Cyrus Cyrus posted June 27th, 2011 at 12:23 am to Help!. Viewed 410 times. Answered 63 times.

I'm a retired person living in VN for 5 years. Over the years I wired a lot of my money to VN which I converted to VND. Now I am wondering if I will be able to change it to USD or another currency and transfer it to another country if and when I decide to leave VN.

Yesterday a banker at a VN bank told me that if I can prove the source of the money, I can convert it back to USD but she said that the rules are very strict about how you can prove the source of the money.

I have records of the wires from the US, but after I wired the money here I moved it around a lot to different accounts in the same bank, some short term, some long term, some for investment and some for living expenses. I also moved it around a lot to different banks in VN. The bank woman said that to be able to prove that the source of the money was my original wires from the US, all that moving around had to have been done by electronic transfer from one VN bank to another, not by withdrawing it in cash and depositing it in another VN bank.

Problem is, I didn't always do it that way. A few times I followed the common VN practice where, if you're going to deposit a large sum, the new bank will send a car to the old bank to collect the money.

I have all the receipts that show where the money came from and went, and receipts that show withdrawals from one bank and deposits the same day to a different bank in the same amount (or nearly the same amount). But the woman from the bank said that is not proof, only electronic transfers are proof.

If and when I decide to leave VN, I would need to convert all my VND to USD or another currency, and wire it to my bank account in another country, since I can't carry the money, it's a very large sum and carrying it would be very dangerous.

Although I have no plans to leave VN now, I am worried about the future and what will happen if suddenly the government decides not to grant me a new visa or extend my visa (I've been living here for 5 years on long term visas. I don't work here, don't have a work permit or a residence permit). How will I get my money out if that happens?

I've read some suggestions that you can legally leave VN with $7,000 at a time and deposit it in a bank in Cambodia maybe, from which you would be able to wire it to another country easily. But that would require dozens of trips across the border to get all my money out. I can do it if I have a multi-entry visa, but it's still an arduous process and I don't know if I can open an account at a bank in Cambodia if I'm not a resident there.

I've also read some info on this forum that says it is not difficult to transfer the money out of VN by Western Union, but other info says that's not true, it IS difficult, and I don't know which info is correct. And I would still have to first convert the money to USD before I could transfer it, and now the black market is supposed to be extinct and you have to deal with the banks.

5 years ago Bangkok Bank in HCMC said that they could wire $7,000 to a foreign bank account for me and make a notation in my passport about it, and then I could leave the country, return and do the same process over and over again, thus alleviating the need to physically carry the money. I was just asking them for future reference, didn't actually do it at the time. But today i don't know if that's still possible.

I'm also familiar with the Visa card method. Get a visa card from a VN bank and you can make withdrawals at ATMs in another country. But I understand most VN banks charge a huge fee and percentage for each foreign withdrawal and i would have to make many many withdrawals.

I also think I could buy gold or jewels and get my money out that way, but that seems extremely risky. Not only possibly getting robbed of my life savings while travelling to another country, but also having no way of veryifying that the gold or jewels I buy in VN are genuine. And having to buy gold when its price may be at a peak rather than waiting for the price to come down.

Also i once asked a big state-owned bank in VN the hypothetical question, if I changed my VND to USD on the black market, could i then deposit it in a USD account at the bank? The banker said yes, but there would be a fee. Again, I was just asking for future reference, didn't actually take action, and I didn't ask if I could subsequently transfer the money out of the country via the bank.

But the bank lady I was talking to recently, at another big, non-govt owned bank, said no, I would not be able to deposit USD I bought on the black market at her bank without proving the source, by their own ridiculous standards of proof.

So I've been told a lot of different stories about what's possible and what isn't, depending on who I talk to. Still I don't know what I'll do when the time comes that I want to or have to leave the country.

I also don't know how I'll be able to change the money to another currency if the banks refuse and the black market has been put out of business permanently.

I understand that I have to lose some money getting my money out but would like to keep the loss to a minimum.

Can anyone suggest a plan for me to deal with this predicament? Very grateful for advice.

Last answered by Jelled about 49 months ago.

Answers (jump to newest answer)

Donkey-abroad wrote on June 27th, 2011 at 2:03 am
Donkey-abroad (elite user)

I think in all of your reading, you may have missed the solution. I'm fairly sure that this would apply to VND accounts, and hopefully someone will come along and confirm it.

If you have a bank account in your name in another country, the US for example, then you should simply be able to transfer the money from your account in Vietnam to your account in the US. As long as both accounts are in your name, then this should not be a problem.

You will be able to read several accounts in some of the threads that you must have looked at where people have transferred money in this way. Equally you can transfer money out of Vietnam to pay a bill in your name, again you'll see a few examples of this.

I have only done this from my US Dollar account, but I see no reason why you could not do this from a VND account, with the exchange to US Dollars taking place in the course of the transfer. What exchange rate that would be, I do not know, probably not great, but it should stick within the limits of the government proscribe exchange rate at the time.

You say that it is a large sum, so this may need to take place over several transfers. I don't know the limits in Vietnam, but for example my bank account in the UK will only allow me to transfer £10,000 at a time (even to an account in my name). I think this is something put in place to stop money laundering etc. But there is nothing to stop you repeating this process several times.

Again, I have only done this from a US Dollar account in Vietnam, and this was at ANZ bank. Hopefully others with VND accounts will be able to come along and confirm this method.

mderking wrote on June 27th, 2011 at 2:43 am

And in addation to the above, if all else fails, you can still get it all out in cash from the ATM machine, change it into USD cash at an exchange point and take it with you in the airplane.

Second option you have is to do this allready slowly now, as you have no hurry.

