How to open a bank account in Singapore?

Gert Svaiko

Planning to relocate or just moved to Singapore from the UK? 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, including what paperwork you need and which banks to look at first.

Also, there are alternatives to a bank account, like the Wise account from Wise, a money services provider. It’s a travel-friendly, international account that lets you send, spend and receive multiple currencies worldwide (including in Singapore) all in one place.

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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 are the documents required for a UK national to open a bank account in Singapore:¹

  • A valid, up-to-date passport
  • Proof of address
  • Proof of tax residency
  • Employment or study pass – if not using Singpass
  • (optional) Valid phone number – only for recycled numbers

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 of paperwork needed. This gives you time to get everything together and avoid delays because you’ve missed out a vital piece.

How to open a bank account in Singapore as a non-resident from the UK?

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.

Here’s how to approach opening an account in Singapore:

  1. Research the eligibility and requirements for opening an account with a specific Singaporean bank

  2. Gather the documents listed above and make necessary copies

  3. Apply for an account online through digibank app² or Signpass³

    You may need to visit a local bank branch in person for identity verification and application

  4. Choose the type of account you want to open

  5. Wait for the approval

    You may need to present additional documents requested by the bank

  6. Get the account details and access your account

In case you don’t have an employment or a study pass, you may need to visit a bank’s branch in person.

The easiest way is using your employment or study pass and signing up with the Singaporean digital ID – Signpass.⁴ 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.

📚 Read more: Cost of living in Singapore: Your guide

Can you open a bank account in Singapore online?

Yes, you can open a bank account in Singapore online if you have all the necessary paperwork.

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 or use Signpass to speed things along.²

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.

singapore-cityscape

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 100 in fact.⁵

The great thing about banks in Singapore is that unlike in many countries, you can access different account types as a foreigner. For example, you can open a savings account,² a student account,² or even a foreign currency account⁶ as a British national moving to Singapore.

Let’s take a look at just a few of the largest banks in Singapore offering accounts for foreigners, expats and new arrivals.

And remember, there are alternatives to a bank account for managing your money in Singapore or internationally. Consider checking out the Wise account which allows you to send and receive money in multiple currencies (including in British pounds and Singapore dollars) for low fees and the mid-market exchange rate.

You can also get a Wise card to spend like a local once you arrive in Singapore.

Learn more about the Wise account 💰

Please see the Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise fees & pricing for the most up-to-date information on pricing and fees.

DBS

The largest bank in Singapore (and indeed Southeast Asia), DBS is an expat-friendly bank offering a range of services, accounts, advice and more for newcomers to Singapore.² It’s a great bank to start out with if you’re new to the country and need support getting your finances sorted.

The savings account package includes a DBS Multiplier account, offering features such as up to 4.1% p.a. returns on your savings, a linked DBS Visa Debit Card and cashback from various purchases.²

This savings account package is also suitable for students for their everyday transactions.

OCBC

Another one of the largest banks in Singapore, OCBC Bank has a couple of decent account options available for both residents and foreigners.⁷

The first is the 360 Account, an interest-earning account (up to 4.65% a year on your first S$100,000 when you credit your salary, save and spend). All you need is your passport, valid pass and a phone bill or any bank statement to apply.⁸

If you only need something basic and simple, go for the OCBC Current Account instead. It’s a non-interest-bearing account, which you can use to manage everyday transactions, issue cheques and get paid by your employer.⁹

And if you’re in Singapore to study, OCBC has a special FRANK Account for students under 26 years old. It has no initial deposit requirements, no annual fees, and offers a 1% cashback on select purchases.³

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.¹⁰

If you’re undeterred, one of the best UOB accounts is the One Account. This gives you interest on your savings and cashback when you spend on your UOB Debit Card.¹⁰

UOB doesn’t offer a special account for students, but you can still open the One Account for your everyday banking needs.

POSB

Part of the 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 My Account¹¹, which has no fees and no minimum balance requirements and a linked POSB Savings account.¹¹

Similar to DBS, POSB doesn’t offer a separate student account but you can use the My Account with the DBS Visa Debit Card for your everyday transactions. You can apply online through digibank app and Singpass.¹¹

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:

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, although it varies between banks. For example, with OCBC Current Account, this minimum average daily balance for the month is S$3,000, with the fall below fee of S$7.50⁹
  • Cheque book fees – some banks offer a free cheque book. But, for example, with the OCBC Current Account the cheque book charge is S$10⁹ 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, there are usually margins added to the mid-market exchange rate, 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. For example, POSB charges S$20 if the account is closed within 6 months from opening¹²

Wise – Money for here, there and everywhere

A bank account isn’t the only way to manage your finances in a different country like Singapore. Many expats, international students and digital nomads use Wise instead.

Wise is a money services provider, offering a multi-currency account, international money transfer services and a debit card.

Open a Wise account online and you can manage your money in multiple currencies (including in British pounds and Singapore dollars) and get a Wise card to spend internationally at the mid-market exchange rate.

Sign up with Wise today 🚀

Please see the Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise fees & pricing for the most up-to-date information on pricing and fees.


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.


Sources used:

  1. DBS - bank account documents required
  2. DBS - new to Singapore
  3. OCBC - FRANK account
  4. Singpass - homepage
  5. Sgbanks.com - banks in Singapore
  6. OCBC - multi-currency USD current account
  7. OCBC - deposits
  8. OCBC - 360 savings account
  9. OCBC - basic current account
  10. UOB - One Account
  11. POSB - new to Singapore
  12. POSB - deposits guide and pricing

Sources last checked on date: 27-Sep-2023


Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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