Banking in Singapore

Banking in Singapore
Updated 2021-07-20 11:49

Singapore offers a wide range of personal banking services and has a complete offering of international banking services. For those of you seeking to stay for a long period of time in the country, it might be worthwhile to open a local bank account in order to save both on commission and unfavourable exchange rates.

Opening a bank account before arriving in Singapore

Singapore is home to many expatriates and has a sophisticated offering of international banking services. Before seeking to contact local banks, make sure that the institutions you already bank with do not have operations in Singapore. Some banks help open accounts in other countries and save you from the hassle of starting all procedures from scratch on your arrival. These services are generally offered to holders of premium accounts, but it might be worth checking with your local agency. For example, HSBC offers its premium clients the possibility of starting the administrative procedures prior to your arrival in the country.

Very often, completing the account opening procedures only requires a visit at the agency once you arrive in Singapore. However, unlike other countries, opening an account is a straightforward process in Singapore as long as you hold the relevant paperwork, so you should generally not worry about being without any banking facilities for too long a period of time. Banks will deliver debit (or N.E.T.S) cards without any difficulty but might be reticent to provide credit card facilities to foreigners unless they hold long duration work permits and have a salary which lies above a certain threshold, but conditions tend to vary from bank to bank and can be altered if you provide sufficient proof.

Documents needed for opening a bank account

As an expat, the two basic documents you will require are our passport and your residency pass. If you do not hold a residency pass, that is either an employment or a student pass, it will be tricky for you to open a bank account whilst in Singapore. Partners accompanying their spouses will therefore find it difficult to open an account, but can request that a duplicate card is issued. Many banks allow expatriates to open an account online, but very often a visit at a local branch will be required. It is also a good idea to book an appointment with an advisor at the bank in order to investigate the different saving schemes offered locally ' these might differ from what you are used to in your country of origin and could be interesting, especially if you plan to stay in Singapore for many years.

On top of your passport and residency pass, banks might require a proof of address, a recommendation from another bank, tax codes from your country of origin or an introduction. If you hold a contract of employment from a recognised institution, you could also request them to prepare a letter of introduction for you. This is common practice amongst international corporates and can help expedite the process, especially if referrals have taken place in the past for previous expats.

Banks in Singapore

The largest bank in the country is DBS. It is probably one of the best options if you intend to open the account once in Singapore, as it is used to opening expatriate accounts and even has an expatriate banking programme. This programme offers you the possibility of holding a multi-currency account, which might be useful if you have revenue streams from your home country or intend to regularly transfer funds across international accounts. In addition to basic services, credit cards at DBS allow you to collect miles, which can be handy if you intend to travel significantly. Other options include OCBC and UOB, and the latter also offer interesting packages for students. Additionally, there are a host of international brands in operation, including HSBC and Standard Chartered.

Useful links:

DBS Bank
City Bank Singapore
HSBC Singapore

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