Also it is quite possible that your original transfer is enough. If you can prove 5000 USD went in through the wires, they should at least let you have 5000USD, as it is proven to be from an outside source, no matter where it went in Vietnam after that.

Also don't forget that this is a measure mostly intended for Vietnamese people and not for foreigners. The government wants to ensure that money does not escape their control, and to avoid that people can hind money (which means lost taxes). Also depreciation of the VND (high inflation) compared to USD and Euro is difficult. This is one of the reasons why Vietnamese people themselves have more difficulty getting foreign currency.

For foreigners this is made easier, because foreigners in general only bring more money instead of taking money out of Vietnam, hence they are a bit nicer to us.

DD45 wrote on June 27th, 2011 at 7:48 am

@mderking. Would you mind publishing a list of these 'exchange' points where USD is available? Seems to me that this process has got very narrow recently. For example to get USD at my own bank I need to have a flight ticket, passport and of course, an account.

Grant wrote on June 27th, 2011 at 9:37 am
Grant (elite user)


The whole concept of having to exchange Vnd to $USD is completely unnecessary. It's a simple bank transfer with the conversion and international transaction fees thrown in. If it's to an account in your own name there is no drama at all.


mderking wrote on June 27th, 2011 at 9:45 am

@DD45: At the airport itself for instance?

Vegas wrote on June 27th, 2011 at 9:55 am
Vegas (elite user)

I can't say what will work, but I can say what won't - or at least what shouldn't be attempted. The suggestion above to carry it out in cash seems to be exactly what OP was trying to avoid. Furthermore, you have to declare cash or gold or jewels worth more than USD7000 when leaving Vietnam. If OP attempts to smuggle his life savings out of the country and gets caught at the border, there's a good chance this won't end well for him.

chikacherry wrote on June 27th, 2011 at 10:27 am

Bank transfer or wire should be ok, right? You don't even have to transfer/wire money to an account in your own name. I've wired money to my schools' accounts (tuition, fees and dues, so I'm pretty sure there must be a point I transferred over $70.000 to an account in the US), paid royalty to private licensors' accounts in Europe (only a few hundred bucks a time, but it probably works for larger sum too) via HSBC. They have a $25 fee per transaction. You just have to open an account with HSBC. If yours is a VND account, you'll have to pay exchange fee too, but it shouldn't be too much.

Cyrus wrote on June 27th, 2011 at 11:47 am

Thanks so much for the replies. Well, if I can transfer it to a foreign account in my own name easily, then the VN bank people I've talked to are wrong. Haven't talked to a lot of them, but the ones from VCB and ACB said no, I would have to prove the source meticulously to their satisfaction before I could convert it to USD and transfer it out.

Is this another case where the answer you get will differ depending on which bank person you're talking to?

I hope you're right about this, because I do have bank accounts in my name in the US. I will ask a few more bank people.

Of course I don't want to risk carrying my life savings out of the country on a plane. Risk of border guards confiscating it and robbery would be way beyond my comfort level.

I'm talking about more than USD 200,000.

Cyrus wrote on June 27th, 2011 at 11:54 am

Also, if it makes a difference...if and when I leave VN, I probably won't go back to the US, more likely I'd go to China or Thailand. And since I don't have any confidence in the future value of the USD, I would prefer to convert the money to some more auspicious currency like the Canada or Aussie dollar, or the China Yuan, if I could get a reasonable exchange rate in VN for these currencies.

If I attempt to convert my money to one of these, instead of USD, does that make my task easier?

Grant wrote on June 27th, 2011 at 12:00 pm
Grant (elite user)


You're talking to the wrong person. You have to prove source of funds to deposit it in their bank in the first place. Otherwise they shouldn't have accepted it. They are giving you the run around.

By the sounds of the answers you've been getting I doubt the currency you wish to exchange it to will make any difference as they haven't got a clue. Talk to a manager


Donkey-abroad wrote on June 27th, 2011 at 12:03 pm
Donkey-abroad (elite user)

First off, if the Vietnamese banks refuse to do this, then set up an account at ANZ or HSBC in Hanoi and transfer all your money across to one of these banks. Do it electronically to avoid the whole proving the source problem.

Then when the time comes, wire the money to the overseas account of your choosing that is in your name.

I wouldn't worry about "exchanging currency" per se. The thing to do would be to decide what currency you want your money in, and then open an account in that currency in the country of your choosing. Then when your transfer your VND into it, it will magically change into the currency that the receiving account is denominated in.

I often have US Dollars paid into a UK Sterling account, and the money is automatically exchange into Sterling as part of the transaction, and equally the same when I have transferred Sterling into my US Dollar accounts.

Vegas wrote on June 27th, 2011 at 12:42 pm
Vegas (elite user)

Forget betting on currencies. What you describe as "more auspicious" currencies are riding high at present, but are particularly vulnerable to the vagaries of the world economy - probably more so than the USD, which will likely function as a haven if we go off the cliff (which seems likely in the next few years). But seriously, no one can tell you what will happen in the future. Picking one currency over another is gambling. Transfer your savings back home in USD, then buy gold or silver. At least there's tangible wealth backing these commodities.

boniusminimus wrote on June 27th, 2011 at 1:15 pm
boniusminimus (elite user)

Here's my experience with VCB:
The hard part is actually getting the money *in* to the Vietnamese bank account, Ie: you can't just arrive to the bank and deposit cash without the evidence of where it came from (which often includes a pay slip, with red stamp, as well as siting your working visa if you're a foreigner)
Once the money has been deposited though, it's "verified", ie: it becomes legitimate money and you can do with it what you wish. If you want to xfer that money to another bank within Vietnam, no problem, just do it online etc..
If you want to xfer the money out of Vietnam though, then you need to show the reason you are paying this money, ie: show a receipt for a service you have to pay for in America. Then you'll be allowed to do a telegraphic xfer.
So for example, I was able to pay for some car maintenence using the VND that was already in my account (by way of direct deposit from my employer), but when I tried to make another telegraphic xfer with cash and no evidence, they knocked it back.
As long as your money is in the system, you should be able to send it overseas, as long as you're paying for something...
All of that said, it's in a state of flux at the moment. Over the last year the policy seems to have shifted a bit and something slightly different happens every time I go to VCB. The above experience is from about 3 months ago.

