Manquba Parker Ngcobo was arrested as he was entering his room at Horizon Hotel on Patong beach. A police search found the 72 cards, all fake, in his possession, Krachang Suwannarat, deputy commander of Provincial Police Region 8, said.
Police were waiting for him at the hotel after matching his appearance to photos of an African man using counterfeit cards to withdraw cash from many machines in Patong, Kata and Karon from Tuesday to Thursday.
The investigators worked with Siam Commercial Bank to track down the suspect, Pol Maj Gen Krachang said.
Mr Ngcobo said in his defence he bought the cards from South African friends and it was the first time he had committed such crime.
He was charged with possessing fake ATM cards.
Bank officials were assessing the financial loss from his cash withdrawals, Pol Maj Gen Krachang added.