DBS expat account in Singapore: Everything you need to know

Elle Kasser
30.03.21
5 minute read

If you’re an expat already in Singapore - or planning a move there for work, study or to join family - you need great ways to manage your money. DBS is the biggest bank in Singapore, with an impressive choice of branches and ATMs. There’s also an expat programme which is designed to help new arrivals to Singapore get set up and settled faster.

This guide covers all you need to know about the benefits offered by DBS to expats in Singapore. We’ll also touch on how you could save up to 7x when you need to send and receive international payments, with Wise. Send money for less, and benefit from the real mid-market exchange rate every time. And if you live an international lifestyle, check out the Wise multi-currency account for even more smart solutions.

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Table of contents:

What is the DBS expat account?

The DBS Singapore expat programme is for eligible expats who choose to open a DBS account, and provides extra benefits aimed at new arrivals.¹

For expats, DBS recommends the Multiplier Account², which you can use with a number of linked credit cards for ease. We’ll cover some of the key features and fees of this account in just a moment. Within the expat programme, you’ll also get benefits including:

  • Digital and mobile banking solutions
  • Access to 280 branches across 18 markets
  • Market updates and financial seminars to support new arrivals
  • Lifestyle rewards including discounts from preferred DBS partners
  • Link a credit card to earn cashback on spending
  • DBS remittance service which offers international payments to select markets with no upfront fee³

DBS remittance

⚠️Sending money overseas? Watch out for the exchange rate
Whenever you send money overseas, there’s a fee. But sometimes it’s tricky to see the true cost of your transfer. This is especially so if the provider has added their fee to the exchange rate being used, instead of showing it as an upfront charge. Get caught out by a bad exchange rate and you can find your transfer costs you much more than you’re expecting.

To see if your provider is using a marked up exchange rate, compare the rates on offer against the mid-market exchange rate. The mid-market exchange rate is the one you’ll find with a Google search, and the one the provider gets when buying currency in the first place. If there’s a difference between the rate you’re offered and the mid-market rate it’s probably because a markup or margin has been added. Compare alternatives to check you’re getting the best available deal.


DBS remittances - in detail

DBS offers a remittance service which advertises transfers to select destination countries with a SGD0 transfer fee. However, as we’ve just seen, it’s worth knowing that the transfer fee isn’t the only cost involved in most international payments.

Let’s look in more detail at the way DBS international payments work. You may be able to get the preferential DBS Remit service if you’re sending a payment of SGD200,000 or less to one of the following countries:⁴

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Eurozone countries
  • Hong Kong
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Malaysia
  • Mainland China
  • Myanmar
  • New Zealand
  • Philippines
  • Thailand
  • UK
  • USA
  • Vietnam

DBS Remit daily and per transaction limits do vary by country, so you’ll need to check if your payment can be made this way.

If you’re sending a payment which is above the maximum limit, or to a destination not listed above, you’ll need to use the regular DBS international transfer service. Fees for this are higher - and payments arranged in a branch may cost even more. Here are the regular DBS online international transfer charges for payments which aren’t covered on DBS Remit:⁴

Fee type DBS online overseas transfer fee
Cable/telex SGD20
Handling commission SGD5 fee for transfers up to SGD5,000 SGD10 fee for transfers up to SGD25,000 SGD35 fee for transfers above this amount
Agent bank charges Applied as required
Currency conversion fee A markup may be added into the exchange rate used to cover the conversion fee

If your payment is eligible for the DBS remit service, this means you won’t pay the regular DBS cable or handling costs, and should not be subject to agent bank fees either. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no fee at all. DBS is a business and needs to cover its costs and make a profit somewhere, after all. Instead, you may find that there’s a fee added into the exchange rate being used - this is usually a markup on the rate offered, as compared to the mid-market rate.

Not all international payment providers use a markup on the exchange rate. Wise offers cross border payments which use the real mid-market exchange rate with no margin or markup. There’s just a low, transparent fee per transaction which can mean you save 7x compared to other services. This can make it easier to see the final costs of your payment.

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DBS expat Singapore account overview

DBS recommends the Multiplier Account to expat customers. Here are some of the key features you’ll want to know about:

  • No minimum account balance if this is your first DBS account and you open online
  • Earn up to 3%pa on savings with tiered interest according to how you use your account
  • Link a credit card from a selection available
  • Hold SGD and 12 foreign currencies
  • Send same day payments to select destination countries with zero or reduced upfront fees
  • No cheque book is available with this account, although you do get a linked debit card

DBS expat eligibility

To open the DBS Multiplier account and join the expat programme, you’ll need to be aged 18 or over, and provide the following documents:⁵

  • Valid passport
  • Employment pass or In Principle Approval (IPA) from the Ministry of Manpower
  • Proof of residential address

Proof of address may be a letter from your employer, utility bill or a local bank statement for example. There’s a full list of the acceptable documents on the DBS website.

It’s also worth knowing that documents have to be provided in the original or as a suitably certified copy. Certification can only be done by a select group of professionals such as lawyers, accountants and notaries. Proof of address documents must not be more than 3 months old.


DBS expat interest rates

The Multiplier account gets its name from the fact that you can earn additional interest if you fulfil certain conditions. That means your interest could run from 0.3% to 3% depending on how you use your account.

In basic terms, the more you use the account, the higher the interest available. To maximise your interest, as an example, you can have your salary paid into your account, get a credit card, take a DBS home loan or insurance, and invest with DBS. You can also choose to have your salary paid into your Multiplier account and use DBS PayLah! as your means of payment for retail transactions.

The different options for earning interest mean that the amount you earn depends on the number of transaction types you carry out, their value, and how much you have in the account. You can estimate your interest earnings online on the DBS website.

So there you have it. The DBS expat programme offers some rewards, benefits and perks which can be useful to foreigners in Singapore. There are also helpful support services for new arrivals settling into the country. However, as with any financial service, it pays to read the small print carefully, and to shop around for specific services as you need them.

If you’re thinking of using DBS to make international payments, compare the costs to an alternative like Wise. Because Wise uses the real mid-market exchange rate every time, with no markups and no hidden fees - no matter where you’re sending to - you might find you can save.


Sources:

  1. DBS Singapore - DBS Expat Programme
  2. DBS Singapore - DBS Multiplier
  3. DBS Singapore - DBS Remit - International Money Transfers
  4. DBS Singapore - DBS Remit
  5. DBS Expat Programmea

Sources checked on 24 March 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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