TscTempest wrote on June 27th, 2011 at 2:56 pm
TscTempest (elite user)

There are two parts to this problem. 1) banking procedures; 2) documentation.

Personally, I think the OP would be well served by first getting an accountant to do a proper audit of his financial arrangements, especially since the OP states s/he has all the receipts. This audit should be done in such a way as it clearly demonstrates incoming sources and outgoing recipients and that the balance of monies s/he wishes to transfer out of the country is less that the monies coming in. S/He is retired, after all.

Second, if the current monies are all consolidated into one current account, and that money is verified, then the OP needs to find a Bank with a banking procedure and fee structure that s/he is happy with. If the monies are not consolidated, then doing so might be a wise first step.


phobic888 wrote on June 27th, 2011 at 5:31 pm
phobic888 (elite user)

I also have never had a problem transferring money out of VN. I sent money home to Canada by going into HSBC filling out the form and showing them my passport. Quite simple. Supposedly, this can also be done online via their internet banking.

Cyrus wrote on June 27th, 2011 at 10:45 pm

Wow, so many interesting replies.

Grant, I've moved the money around many times, and when I move it to a new bank, the immediate source is the old bank, and they never ask where the money originated from 5 years ago -- in a series of wires from the US.

Donkey-abroad, transferring the money electronically to HSBC or ANZ doesn't change the fact that, in the past, the same money was moved from bank to bank by cash withdrawal and deposit, not electronic transfer. The lady at ACB said that doing that just one time destroys my proof of source and dooms me to living in VN forever.

Vegas, good advice re the USD and other currencies. Thanks.

maliusmaximus, I hope I don't have to show them a bill that I have to pay in the US in order to get my money out, because the "bill" is simply my living expenses for the rest of my life.

TscTempest, I don't like to spend money on accountants. I have all my banking transactions entered in a computer financial management program, except I didn't start doing it until 2007 so I'm missing entries for 2006, my first year here. but I think I can reconstruct them from my receipts and provide a complete file or printout of all transactions since the wires came in, with receipts to back it up (except for ATM receipts, no way you can keep those from fading). I can give all this material to the bank when I'm ready to leave VN.

Also, the monies are definitely not consolidated into 1 current account earning 3% interest, they are in term deposits earning much more. But when I prepare to leave VN I can consolidate them briefly in a Current Account prior to conversion.

Today I asked one bank teller about their visa card fees, and she said withdrawing the money at a foreign ATM incurs a 3% fee. I asked if that was the total fee and she said yes. That isn't all that awful, and maybe other banks are lower. But the woman also could have been wrong and there are additional fees. It sounds too low to me based on what I've heard about these fees. I'll ask some more banks.

But it shows what a farce this business of proving the source is. Every bank in VN is letting you convert all the VND you want via foreign Visa card transactions, without proving anything, as long as you're willing to pay the fee.

Also today a Sacombank branch in the provinces told me that they didn't think it was necessary that all the money had to have been moved from bank to bank by electronic transfers, and that if I could show them with my records that the money all originated from the US, and give them time to study the receipts, there wouldn't be a problem if some of the money had been moved around non-electronically.

But that was one Sacom branch, last year another branch told me the opposite -- that it had to be only electronic transfers.

What a wacky place this is!

Donkey-abroad wrote on June 27th, 2011 at 10:59 pm
Donkey-abroad (elite user)

@cyrus, you missed my point and that of some others here. It is perfectly legal and possible to transfer your money out of the country, as long as it is being transferred to an account overseas in your name. No proof about source of funds should be necessary.

My point about moving to HSBC or ANZ was that many people here have successfully done this from these banks. So if the Vietnamese banks are putting hurdles in your way and mucking you about, ditch them and move to a slightly more professional bank that people here have managed ok with.

My point about moving the money into one of these banks electronically is that they are under the same restrictions of requiring proof of where the money going INTO their bank came from. An electronic transfer from an account in YOUR NAME is that proof. They do not need any further proof of source to send it out of the country.

Again, YOU DO NOT NEED TO PROVE WHERE THE MONEY CAME FROM as long as the transfer shows that it is going into an account in YOUR NAME overseas.

As for paying overseas bills, this is possible when you present the bank with an invoice in your name. This has been covered elsewhere on the site; easy if the invoice is made out to you. Next to impossible if it doesn't have your name on.

natinnam wrote on June 27th, 2011 at 11:32 pm
natinnam (elite user)

Wacky place, aye, but what idiot would move $200,000 into a Country without first reading up first on it's banking practices.

If you intended of moving around, maybe you should of put it in an offshore account, then transfer in the amounts you need, as an when.

Just an observation, maybe there is more to this tan meet the eye, what's Interpol website ?

Grant wrote on June 28th, 2011 at 8:48 am
Grant (elite user)


@Cyrus: Your response to me is exactly my point.

You are talking to the wrong person. No need to move banks (costs money) but it is always worth the threat. Talk to a manager and by that I don't mean that one teller talks to another teller two booths over.

Accurate above....


