate used to be significantly higher than banks and currency exchange booths but the difference is much smaller now.

If you come with some foreign cash, you can exchange it for VND at banks or currency exchange establishments.  You may get a slightly better rate of return at banks but you will always lose a little bit in the exchange.  The disadvantage of going to a bank to exchange money is that you need to show a passport for identification and you need to fill out a form first.  It can be a hassle when you want to do a quick exchange and then go.  Alternatively, at currency exchange booths you can exchange money instantly.  For USD and CAD, exchange money in increments of $100 to get the best exchange rate.  The currency exchange booths around tourist locations such as Ben Thanh market may charge a higher transaction fee so it is best to avoid them unless you are in a hurry.  Also please note that many exchange places will not accept old or torn bills.  Bring new and crisp bills in order to get the best exchange rate.  If you happen to have damaged bills that no one else will accept, simply go to a bank and exchange it for a new note for a nominal fee.

Another place to exchange USD to VND is at the many gold shops in Vietnam.  This practice is technically illegal but if you have lost or forgotten your passport, banks are not an option for you so you will have to exchange money at booths or gold shops.  It used to be the case that you would get a significantly better exchange rate at the shops than at other places but now the exchange rate is no longer that different.

How to Obtain Money

ATMs are found throughout the city so you will be able to take out cash almost anywhere you are.  But remember to check the rules beforehand so you know how much your credit card company and the ATM will charge you for the withdrawal.  Keep in mind that Techcombank and HSBC bank machines allow the most amount of money to be withdrawn at one time.

ATMs are found throughout the city so you will be able to take out cash almost anywhere you are. But remember to check the rules beforehand so you know how much your credit card company and the ATM will charge you for the withdrawal. Keep in mind that Techcombank and HSBC bank machines allow the most amount of money to be withdrawn at one time.

To obtain more cash, you can always go to any of the ATMs around the city, but first you must know the rules of your bank and your debit or credit card.  There are many credit and debit cards that will charge a hefty fee for withdrawing cash overseas and it can get very expensive!  You will also have to find out what the transaction limit is per day for your card.  As for the ATM associated fees, the withdrawal fee is usually around 20,000 Dong (about $1 USD).  Some people have reported that DongA Bank ATMs do not charge a transaction fee but in our experience there is always a nominal fee.  That said, withdrawing from a credit card will cost you a lot because not only will you be charged for an international cash advance, that amount will start accruing interest immediately.  We recommend withdrawing funds through a debit card.

Most HSBC and TechCom ATMs allow a per transaction maximum withdrawal of 5 million to 6 million dong.  Other ATMs allow around 2 million dong.  For large withdrawals, the ATM will dispense 500,000 dong notes which you will then have to exchange for smaller bills for small purchases.  The ATMs around the city are generally safe but, just as anywhere else in the world, try to avoid ATMs in convenience stores and bars.

If you need really large sums of cash, Western Union is the best way to go.  It is less expensive and more hassle-free than bank wire transfers, and there are hundreds of locations within Ho Chi Minh City alone.  Depending on the amount, you may pay less in a Western Union transaction fee than on international cash advance fees through your bank or credit card.  Simply get a friend or family member to go to a Western Union branch back home and fill out the appropriate paperwork.  Be sure that the spelling of the name of the recipient matches exactly as it is shown on the passport – even one letter off is grounds for refusal.  Note that the money they send to you will be from their own account rather than yours, unless they have power of attorney or joint status for your account.

Remember that no matter what, be safe with the cash that you have.   Avoiding carrying large amounts of money and use a money belt if possible!

Hope you enjoyed another great travel tip brought to you by XO Tours, the most acclaimed food tour in Vietnam! 🙂

 

About the author
41 Comments
  1. Petter

    You forget that in some ATM you can take only 2 millions dong, in another 3 millions dong. This is very little money to the turist.

    The best bank is the Citibank, because you can take out 8 millions dong!

    This is very important to know!

    • XO Tours

      Hi Petter,

      Thank you for your comment! Yes, we agree – as a tourist, the amount of money that some ATMs allow is not a lot. We’ve noted your comment about Citibank. We have not independently verified this information but it may be the case that Citibank allows a withdrawal of up to 8 million Dong with a foreign credit/debit card.

  2. There are some banks who will not allow the withdrawal of money over even 5 million dong especially if it is a foreign bank.
    I think Citibank also have some limitations on the number of times you can withdraw daily with a foreign card.

  3. John

    When I saw the words “Western Union” I instantly became skeptical of your article 🙂

    But then I checked Western Union and sure enough it’s only $10 AUD (Australian) to send a transfer to Vietnam with a decent enough exchange rate (~1.75% loss), which is a good backup if you lose your debit card and need emergency money sent (or if your debit card charges extra fees). You would never use Western Union in Thailand or Indonesia unless it was an emergency – they charge $50 AUD per transfer!

