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Opening a bank account in Malaysia

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According to HSBC’s 2016 Expat Explorer Survey, Malaysia ranks as the 28th best place in the world for expatriates to live, as a result of its economic prospects and quality of life. And if you're going to retire, work, or study in Malaysia, you're going to need a local bank account to not only receive your salary or pension, but to also pay for rent, utilities and shopping expenses.

Most banks in Malaysia do allow expatriates working in the country to open a savings, current or combined account. Even foreigners who are on a social visit pass that intend to buy property in Malaysia are allowed to open and operate a savings and/or current account, provided they meet the bank's terms and conditions.

Most bank accounts will provide you with a debit card, but if you want a credit card as well, then you might need to provide additional paperwork, such as proof of earnings or a letter from your employer.

As each bank's requirements, services and fees can vary significantly, it is advisable to compare services offered by different banks to determine which best caters to your needs. If you have specific questions, you can also contact the Association of Banks in Malaysia (ABM).

Choosing a bank

Malaysia has a strong network of both local and international banks, and opening a local account is generally just a question of visiting a branch with the relevant paperwork. The staff should then be able to open an account for you in a short time, and issue you with a basic ATM card. Read the terms and conditions carefully when you're considering which bank account to open at which bank, as banking charges and withdrawal fees may vary and can add up considerably. Some Malaysian banks also require a minimum balance or a minimum income to operate. Another challenge for expats can be transferring money between different currency accounts, as some banks may charge for each transaction and convert using a poor exchange rate. So take the time to consider what account will best suit your needs and lifestyle.

Local banks are more common and accessible in smaller cities and towns than international banks. Two of the most popular Malaysian banks that you may wish to consider are Maybank, which is the largest of Malaysia’s retail banks, and CIMB, which has thousands of branches and millions of customers. Other banks include Public Bank Berhad, AmBank, RHB Bank, Affin Bank and Alliance Bank Malaysia Berhad. You can also find a few Islamic banks, such as Bank Islam IB.

Most banks have online banking facilities, although some are limited in terms of transactions, and this is worth enquiring about before making any decisions if this is important to you.

It is also possible to open a Malaysian bank account online. For example, Maybank and CIMB both offer products that can be arranged without visiting a branch in person. However, to open these accounts you need to have some form of account with them already, which could work if you already have a business account or an existing familial relationship.

However, for most expatriates who wish to open a bank account before relocating, then the best option is to open an account with an international bank operating in Malaysia. Luckily, lots of international banks operate in the big cities of Malaysia, and the most popular foreign banks include HSBC, CitiBank, Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Chartered Bank. HSBC, for example, provides a great deal of convenience for foreigners with its expat banking service that allows you to keep accounts in multiple currencies and to transfer money overseas.

Procedures

If you are younger than 50 years old, you are required to place a mandatory fixed deposit of RM300,000 at any banking institution in Malaysia to be part of the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme. This decreases to RM150,000 if you are older than 50. Many banks will be happy to help you open an account if you are joining this programme and meet the financial requirements.

Likewise, if you have an Employment Pass for a limited duration, most Malaysian banks will also be willing to help you. The documentation required to open a bank account in Malaysia is not fixed by law, so each bank has its own policy. As an expat, you will usually need to show a reference from your company, or a reputable Malaysian contact, as well as your work permit or other documents proving your right to be in Malaysia.

You will generally need the following documents to open an account, but this may vary depending on the bank you choose:

  • Your original passport;
  • proof of your right to be in Malaysia eg. Employment Pass, MM2H visa;
  • you might be asked for your employment details, such as a letter from your employer, or proof of business activities in Malaysia;
  • passport photo;
  • proof of address;
  • recent payslips; and
  • the minimum deposit amount this varies according to the bank and type of account you open.

However, don't be deterred if you don't have meet all of the above requirements. It’s still worth talking directly to a bank manager, who may have alternative suggestions.

 Good to know:

Some banks may request your fingerprints.

 Useful links:

Banks Malaysia - All about banks in Malaysia banksmalaysia.com
Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) - Central Bank of Malaysia
The Association of Banks in Malaysia

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