TscTempest wrote on June 28th, 2011 at 9:11 am
TscTempest (elite user)

cyrus wrote:
>if I could show them with my records that the money all originated
>from the US, and give them time to study the receipts, there
>wouldn't be a problem if some of the money had been moved
>around non-electronically.

Hence the reason to audit your receipts. Now, if you're confident you can do this in such a way that Vn bookkeepers would immediately know what they're looking at, then go right ahead, you have, apparently, everything you need at your disposal.

However, I can't help feeling that in this case, where the amounts of money you are dealing with are important to you, that by not getting a proper Vn accountant to do the job, you are being, just a little, penny wise pound foolish.

By all means, if you trust the bank give them all your receipts and financial records, I just hope you keep a copy of everything, and that the bank doesn't loose, even one of those precious receipts.

It doesn't hurt to ask the bank if an auditor's report would be sufficient evidence.At least then you'd know wether its worth doing or not.

Cyrus wrote on July 1st, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Donkey-abroad, thanks for the clarification.

Grant, why do you type "Beer" before and after every one of your replies?

TscTempest, I have hundreds and hundreds of receipts and imagine a VN auditor would try to fleece me royally to audit them all, me being a rich foreigner and all. Anyway, I can always do that afterwards, if the banks don't accept my own presentation of my records. Also, yes, I have copies of everything, and computer scans of them, and would not give them my originals unless I had to.

nattinam, F you, honey. I was so impressed with this forum and the many useful replies I got that I wanted to compliment the forum owner about it, but really there should be a policy against flaming.

Grant wrote on July 1st, 2011 at 3:19 pm
Grant (elite user)


Don't know. It's a mystery.

It's also a mystery why you are still going down the path of receipts. You DO NOT need to prove source of funds for withdrawing monies. Ever. You only need to do that at the depositing account at the other end. Go to the manager and tell him what you are doing. Don't ask him, tell him.

You really shouldn't swear at Natinnam. He's sensitive and is possibly crying right now.


Cyrus wrote on July 1st, 2011 at 3:23 pm

well keeping receipts is something I did historically. Not a bad idea to have them, is it? I hope you are all correct that I don't need them, but still I don't think I should throw them in the bonfire just yet.

Donkey-abroad wrote on July 1st, 2011 at 3:36 pm
Donkey-abroad (elite user)

There's no reason to get rid of your receipts, we are just making it clear that you don't need them in this situation, and need to stand up to the bank or move if they tell you otherwise.

Yes there are rules about flaming here, and I guess I could have deleted natinnam's post. But he's just one of our local comedians, who raises a good point about offshore banking; although he could have done it a bit more politely (not really his m.o. though). have one of grant's beers and forget about it.

Cyrus wrote on July 1st, 2011 at 3:46 pm

When and if I decide to leave VN, that's when I will be doing all this. So when I go to the bank and tell them I want to convert all my money and transfer it out of the country, I won't have any "clout" with them--I won't be able to threaten to move my money to another bank if they don't help me, because the whole process means I am moving my money out of the bank and out of the country permanently, hence there is no incentive for them to be cooperative in order to keep my business. They will be losing my business regardless.

Donkey-abroad wrote on July 1st, 2011 at 3:54 pm
Donkey-abroad (elite user)

Do you currently have a bank account in another country in your name? If so, then you can prove the theory right now. Go to your bank, and transfer a small amount say 20M VND to your overseas account.

If they refuse to do this even when you've gone up to the level of the manager, then you know your with the wrong bank. If they do it, then they've proved for later that it is possible.

But when you do this, don't inquire about CONVERTING and then TRANSFERRING the money to your overseas account. All you are doing is TRANSFERRING the money to your overseas account. The CONVERTING is an automatic byproduct of the transaction.

NickinNam wrote on July 1st, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Listen to Donkey. There should be no problem moving money to an overseas account in your own name.

If you'd like to follow Vegas's advice and buy some gold, is a good place where you can establish an account over the internet, if you don't have another overseas account. You can then keep your money in one of several "big" currencies, or metals should you wish. You can transfer to there.

@chikacherry: paying school fees and support payments to students is one of the "legitimate purposes" recognized by SBOV for overseas transfers by residents. That's why you never had any problems.

Back @ Cyrus: another legitimate purpose is repatriating your own money. I think you keep tripping up the bank employee when you talk about "converting" your money first. Don't do that--because "currency exchange" currently freaks out bankers. Just send the VND, and it will land as the currency of your choice.

If worst comes to worst when it's time for you to go, you would simply take a trip to Hong Kong or some other friendly off-shore tax center and open a small mailbox corporation and associated bank account for a few bucks.

You are a "consultant".

You will send yourself a bill for the amount you want out.

You will legitimately pay your bill by electronic transfer.

You can then forward the money to where it is needed, or spend it with a Visa card.

Cyrus wrote on July 3rd, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Donkey, excellent suggestion. I will do that at some point before I leave. Don't want to do it just now because that 20 million would sit in my US account earning less than 1% interest, whereas now it's earning 18%. Even on just $1,000, that's a substantial loss.

NickinNam, thanks, those are great, very useful ideas. One thing I am wondering about, though, is if I don't "convert" the money first, it might be that the US bank will do the converting instead of the VN bank, and there might be a very big, unfavorable difference between the forex rate of the US bank and the VN bank.

TscTempest wrote on July 3rd, 2011 at 2:44 pm
TscTempest (elite user)

Well, maybe you could consider ANZ's conversion methodology to assist with making that decision.

ANZ Hanoi, offers conversion rates below the "official" rates (is that Vietcom Bank Rates?). On top of this is a money handling fee of 4%.

From what I've seen, Vietcom Bank Rates seem to track's Spot price quite comfortably.

Some of the finance heads on this site could definitely better explain the actual international money transfer process, than I.

