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Malaysia offers a heady mix of a growing economy, friendly people, and an attractive climate, making it a great place to work, study, live or even retire. If you’re planning your move now, you’re going to need a local bank account to get you started.
Check out our handy guide for all you need to know about opening a bank account in Malaysia.
In theory, it is possible to open a Malaysian bank account online. However, in practice, this is tricky for expats and non-Malaysians. Some banks need a Malaysian issued proof of ID, such as a Malaysian passport, Mykad or Identity Card to open an account online.
Others have more complicated requirements, which mean you can’t really get started without a visit to a branch in person. An alternative is to open an account with an international bank operating in Malaysia. That way you can get the process started before you move.
Lots of international banks operate in Malaysia, but international accounts can come with high minimum deposit requirements and fees, so it’s important to compare a few options before you sign up.
There’s no legal reason why you can’t open a Malaysian bank account as a non-resident American. The documentation required to open an account is not fixed in law, so each bank has its own policy.
However, not all banks offer all products to non-resident customers - and where accounts are available to non-residents you might find you need to provide extra documents compared to opening an account as a Malaysian citizen or resident.
You will usually need to show a reference from your company, a reputable Malaysian contact as an introducer, a work permit or other documents proving your connections with Malaysia, for example.
The documents you’ll need to open an account will vary, but for a resident account they will typically include:
Most bank accounts will provide you with a debit card, but if you want a credit card too, you might have to provide more paperwork. Expect to be asked for proof of earnings such as payslips or a letter from your employer.
In general the process of opening an account will be easier if you are referred to a bank by a Malaysian contact who already has an account there.
Malaysia has a strong network of both local and international banks. Opening an account is usually no more difficult than visiting a branch with the right paperwork. Here are a few popular Malaysian banks you might want to consider.
Maybank¹ is the largest of Malaysia’s retail banks. They have a range of accounts including regular checking and saving accounts, Islamic banking, and products for children. They have internet, phone, mobile and SMS based banking services as well as a branch network.
With branches throughout Malaysia, you should be able to find a convenient branch of CIMB² no matter where you live and work. On offer are current and savings accounts, as well as fixed term deposit products and credit cards. Online banking is possible with all accounts.
Public Bank Berhad³ (PBE) is a large Malaysian bank operating across the region. They have a wide range of products on offer, several of which come with related promotions such as cash back on spending or discounts for goods and services. Islamic banking services are available.
RHB Bank⁴ offers a good range of basic and premium current accounts, savings products and multi-currency accounts. However, some products are only available for Malaysian citizens and permanent residents, so they may not be accessible for expats. Islamic banking services are available.
Read the terms and conditions carefully before you choose a bank account - especially when it comes to banking fees and charges. Any regular charges levied to keep your account open or use a credit or debit card will mount up over time, so it pays to be aware.
One common charge includes a set fee for withdrawing cash from an ATM operated by a different bank. The fees are likely to be higher if you make withdrawals overseas.
If you’ll be traveling in the region a lot it’s worth considering opening an account with a bank which has branches and ATMs throughout Southeast Asia, as you’ll often find lower fees when overseas if you can use an ATM from your own bank.
Some accounts in Malaysia have a minimum balance requirement, meaning you must always keep a certain amount in your account. Others have a set minimum income needed to operate, so a steady flow of fresh funds must pass through the account to avoid charges.
Another challenge for expats can be finding the best way to move money between accounts which use different currencies.
You’ll usually pay a bank fee for processing the transaction, an extra fee added to the exchange rate, and an international fee may also be incurred at the receiving end.
The costs to you may vary by destination country, and how you set up your payment, so do compare your options to make sure you get the best possible deal on your international transfer.
In general, opening a bank account in Malaysia should not be a complicated affair if you’re a resident.
As the major banks have good English language web pages with a reasonable range of products on offer, you will be able to narrow your options online before going to the bank in person.
Once there, staff should be able to open an account in a very short time. Good luck!
Sources checked on 10.19.2023
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 Wise Payments 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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