How to open a bank account in Singapore

Zorica Lončar
15.01.21
8 minute read

Planning to relocate or just moved to Singapore? You’ve made a great choice, as Singapore has year-round beautiful weather, fantastic business opportunities and a welcoming attitude to foreigners. And it’s a great place for families, as its education system is known to be outstanding. All of these reasons and more are why Singapore is a popular spot for expats.

If you plan to join the growing expat community in Singapore, or simply want to work or study there, one of the first things you’ll need is a bank account.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about opening a bank account in Singapore. Let’s start by getting the paperwork out of the way.

What documents do I need to open a bank account in Singapore?

To open a bank account in any foreign country, you’re going to need to provide a certain list of documents. Here’s what paperwork is required to open a bank account in Singapore¹:

  • A valid, in-date passport
  • Your employment or study pass – this gives you permission to legally work or study in Singapore, and you’ll need to get this before you arrive.

Some banks may additionally require proof of your address (such as a recent utility bill or rental agreement) or bank statements from your home bank.

It’s also not unheard of for a Singaporean bank to ask for a recommendation from your home bank, or an introduction from one of the bank’s current customers.

As the documents required can vary from bank to bank, it’s always best to contact your chosen bank in advance to get the full list. This gives you time to get everything together and avoid delays because you’ve missed out a vital piece of paperwork.

How to open a bank account in Singapore as a non-resident

Singapore is home to a large expat community, so its banks and financial services are used to dealing with foreigners. This means that it should be relatively straightforward to open a bank account in Singapore as a non-resident.

The easiest way is using your employment or study pass. As long as you have one of these and a valid form of ID, you should find it easy to apply for a bank account in Singapore. Simply get your documents together and follow the bank’s sign-up procedures.

But what if you’re not working or studying? Unfortunately, if you’re a visitor without a relevant pass, you could find it difficult to get accepted by a Singaporean bank.

But it’s not impossible. Each bank has its own eligibility rules, so you may need to spend some time researching the options and contacting banks. If the bank does accept applications from people who aren’t working or studying, it’s likely that you’ll need to visit in person to hand over your documents.²

How to open a bank account in Singapore online

Unlike in some other countries, it’s not usually necessary to visit a branch in-person to open a bank account in Singapore. Although of course, you can physically head into a branch if you prefer (and you happen to be in the country already).

Most banks in Singapore will let you complete the sign-up process online. Simply head to the bank’s website to apply, and you can complete the application online and provide scanned copies of the required documents. A possible exception to this is if you don’t have an employment or study pass, in which case the bank may require you to visit in-person to provide alternative documents.³

Which bank is best for my needs?

Singapore is famous as a leading financial hub and one of the largest international finance centres in Asia. For a relatively small country, it has a huge number of banks to choose from, over 100⁴ in fact.

The great thing about banks in Singapore is that unlike in many countries, there are interest-earning accounts available to foreigners as well as residents. This means you can make your savings go further.

Here are just a few of the largest banks in Singapore offering accounts for foreigners, expats and new arrivals.

DBS⁵

The largest bank in Singapore (and indeed Southeast Asia), DBS has its own DBS Expat Programme offering a range of services, accounts, advice and more for newcomers to Singapore. It’s a great bank to start out with if you’re new to the country and need support getting your finances sorted.

The package includes a DBS Multiplier account, offering features such as up to 3% interest on your savings, a linked DBS Visa Debit Card and the chance to manage 12 currencies from the one account.

OCBC

Another of the largest banks in Singapore, OCBC Bank has a couple of decent account options available for both residents and foreigners.

The first is the 360 Account⁶, an interest-earning account (the rate varying depending how much you deposit a month) and a small fee waived for the first year. All you need is your passport, valid pass and a phone bill or any bank statement to apply.

If you only need something basic and simple, go for the OCBC Current Account⁷ instead. It’s a non-interest-bearing account with a fee, which you can use to manage everyday transactions, issue cheques and get paid by your employer.

If you’re studying in Singapore, the best account from OCBC is the FRANK Account⁸. It’s bursting with perks for those aged 16 to 26, including 4x more interest than regular savings account, cashback at popular retailers and a FRANK debit card – take your pick from 60 colourful designs. Even better, you don’t need an initial deposit and there’s no monthly fee.