NickinNam wrote on July 3rd, 2011 at 3:34 pm

@Cyrus: The Vietnam Dong is not a convertible currency outside of Vietnam. Outside of Vietnam, it is just Monopoly money. This is because the SBOV will not allow the currency to "float" on the market. THEY set the conversion rate.

A US bank will not convert the money--because it cannot and will not. What the hell are they going to do with a handfull of worthless Dong?

It will just be done as a matter of course before it leaves Vietnam, usually by the correspondent bank, which is usually Vietcom bank.

That is why someone above bou the wisdom of your having bought so much VND without knowing enough about how the currency works here.

The VND could be devalued by a factor of 10 or 100 overnight--by decree. It has been done before here. It was most recently done in North Korea just 2 or 3 years ago.

There is no good reason to hold VND beyond your month to month expenses here--and ship in more when you need it.

The banks here, other than ANZ and HSBC and Citi are "zombie banks". This means that they have more liabilities than liquid assets. The only thing propping them up is the belief that the Government will just print up any amount of cash required to meet calls for withdrawal.

If these banks existed in any other country, they would have exploded a long time ago.

I would strongly urge you to not stockpile money in VND unless you are deploying it for real investments. And I don't mean riding 14% interest rates at Zombie banks.

Interest rates are 14% for a reason--they are trying to attract assets to balance out all the bad loans they have on their books...and it's not working, because the Vietnamese remember the last time that the currency was devalued by fiat--and that's why they love dollars and gold so much.

You should deploy your escape plan now--get the money to a safe currency--and just bring in your monthly expenses once per quarter or so.

Good luck.

Cyrus wrote on July 4th, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Thanks for the food for thought, NickinNam. I'm not sure the situation is as dire as you think. Even the offshore currency forwards markets don't expect the VND to be devalued catastrophically--the last few years they have been pricing in up to 10% or so devaluation every year--which is offset by the high deposit interest rates.

Also, if the situation with the banks is as bad as you say it is, why are foreign banks like HSBC, ANZ, Standard Chartered, Commonwealth and BNP Paribas buying 15 and 20 percent stakes in various VN banks? I may be an unsophisticated investor, but surely they're not.

I knew when I sent the money some years ago that there might be a problem getting it out, but that it could be done with some difficulty. I knew it was nonconvertible. But i had other reasons for thinking it might not be a bad thing to do. in retrospect, I should have put the money elsewhere. But I haven't really lost money yet, in fact I'm up a bit, albeit inflation has rendered the gains questionable.

Cyrus wrote on July 4th, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Do you really expect a catastrophic devaluation? I know the economy's a mess and the govt totally ineffective in fixing it.

Vegas wrote on July 4th, 2011 at 3:27 pm
Vegas (elite user)

Cyrus - because the capital investment is not that onerous, and the growth potential is huge. It's risky, too, and the foreign banks often don't know exactly what they're getting into, but I guess they figure it's worth it to get a toehold in a substantial developing market.

NickinNam wrote on July 5th, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Hi Cyrus,

You posed two very good questions:

"Also, if the situation with the banks is as bad as you say it is, why are foreign banks like HSBC, ANZ, Standard Chartered, Commonwealth and BNP Paribas buying 15 and 20 percent stakes in various VN banks? I may be an unsophisticated investor, but surely they're not.

Do you really expect a catastrophic devaluation?"

Answer: As a private investor, your goal is to make money as quickly or as regularly as possible. Corporations often have different goals and, being immortal, they have much longer time-horizons than individuals. Like royal families of old, marriages and alliances are often for strategic reasons, rather than reasons of quick profitability. In Vietnam, to do business, you need friends. Close friends who will not screw you. The best way to make friends on a corporate level is to purchase shares in your "friend", and make them family.

By buying 20% stakes (the maximum allowed for a single foreign institution) in local banks, ANZ, HSBC et. al. open the doors to getting themselves pieces of deals, such as the syndication of government securities, a chance to invest in real-estate, or other transactions that would otherwise not be open to them.

Also, as Vegas points out, there is a lot of growth in the Vietnamese economy albeit inflationary. For the moment, the stock market has taken a beating, and all of the unlisted banks, besides Military Bank and Techcom bank are selling for less than their nominative issue price, and indeed, in many cases, for less than book value.

They are getting a good deal to purchase the banks shares. They don't care about making a profit until many, many years later.

This is strategic investing, rather than profit seeking investing.

As to your last question, on the 13th of September, 1985, eveyone in Vietnam went to sleep peacefully, some of them on mattresses full of dong. On the morning of the 14th, they woke up, and 10 old dong became one new dong. New currency was issued. Limits of less than 100 dollars worth were placed on the amount of old currency that could be exchanged for the new, and families saw their savings wiped out.

There was much suffering. Inflation went nuts.

May 1 1985--The preferential exchange rate applied to inward remittances and transfer from the convertible area was devalued from D100 to D150 per U.S. Dollar.

Sept 14 1985 The State Bank of Viet Nam (SBVN) was authorized to issue new Viet Nam Dong and to withdraw old Dong from circulation. The value of the new currency was set equal to 10 times of the old Dongs.

Sept 15 1985 The Effective Rate was abolished and a Basic (Official) Rate of D15 per U.S. Dollar was established, as against a rate of D12.06=US$ for the old Dong.


Cyrus, all this happened as a decision of a few people. Nobody can predict the decisions to be taken by government officials, particularly when their backs are against the wall.

Nobody saw that coming-except a few insiders in the government who were able to take precautions for their own wealth.

Everybody else got fucked.

I can't predict anything.

I expect nothing, but I do know, that what is impossible in Swiss Francs, Australian Dollars or Singapore Dollars is absolutely a possibility in Vietnamese dong.