    My Australian debit card (Citibank) doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees and gives a decent enough exchange rate so I only have to worry about external ATM fees (which thankfully isn’t too bad in Vietnam (~$2 AUD) but still frustrating).

    Thanks for the tips.

  4. Shirley Stewart

    Hi.My family of 3 will be travelling to Singapore then to Vietnam in 2 1/2wks time.I need some help when it comes to money exchange.I’ve read some comments on Trip Advisor saying it’s better to change your AUD to Vietnamese Dong while in Vietnam,rather than doing it in Aust.I’m confused,please share some light on this.Also someone said I could buy Vietnamese Dong from any Commonweath Bank in Aust to take with me & just withdraw it while we’re there.
    Please help.What’s the best option
    Thank you
    Shirley

    • Brinda Shah

      Hi Shirley,

      I can’t speak to what the banking system is in Australia so you will have to check with your bank there for the rates and rules. What I do know for certain is that most banks in North America don’t keep VND at the bank and only order it when a customer requests it, making the exchange tariffs higher. Perhaps this is similar to Australia? Anyway, you may get a better exchange rate here as most of the currency exchange centres readily accept USD, CAD, and AUD. Good luck.

  5. Anna

    how do you convert from USD to dong?

    • Brinda Shah

      Hello,
      You can exchange currencies at a bank or foreign exchange establishment.

  6. Tommy

    Hi like a lot of other people i am having trouble with the dong.as i am english.i wiil be bringing Sterling (GBP)or is better to bring (USD).FOR EXCHANGE or to USE

    • Brinda Shah

      Hi Tommy,

      Although the USD to VND rate is usually the best, you may lose a lot in the double exchange if you change GBP to USD and then USD to VND.

  7. Sunny

    Are there easy to find exchanges in HCM and do they give better rates for USD to Dong? I’ll be traveling from BKK.

    • Brinda Shah

      Hi Sunny,

      Usually the rate for USD to VND is better. But it may not make sense to change a third currency into USD before exchanging to VND because you will lose a fair amount in the double exchange.

  8. Damian

    Just reviewing your great web site, this is from a personal experience form those traveling from Australia, the best cards are the Citibank for cash and 28 Degrees Master card for EFTPOS and to some degree with limitations is the Commonwealth Bank for cash, there are some ATMS around. The only word of caution using the bank you’re with ATM, as it will be a surprise at the cost of international transactions on top of your bank fees can be up to $15 AUS on the two occasions is was $7AUD, were as for example $2 AUD at ATM +2-3% for international transaction fee, pretty standard.

  9. Ramesh Rao

    Hi, this is the best travel tips I read before my travel to Vietnam. In order to avoid losing money by double exchange, I decided not to convert my UAE Dirhams to Dollar. But to my surprise, in Vietnam NOBODY EXCHNGES THE CURRENCY OTHER THAN THE FEW MAJOR CURRENCY. But in Thailand most Asian currencies are accepted. So I had big trouble for first few days ie till I got arranged some body to put money in my account and than withdraw in ATM many times thus losing money in service charges. So plz carry only the major currency listed in some banks websites.

  10. jasmine

    Hi, just need some opinion.will it be better if you exchanged dong in your own country or vietnam?

    • Brinda Shah

      You will most likely get a better exchange rate in Vietnam, but it depends on which currency you are changing into Dong.

  11. Odette Rana

    Hi Brinda,
    We will travel to Vietnam/Laos/Cambodia in October. You have mentioned that currency exchange centres readily accept USD, CAD, and AUD. I am happy about this information as most websites mentioned US dollar is common acceptable currency in Vietnam. How about Euro? Is this currency can be exchanged in Vietnam? Our first stop will be Ho Cho Minh City.

    Thanks you.
    Odette

    • Brinda Shah

      Hi Odette,

      Yes you can exchange Euro in Vietnam, but paying for consumer goods or purchases with Euro will be difficult.

  12. Hello Brinda

    Being a pensioner on a small/fixed income I don’t get to travel nearly as much as I would otherwise like, these days. Not wishing to insult bell boys/porters etc., what would be an acceptable tip in your currency? Would he/she equally accept US dollars and, if so, again what amount would you think acceptable for such a gratuity?

    • XO Tours

      Hi David,

      Except for the high end hotels, I do not think that most of the bell boys/porters in Vietnam expect to be tipped. If you do tip them, then $1-$2 (20,000-40,000 VND) should be sufficient.

  13. Nat

    Hi,
    I’m travelling in Vietnam until January. Do you know of any ATMs such as Citibank that do not charge withdrawal fee outside HCMC?
    I have a UK visa debit card.
    Thanks

  14. Dennis A

    Current: No local ATM fee at the Commonwealth ATM around the corner by the Popeyes at the International Terminal in HCM. However my home bank “Chase” `sucks charges me $5.00 USD for non chase atm transactions.

    Thought the taxi drivers were the scam artists. Banks have it perfected.