UOB

The United Overseas Bank (UOB) has a number of accounts for expats, students and business owners, but there is a bit of a drawback. For many accounts, it’s not possible to apply online as a foreigner. This means you’ll need to schedule an in-branch visit.

If you’re undeterred, one of the best UOB accounts is the One Account⁹. This gives you interest on your savings and cashback when you spend on your UOB Debit or Credit Card. There are also regular promotions and cash credit offers for new customers.

For students, there’s the Campus Account¹⁰, offering attractive interest rates, a free UOB Visa Campus Card and UniAlerts to keep you up-to-date on your banking activity.

POSB

Part of DBS Bank, POSB has a number of accounts available for foreigners and residents alike. A good bet if you’re new to Singapore is the POSB Current Account¹¹, which has a low monthly fee, no minimum balance requirements and a linked POSB Savings account. You don’t need to make a minimum deposit to open this account either. However, you will need to visit a branch in person – you can’t apply online.

Other banks worth mentioning

There’s a huge number of banks in Singapore, and many are very accepting of expats and new arrivals – so you really can take your pick. Other options to consider include Bank of Singapore, another of the large local banks and part of OCBC Bank.

And if you’re already a customer of an international institution such as HSBC, JPMorgan Chase or Citibank, you may be able to open a new account with one of these banks in Singapore – as they all have branches there.

It’s also important to remember that you aren’t just limited to banks. You can also use specialist money transfer services like Wise to send and receive money all over the world, for low fees and the real exchange rate.

Learn more about Wise

What about fees?

There are plenty of bank account products in Singapore with low or no monthly fees, but this doesn’t mean that there aren’t other banking charges to consider.

It’s important to read the small print carefully before signing up for a new bank account. There could be charges you’re not expecting, and you don’t want to be caught out.

Here are some of the main fees and charges to watch out for:

  • Fall below fees – this is a fee charged when your average daily balance falls below the required minimum. This minimum is usually between S$1,000 and S$3,000¹², with a fall below fee of around S$2¹³ to S$£7.50¹⁴ – although of course it varies between banks.
  • Cheque book fees – some banks offer a free cheque book, while others charge around S$10¹⁴ for a new or replacement one.
  • ATM fees – most banks in Singapore will let you withdraw cash from their ATMs for free, but watch out for charges if using an ATM owned by another bank.
  • International transfer fees – sending money abroad is often expensive when using a bank, as there are transaction and handling fees to pay. Plus, a poor exchange rate may be used, which eats into your money and makes your transfer more expensive overall.
  • Early closure fee - if you close your account before the bank’s minimum term

A simpler and cheaper alternative - Wise

In the previous section, we mentioned how it can be eye-wateringly expensive to use a bank for international transfers. There are fees to pay and the exchange rates are usually terrible.

Luckily, there is a better way. Open a multi-currency account with Wise and you can whizz money all over the world for tiny transparent fees. It could be up to 8x cheaper than using your bank. Plus, you’ll get the real, mid-market exchange rate on each and every transfer.

With your easy-open Wise account, you can convert and hold 55 currencies at once and spend like a local with your Wise debit card. Receive your salary, pension payments, invoice payments and much more, straight into your account.

You’ll also get your very own bank details to receive Singapore dollars with zero fees.

If you’ve not yet arrived in Singapore and don’t want the hassle of opening a bank account just yet, a Wise account could be the ideal solution. Open an account in advance of the big move and you can start sending and receiving money immediately. This is especially handy if you have moving costs in Singapore to cover.

Get your multi-currency account today

So, that’s it – all you need to know about opening a bank account in Singapore. You should now have a good idea of the process, the documents you’ll need and which Singaporean banks to check out first.

If you’re working or studying there and have the right pass, it should be a breeze. If not, don’t forget that there are always other options available for managing your money, such as Wise.

Sources used:

  1. Telegraph - bank account in Singapore

  2. Wise - bank account in Singapore for foreigners

  3. Finder - bank account in Singapore

  4. Sg banks - number of banks in Singapore

  5. DBS - expat programme benefits

  6. OCBC - 360 savings account

  7. OCBC - basic current account

  8. FRANK account

  9. UOB - One account

  10. UOB - Campus account

  11. POSB - current account

  12. Finder - bank account in Singapore

  13. POSB - current accounts

  14. OCBC - basic current account

Sources checked on 10-January 2021.


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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