Is it likely? I don't know.

But I do know it is possible.

In other strong, transparent, market-traded currencies, it is simply not possible.

This also happened in North Korea only two years ago, at the end of November 2009.

"North Korea sure knows how to punish savers.  North Korea revalued the Won by a factor of 100 making it a scenario where if you have 1,000 Won of the old notes, now you would have only 10 Won.

Here is the kicker, the North Korean government put a limit to how much currency you can exchange in which is 150,000 Won which is about $60 in a country ravaged by inflation.  Reports have come in that protests have broken out and commercial activity has basically halted during this process."


That happened two years ago in an economy not dissimilar to this one.

What does this mean to you?

The dong was devalued by 9.3% in one day in February of this year.

"Consumer prices jumped 17.51% in April from a year earlier and 3.32% from March, the General Statistics Office said Sunday, further casting doubts on the ability of authorities to cap inflation at 7% this year. Last year, inflation reached 11.75%."


Three years ago when I moved here, it was 16,500 to the dollar. Now it is 20,500. That's a 25% loss in 3 years. But I hold Australian Dollars. So, meh!

Therefore, in dollar terms, the latest 9.3% devaluation (which was the 3rd in 12 months but that makes the example even worse, but too complicated to illustrate) plus 11.75% historical inflation means that a 14% bank account is not keeping your head above water.

You are losing more than 6% of dollar denominated purchasing power as you sit there in the bank. That's not how "investments" are supposed to work.

Again, Good Luck to you sir.

de2facon wrote on July 5th, 2011 at 2:41 pm
de2facon (elite user)

Nice work Nick!

I can only add that over the nest few months, all you blighters should pay careful attention to Kitco, CRB Index, Dollar v Yen and all the rest of the stuff the internet offers to those in the know.

Keep your friends close and your investments closer.

DD45 wrote on July 5th, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Very comprehensive answer Mr Nick. However, I'm not sure if the comparison between the economies of Nth Korea and Vietnam is fair. The amount of FDI in Vietnam is incomparable to Nth Korea and membership of the WTO and ASEAN make Vietnam somewhat more accountable. Also recent decisions of the central bank and the ministry of finance have been described as reasonable by many economic comentators.

Having said that, I am paid in USD, I save in AUD and my investments are all offshore in jurisdictions where accounting transparency (commercial and government) is a legal and enforcable obligation!

Cyrus wrote on July 5th, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Very good observations, NickinNam, and I thank you for making them.

I guess i've been lucky. Despite the devaluations, I've got more money now than I would have had if I had left all my money in the US dollar account earning 1%.

That low interest rate was what initially drove me to seek higher rates elsewhere.

Of course if I had wisely moved it into gold or the Aussie $, I'd be much better off today. Truth is, I hate dealing with financial matters and tend to take the simplest path.

When I moved the money here five years ago, all the talk in the business press was that VN was on the rise and its economy booming. Foreign investors were pouring a lot of money in. But things have deteriorated dramatically.

Today the govt signalled they are defying all the good advice they got to maintain tight monetary policies in order to stabilize the economy. They are starting to lower interest rates despite the absurdly high inflation. They are repeating the same mistake they made over and over again in previous years.

It isn't looking good.

Also, it is common for big deposits to earn 18% now, not 14%. But now that rate will come down.

I will seriously consider starting to take action to get my money out. Thanks for your advice.

NickinNam wrote on July 5th, 2011 at 3:53 pm

@Cyrus: My pleasure.

@DD: I did not mean to imply the two economies were absolutely comparable in a majority of respects. They are not. We have Doi Moi: motorbikes and cell phones and all manner of consumer goods both imported and domestic. The North Koreans barely have rice.

I only meant to highlight the fact that the ruling communist parties of both economies directly control exchange rates and valuations rather than leaving those to the mercy of the market mechanism.

Vietnam is different in the sense that while maintaining socialistic control over the important parts of the economy (rates, majority bank ownership, majority heavy industry ownership) they have allowed the "lesser" businesses and economic activities sink or swim in the tides of the market.

After all, if they gave up control of everything, they would only be Socialists in name. The monetary levers are one of the few things left here that are truly centrally controlled. It is difficult for them to give that up and still be self respecting socialists.

Unfortunately, they have real politik and external market forces acting upon their decision-making process. The produce of the process is the elusive thing to predict.

de2facon wrote on July 5th, 2011 at 5:23 pm
de2facon (elite user)

If you have the assets and can cover the fees, ( A salut! DD45! I don't know what work you do but having sufficient assets to legally take things offshore as you mention you've done is nice work--if you can get it!). Should things get to be less than favorable, consider the legal, tax and fees issues involved with establishing a trust. If your advisors agree, include a " Flight Clause", in the trust document, i.e. a provision allowing the trustee to establish a new trust in different ( more client favorable) jurisdictions as situations develop,

See your legal and tax advisors.

Newman wrote on July 5th, 2011 at 5:33 pm
Newman (elite user)

I'd reckon there are a bunch of users on here quite willing to assist in transporting appropriately sized wads of dosh out of the country for you. For a reasonable courier fee of course. Completely trustworthy. They would even provide a forwarding PO BOX address.

You just need to provide the requisite deposit account information so that said couriers can deposit whatever makes it over in depositable condition. Factor in spoilage and that fee.


All offers of assistance, PM the OP.

Cyrus wrote on July 10th, 2011 at 2:13 pm

NickinNam wrote:

"@Cyrus: The Vietnam Dong is not a convertible currency outside of Vietnam. Outside of Vietnam, it is just Monopoly money. This is because the SBOV will not allow the currency to "float" on the market. THEY set the conversion rate.