  15. Roy & Fiona

    Hi,

    We will be travelling to Vietnam in October. Do you cater for gluten free meals on you food tour?

    Kind regards

    • XO Tours

      Hi Roy & Fiona,

      XO Tours does provide gluten free meals on their Food Tour. For tour related questions please contact XO Tours by using the form on the Contact Page. This blog is managed by volunteer bloggers, who have nothing to do with the tour operations.

  16. Lily

    My family will be there from 2.5 weeks the end of June and I’m concerned of bringing too much cash along. If I were to go into a local large bank with $100 us dollars, how many dongs will that translate to today? Will they charge an exchange fee? I was told I would get a better rate if I got dong in the US but my bank rate equates to only 17,500 dongs to the dollar.

    • XO Tours

      Hi Lily,

      You will get a much better exchange rate in Vietnam. $1 USD currently converts to 21,800 VND.

  17. Wynand

    Hello,
    I will be traveling to Vietnam soon. And want to only drw moneys at arm machines I will be traveling about two weeks from north to south. Arrive Hanoi do tours there move off to Hoi an/da nang and off to Ho chi minh. Will I be able to draw cash in Da nang or Hoi an? I only need dollars for stamping into Vietnam visa rules…

  18. Bev

    Can I exchange travel cheques at the banks in Vietnam

  19. Hi,

    me and my friend are traveling to Vietnam, Hanoi and Saigon this coming April and as early as now I am reading some comments reviews about the money exchange ,, but what is more convenient t? to bring some cash and exchange it or to withdraw cash from your ATM? and I am afraid to carry more cash compare bringing the ATM with me,,

    • XO Tours

      There are plenty of ATMs in Vietnam however you need to make sure you notify your bank so they know you are traveling in Vietnam, otherwise, your card may not work. Also keep in mind that many of the ATMs only allow withdrawing 2 million dong (less than $200 USD) at a time. I would bring at least 2 different ATM cards and also keep some emergency cash just in case there is an issue with your cards. We have heard stories of people losing their ATM cards and having to contact friends and family overseas to wire them cash.

  20. Kaylene Godinet

    Hi we are travelling to Vietnam in June from New Zealand and would like to know which best debit cards to use from here. Travelled through Europe three years ago and the debit card we used was a bit of a pain, limits on how much we could get out and was hard to find machines that we could use. Do the currency exchanges there accept NZ$?
    Cheers Kaylene

  21. Jade

    I was wondering if travel cards from the post office work in vietnam?

    • XO Tours

      We’re not familiar with “travel cards from the post office” Jade. Is this like a credit card? In general, Vietnam is mainly a cash based society. Although the majority of hotels, restaurants and larger retailers will accept major credit cards…most smaller businesses will only accept payment in cash. Your best bet is to carry some cash and exchange to VND when you arrive in Vietnam. You should also bring a few different ATM cards. Keep in mind that the ATMs in Vietnam will only disburse Vietnamese Dong however, all businesses in Vietnam are required by law to accept VND. Some larger businesses may also accept Travelers checks however that is rare.

  22. Garry

    Hello – you talk about exchanging USD to VND – id this the only foreign currency that can easily be exchanged at banks or currency exchange establishments? I am from New Zealand and wondering if I bring NZD in cash if I can easily exchange that to VND, or if I need to swap all my NZD to USD? Many thanks for your help.

    • XO Tours

      Hi Garry,

      You will be easily be able to convert your NZD to VND in Vietnam.

  23. Kevin

    Hi, I’m will be traveling with my wife to vietname for the first time in this november, we are planing to stay in saigon 1 week then fly to nha trang then danang and ha noi then back to saigon. I’m planing to bring 10000 usd with me on the trip. My question is that where do I keep my money so that it won’t get stolen.
    thank

  24. Con Davey

    What is the best ” Currency Card” to use in Ho Chi Minh city that allows me to exchange GBSterling to Vietnamese Dong? I would appreciate any feedback. IMy name is Con and I will be in Vietnam for 9 weeks from December 1st.

  25. Ivy

    Travelling to Vietnam and my own currency is British pound…. I considered changing to USD then Dong. Is British currency readily accepted in exchange shops and banks?

  26. Ann Bartlett

    Hello

    We are from the UK and visiting Vietnam for three weeks in March. We would like some idea of how much cash we would need for day to day expenses. All hotels, tours, taxis etc have been prepaid so we’re looking mainly at evening meals and shopping. Of course everyone’s budget is different but a very rough guide would be appreciated. Also, should we bring GBPs and convert them in Vietnam, please?

    Many thanks Ann

  27. Helen

    Hi, we are spending 5days in Ho An at the beginning of March. Are there plenty of ATM and banks for us to exchange Aust Dollars?

  28. Charlotte

    Hi XO Tours

    I shall be going to Vietnam in 2 weeks time, is it advisable for me to bring Ringgit Malaysia to change to dong in Vietnam?

    Cheers

Leave Comment

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

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

clear formSubmit