Looking for the best bank for foreigners in Singapore? Read here

Ileana Ionescu

If you’re a new arrival in Singapore, or a foreigner already living here and looking to change your banking arrangements, this guide is for you.

Having a smart way to manage your money is an essential. A good account will let you check your balance, send, spend and receive payments online, and make day to day life easier with a contactless card. It’ll also help keep your money safe, and come with fair, transparent costs for services.

We’ll highlight some of the main accounts offered by big banks in Singapore - and also discuss the Wise multi-currency account as a smart alternative to regular banks. Choosing Wise could save you time and money if you regularly make or receive international payments - or if you love to travel. More on that later.

Things to consider when selecting your bank:

Let’s start at the beginning - what’s important when it comes to choosing a bank? Here are some pointers.

  1. Check out the fees for local and international transfers
  2. Confirm ATM fees at home and abroad
  3. Understand minimum balance requirements and fall below fees
  4. Check if multi-currency accounts are available
  5. Ask about interest rates for savings
  6. Make sure the online banking features you need are provided

How can a foreigner open a bank account in Singapore?

The good news is that most Singapore banks will allow foreigners to open accounts with them.

Each different bank will set their own process for opening a bank account. In some cases you can get started online by submitting scanned copies of your documents - but some banks will require you to attend a meeting in person to open your account.

In all cases, foreigners opening a bank account in Singapore need to provide some evidence of eligibility. As an example, DBS requests the following for foreign residents working in Singapore:¹

  • Identification document - passport or Malaysian IC
  • Proof of employment - employment pass or IPA issued by the Ministry of Manpower
  • Proof of residential address - a recent copy of a payslip, employment letter, or utility bill for example

If you’re in Singapore for study the requirements are similar - you’ll just need to provide proof of your studies instead of proof of employment. This could be a valid student card or a letter from your university for example.

What do banks in Singapore offer?

Let’s take a look at some of the key accounts on offer from Singapore’s biggest banks.

DBS bank accounts

DBS has a number of different account types which are split according to customer type and need.² Some accounts require you to hold another DBS product, for example a credit card, before you can apply. For regular banking needs you may choose:

  • Bank and earn accounts - either offering cashback or preferential interest
  • Savings accounts - My Account or eMy Savings accounts
  • DBS multi-currency account
  • DBS expat programme - for new arrivals in Singapore

There are also specialist account products for young adults and savers who want to make a fixed deposit.

OCBC bank accounts

If you want to open an account with OCBC, you’ll be able to choose from day to day accounts, savings products, and specialist accounts for kids, young adults, and those looking for high interest on their savings.³ OCBC has a number of branches open 7 days a week, and offers online banking for ease. Here are the account options you might consider:

  • 360 account
  • FRANK account - for younger customers
  • Savings products - Bonus+ savings account and Monthly savings account
  • Foreign currency accounts - USD account and Global savings account
  • Children’s accounts - CDA and OCBC mighty savers account
  • Time deposit accounts

UOB bank account

UOB has a broad range of different products - in fact there are 6 different saving accounts, 7 chequing accounts, and 2 accounts for fixed term deposits on offer.⁴ Products are aimed at different customer types, so you’ll need to review which may suit you, and check your eligibility. Here are a few of your options:

  • Savings accounts - Stash account, Passbook savings account, Uniplus savings account
  • Children’s savings accounts - CDA and Junior savings account
  • Multi-currency options - Global currency premium account, Global currency account
  • Chequing - One account, Current account, i-ACCOUNT
  • Fixed deposit - Singapore dollar and foreign currency fixed deposit options

Standard Chartered Bank account

Standard Chartered has current accounts, savings accounts and time deposits - and some accounts can be opened online for ease.⁵ Most accounts are open to both Singapore citizens and residents, although the documentation you provide to open an account as a foreigner may vary. Here are a few options:

  • Current accounts - Bonus$aver and Supersalary account
  • Savings accounts - Unlimited $aver, e$aver, JumpStart and Myway savings accounts
  • Time deposits - Singapore dollar or foreign currency time deposits, and the sustainable time deposit account which is in US dollars

Some accounts are available only to certain groups of customers. For example, the JumpStart account is for younger people aged 16 - 26, whether they are Singapore nationals or foreigners living here.

A cheap alternative that uses the mid market rate: Wise

When you’re researching the right bank for you, it’s worth checking out both the products on offer from the banks, and modern alternatives which can help you save money on fees.

The best account for you might not be from a bank at all.

Compare the accounts set out above, with the Wise multi-currency account, to see if Wise might make life cheaper and easier for you as a foreigner in Singapore.

This multi-currency account is opened online for convenience - and there’s no monthly fee, minimum balance or fall below charge to worry about. You can hold multiple currencies in the same account, which makes it easier to manage your money as you travel. Simply switch between currencies online whenever you need to, for the mid-market exchange rate and just a low transparent fee.

You’ll also get a linked Mastercard debit card, which you can use to pay for goods and services at home and abroad - and when shopping online. It’s accepted anywhere you see the Mastercard logo.

If you love to travel, or shop online with international retailers, Wise can help you avoid international payment charges. Just top up your account with dollars, and then switch to the currency you need using the mid-market rate. You’ll pay a low conversion charge, which can work out far cheaper than using a regular debit card abroad.

Finding the right account for your needs will take a bit of research. As a foreigner living in Singapore, you’ll need to make sure you have the right paperwork to get your account up and running, and you’ll also want to check out the charges for transactions you need to make frequently.

If you’re sending or receiving money from overseas, you can compare the prices your provider offers you with the Wise multi-currency account to see if you can save.

Sources used in the article:

  1. Necessary documents for foreign residents to open an account with DBS here.
  2. DBS bank accounts offers here.
  3. OCBC bank accounts offers here.
  4. UOB bank account offers.
  5. Standard Chartered bank account offers.

*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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