A US bank will not convert the money--because it cannot and will not. What the hell are they going to do with a handfull of worthless Dong?

It will just be done as a matter of course before it leaves Vietnam, usually by the correspondent bank, which is usually Vietcom bank."


Nick, what happens when you use your Vietnam bank visa card in an ATM in the US to get dollars? Isn't the US bank buying dong?

Even though dong isn't convertible, it seems that you can buy it and sell it in a number of countries, although at unfavorable prices.

This is the reason for my concern about the issue of which country converts the VND to USD if I just do a transfer from VN to the US. I'll need to be absolutely sure about it. Of course i will ask the VN bank but maybe they will give me the wrong answer.

Sorry to revive this thread!

NickinNam wrote on July 10th, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Vietcom bank, the "correspondent" or "intermediary" bank collects all the overseas wire transfers, credit card and ATM transactions and convert them into dollars before they leave the country. Forex dealers outside of Vietnam do not have a spot Dong desk.

It will always happen in Vietnam. Why won't you believe Donkey, Grant, me? Do a test transfer. You'll be right.

You are running up your bar tab here!

boniusminimus wrote on July 10th, 2011 at 3:09 pm
boniusminimus (elite user)

Nope, the US bank account is transacting with VISA, who then transact with your Vietnam bank account. The US bank will receive USD equal to what you withdraw (plus fees). If you're in Australia, the Australian bank will receive AUD etc... It's all done through VISA.
As long as your ATM card has a VISA symbol on it, you should be able to withdraw money from you VND account within most countries (although not at a great exchange rate).

boniusminimus wrote on July 10th, 2011 at 3:10 pm
boniusminimus (elite user)

whoops nickinam beat me to the punch.
What he said..

Grant wrote on July 10th, 2011 at 9:14 pm
Grant (elite user)


It's because it's really tough to get someone to work at the spot dong desk.


Donkey-abroad wrote on July 11th, 2011 at 9:24 am
Donkey-abroad (elite user)

See Spot.
See Spot Dong.
Dong Spot Dong!

Vegas wrote on July 11th, 2011 at 12:34 pm
Vegas (elite user)

New father alert -- New father alert -- New father alert

vuxuan_huyen wrote on July 12th, 2011 at 6:43 pm

Too much headache for that, to be short:

1. Possibe to tranfer YOUR legal money out of Vietnam. All the paper have to do to show that your money is legal, best way is ask a local guy to take care it and give him a fee. Or you can do by your own but it take time depend on your case.

2. Ofcourse there will be a fee and you also losing EACH time you converting money. You want to minimize the cost, here is the key:

Instant in your case base money is VND, and destination money is USD. So the BEST way is convert 1 time ONLY, from VND to USD, then tranfer that money. So you will pay the cost of converting (is not much painful because you will be convert by black market price ) then paying fee for tranfer from USD account to USD acount which is cheap. Let call this is Option 1. Example: 20,5mil convert to usd will be 1k, tranfer you lose 40$ fee, you will receive 960$; 205 mil VND you will receive 10k-40$ fee= 9960$

Option 2 is : If you want to tranfer VND directly to USD account then you will have to pay fee of tranfer as normal and 2 time convert with the BANK RATE which is alway lower than the black market. Also I heard somewhere that you have to pay 2% fee for "fee of converting". Example you have 20,5 mil VND which is 1k USD. 1st thing you will convert that to USD, you will have around 998 USD, now , pay 2% for converting, lose 20$ more, then 40$ for tranfer fee, totaly u will get back 938$. If it is 205 mil VND, then you will get back 9980k-2%-40$=~9760$

Seeing in 2 diferent examples there is nothing more to add.

Check all sides and drop me an email if you need futher help.

NickinNam wrote on July 12th, 2011 at 7:43 pm

I saw the word "fee" 9 times in that answer. I'm just sayin'...

The quest is to minimise "fees".

I have nothing more to add.

Don't drop me an email, I'm really expensive.

vuxuan_huyen wrote on July 12th, 2011 at 8:59 pm

Yes, Nickinnam is correct, actually I , me , myself a Vietnamese guy just had to pay 5% last week( for a 1 days business transfer ) to get my money out for some urgent thing, so I coped the exactly the same quest, did all the calculation. If you are not in hurry, then you can reduce the cost to around 2.5 to 3%. I'm still looking for a better way but at the moment it's the best from my knowledge.

Another option which can answer Cyrus question just below my post is, if you're going to use visa card to withdraw from outside Vietnam, it's possible to do so, but bear in mind these things:
1. The xrate will be internet banking rate which is low.
2. 2%-4% charge for "fee of converting".
3. Limitation for 1 day is around 1k-2k.
4. You've got to stuck in ATM for around 15 mins for this amount of cash.

I withdrew 20Euro in Paris 2009 with my Visa card, just because I needed 20 E to buy a train ticket and it cost me ~28.000VND / 1 euro, the bank rate at this time was 1Euro=24.000VND. Didnt know how they calculate but did learn the lesson.


Grant wrote on July 13th, 2011 at 8:26 am
Grant (elite user)


'So the BEST way is convert 1 time ONLY, from VND to USD, then tranfer that money.'

Transferring directly from one bank to another is exactly that.

Of course, you could go to a gold shop and give them the money and transfer it that way too. Cheap and easy. Oh, that's right, it's illegal...


vuxuan_huyen wrote on July 13th, 2011 at 1:01 pm

@Grant: Big different , convert outside you'll get better rate. Then you can transfer.
Transfer in bank, 1st you get lower rate, AND 2% for converting fee.

Actually we are all talking about that 2%, everything else almost the same and not much.

Sorry my English is not so good, just try to contribute 'cos I'm new.


