If you’re headed to Singapore to live, work or study - or simply make frequent visits there, you might be wondering if it’s possible for a foreigner to open a bank account in Singapore. The good news is that most of the major banks offer products which can be opened by foriegn customers, although you might have to visit a branch in person to present your documents and get your account up and running.
If you want to open a Singapore dollar account before you arrive, or don’t have the paperwork required, you might save yourself time and money by opening a Wise borderless account online.
Get your borderless account open online, and you’ll receive a linked Mastercard debit card for simple spending. Hold multiple currencies in the same place, and switch between them for a low fee using the mid-market exchange rate. We’ll cover this in more detail later to help you weigh up the options.
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Each bank has its own process for opening accounts, so the exact documents required may vary slightly depending on the bank you select. In most cases, you can expect to be asked for the following:¹
- Proof of identity, such as a valid passport or national ID card
- Proof of residence, including phone bills or utility bills
- Employment Pass, S Pass, Student Pass or Dependent Pass depending on the situation
- Some accounts require you to provide a reference or introduction letter
It’s worth checking the details of the documents needed before you attend a branch in person. For example, you may need to present a passport which has 6 months or more validity left, and government issued proof of your residential address might only be recognised if you’re from a FATF - Financial Action Task Force - member country.²
If you have the right paperwork to hand, and can visit a branch in person, you’ll be able to open an account with most of the major banks in Singapore. It’s worth doing some research to find the right bank for your needs. Make sure you’re aware of the charges and limitations of the account products you look at, and remember that some accounts targeting foreign customers come with a fairly hefty minimum deposit requirement.
Here’s a run through of the options available from some of the biggest banks in Singapore. You can compare the products on offer here with the Wise borderless account to make sure you’re getting the right account for you.
DBS has a range of accounts, including current accounts and saving accounts, which can be operated in both Singapore dollars and foreign currencies. Most of the products are available to foreign customers - the exception being the DBS Multi-currency Autosave account which is offered only to Singaporean citizens and permanent residents.³
POSB, which is a subsidiary of DBS, also offers a specific payroll account for migrant workers. This account is designed to be a simple way to receive the salary in Singapore, and comes with a card and remittance services. However, there is a S$2 fall below fee if the account holds less than S$500, and you’ll face charges for some ATM and over the counter withdrawals.⁴
Foreigners are able to open accounts with OCBC, but may need to be residents of Singapore to be eligible for some products. Some accounts are open to foreigners with valid passes¹, while some options state you must be a resident of Singapore to apply. ⁵
Check out the range of documents requested for the account you want to open, to see if you’re able to comply with the OCBC rules.
If you’re a foreigner living in Singapore with an Employment Pass, S Pass or Dependant Pass, you’ll be able to choose from a range of UOB accounts. However, to open your account you must visit a branch in person - there’s no online account option for foreign customers.
If you’re a regular visitor to Singapore, but do not live or work there, you may be able to apply for an account with UOB by attending a meeting in person at a UOB branch. You must provide proof of ID and residential address, as well as a reference letter from your own bank, or an existing UOB customer. UOB state that each application is considered individually, so you’ll need to gather the documents required and head to a branch to make your application.⁶
There’s no legal reason why you can’t open a bank account in Singapore as a visitor, student or holding a Dependent pass. Each bank decides its own eligibility rules, so you’ll need to invest some time in researching the options based on your situation.
UOB state that they consider applications from foreigners who are not working or studying in Singapore, as long as you can attend a branch in person to provide documents. Other banks might offer specific products to foreigners, but limit access to some services. Whichever account you’re considering, check out the small print, as some global accounts for foreigners are aimed at customers looking to invest significant amounts of money, and come with high minimum deposits.
Singapore is a global banking hub, with many major banks represented there. However, if you travel frequently, send money home, or receive income in multiple currencies, an account with a local Singaporean bank might not be your best option.
For a more flexible way of managing your money across currencies and country borders, check out the Wise borderless account.
You’ll be able to hold your money in dozens of different currencies including THB and MYR, and send and receive payments all around the world for low fees. All currency conversion uses the mid-market exchange rate. It’s the only fair exchange rate, that you can also find on Google, for example. You’ll also get local bank details to allow you to receive fee free payments in major currencies like US, Australian and New Zealand dollars, euros and British pounds.
To make life simple, there’s also a linked Mastercard debit card and a handy app to manage your money on the go. Lose excessive currency conversion fees, and make your money as flexible as you are, with borderless.
Sources used in the article:
- Necessary documents to open a bank account as a foreigner in some of the banks in Singapore - DBS, OCBC and UOB.
- Information about FATF.
- DBS account offers for foreigners here.
- POSB offers here.
- OCBC offers for foreign customers here.
- UOB offers here. (section For Foreigners and U.S Persons)
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