NickinNam wrote on July 13th, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Outside the bank is illegal vuxuan. We can't plan crimes here.

Cyrus wrote on July 13th, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Thanks for the additional info and ideas. Well here's my experience so far. First bank I went to, one that I've been with for years, I talked to the girl who speaks good English, not the manager, because in the small city where I live most banks don't have anyone who speaks English, including the manager. Fortunately, this bank does have one person who speaks Eng well.

She told me that I had to prove the source before I could transfer VND to an account abroad. She also told me that the bank could not sell me dollars, but she knew a gold shop person who would sell me dollars and bring them to the bank, so the whole process would be much safer and easier, and the bank would count them, so I wouldn't be taking any risk.

She said then I could deposit them in a USD account at the bank. But she said that even after that, I could not transfer them out of the country, without proving the source.

I said are you sure, I heard from very reliable advisors that I don't need to prove the source. So she said give her a few days and she will research it. I will go talk to her again in a day or two.

Then I went to another bank where I have accounts. They also have ONE person who speaks English. Much better results there. They said that the bank could sell me dollars, no need for black market, and the bank would let me transfer them out to the US without proving source.

But the bank's fee to transfer $100,000 would be 5 million dong total. I asked if that included the fee that Vietcombank would take as correspondent bank and she said no. She didn't know how much Vietcombank's cut would be.

Fee seems pretty high to me, especially since I'd eventually transfer twice that amount out.

I also sent an email to HSBC but they haven't replied.

Meanwhile I'm also pretty scared about all the financial people saying the dollar is going to collapse very soon. But I've observed the VN govt long enough to know that however bad the dollar does, the dong will always do worse.

Also I read today that if you deposit a big sum of dollars, some VN banks will break the 2% cap and give you 4 or even 5%, which is a lot more than you could get in the US. So there's also that possibility -- change the money to dollars but keep it here.

But that means I can't get the money out into other investments, like metals or PIMCO mutual funds or whatever I eventually decide to gamble on in hopes of preserving my assets in all this global financial turmoil, after I do tons of research and wait for the right time to buy.

Cyrus wrote on July 13th, 2011 at 3:35 pm

vuxuan_huyen, when you say 2% conversion fee, is that over and above the bank's "Sell" rate? The bank that said they would sell me dollars didn't mention a conversion fee, said they would sell at their sell rate, I think it was 20,620 if I bought dollars on the day I talked to them.

If you have a gold shop person bring dollars to the bank, is there any risk of getting busted and having all your money seized?

Cyrus wrote on July 13th, 2011 at 3:41 pm

I think the 3 to 5% fees for getting dollars abroad from a VN visa card are just way over the top.

Newman wrote on July 13th, 2011 at 3:42 pm
Newman (elite user)

What the hell possesses you to advertise on a public forum how much money you have in Vietnam??? Suggest you ask mods/admin to delete your post so you can re-post with a little more discretion.

NickinNam wrote on July 13th, 2011 at 3:59 pm

"But the bank's fee to transfer $100,000 would be 5 million dong total."

Cyrus, 5 million dong is only $250. That is 0.25% of $100K. How much cheaper would you like it?

You seem to be worrying way too much. All the advice you need to do this legitimately, (and for .25%--cheaply).

Seriously mate, you've been answered. There is really no more legitimate advice for you here. The illegitimate is starting to come out of the woodwork.

Cyrus wrote on July 14th, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Well I thought this thread was providing useful information that others might be able to use in the future, but I will stop posting now, since i forgot this isn't a discussion forum and I'm getting flak for continuing the thread. If I have any more questions about details I will inquire by private message. Thanks again for everyone's help.

clock iconThen Some Time Passed...
ntran604 wrote on February 24th, 2016 at 7:36 pm

Hey guys,

I'm bumping this up after 55 months because I have some questions similar to OP.

I'm from Canada, about to go to VN home to visit family, theyve recently just sold some property and I will be coming home to claim some of that money. I would like to transfer that money back home to Canada. How would I be able to do this without getting taxed a large sum of money? I've recently just opened an HSBC account.

From reading these pasts few posts from you guys, you've mentioned that HSBC transfers are fine as long as its under the same name. Now would I be able to open a foreign account in VN and transfer it to my CAD account?

clock iconThen Some Time Passed...
RobertVietnam wrote on July 20th, 2016 at 5:06 pm


Some rule has been change
the earning in Vietnam subject to profit tax of 28%
The rule now
(1)Same name is also not allow to send if your account is in VND
(2)Only USD in Usd account can transfer oversea
(3)Bank not accept to receive cash USD now to deposit without source link to oversea bring in
(4)The vnd credit card, if deposit and withdraw from ATM, will be 2% exchange rate sur-charge +4% charge =6% charge
(5)Money changer or western union are now allow to send money oversea, only function as receiving only.
(6)You can only pay money for some one who have USD in their bank account to help u tranfer out.
If need any assistance, please contact me.

RobertVietnam wrote on July 20th, 2016 at 5:08 pm


(5)Money changer or western union are ****NOT*** allow to send money oversea, only function as receiving only.

Jelled wrote on July 21st, 2016 at 5:33 am


You stated this ***"2)Only USD in Usd account can transfer oversea"***

My bank account here in VN is in VND.

My company pays my salary by direct deposit into my bank here in Hanoi.

Sometimes, I wire money to my US bank account. The banks converts the VND to USD based on current rates.

I have paid the taxes.

I assume I can still do this, as I always have.

Please Sign In,  or Sign Up to post an answer.
The New Hanoian

The New Hanoian Ltd is registered with Companies House in the United Kingdom. Started in 2006 it remains the premier source for English-language information about living in Hanoi, and other major cities in Vietnam.