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As a global city and leading financial hub, Singapore is one of the most popular destinations for US expats looking to grow their careers overseas. If you’re planning on relocating to Singapore any time soon, you’ll need ways to manage your money in SGD and USD seamlessly and without high fees.
This guide covers all you need to know about opening a bank account in Singapore.
Once you have the right documentation, opening an account is really straightforward (and can be done online). However, you’ll usually find it difficult to open an account from abroad if you don’t have a valid pass to reside in Singapore, and proof of a Singapore residential address.
One bank which does offer non-resident account opening services is UOB®¹ - but you still need to visit a branch to open your account, so this can’t be done if you’re still in the US at the time you want to apply.
Another option is to stick with your US bank and move your account over to Singapore if possible. Because Singapore is a global financial hub, you’ll find many international banks such as Citibank®², HSBC®³ and Standard Chartered®⁴.
If you have a bank account with one of these banks in the US, it’s worth asking if they can help you set up a Singaporean bank account before your move.
Keep in mind that many banks’ international services are aimed at high net worth individuals, so they may not be the right choice for you.
It’s likely you’ll be required to make a large minimum deposit, maintain a large in-credit balance and pay various account opening fees and charges.
The standard for most Singaporean banks is to ask for your passport and pass proving your legal right to reside in Singapore, and your proof of local address in order to consider your application. Unfortunately, these requirements make it very difficult to open a bank account in Singapore if you’re just visiting and don’t plan to settle here.
One option, as we mentioned, is to look at non-resident account services from a bank like UOB. However in this case you’ll need more documents than you would as a resident, including 2 forms of ID, proof of your international residential address, a letter of reference from a bank you have an existing banking relationship with, or a letter from a local introducer who is an existing UOB Singapore account holder.
If you have Singpass - Singapore’s digital ID verification app - you can usually apply for a Singapore bank account online, using Singpass and a single document to prove your residential address.
If you don’t have Singpass yet, the standard documents needed to open a Singapore bank account as a resident are:
1. your passport
2. your valid pass showing legal right of residence in Singapore
3. a document to prove your address
|Documents acceptable as proof of address can include:|
It’s always best to get in touch with your bank beforehand, as they can give you a better idea of what documents you’ll need and what to expect during the application process.
Unsurprisingly, as a global financial hub, Singapore is pretty well served by local, regional and global banking brands. Which suits you best may simply come down to personal preference. Let’s look at some of Singapore’s largest banks to see what each has to offer.
DBS⁵ is the largest bank in Singapore and the whole of Southeast Asia. If you’re new to Singapore, it’s worth a look, as it has a tailored expatriate program⁶ you can apply for in branch - or online if you have Singpass and a proof of address to hand. You can pick from various banking bundles, depending on the account type and other services you need.
DBS has a comprehensive suite of account products including a multi-currency account, debit and credit card options, business accounts, loans, investment services and more.
OCBC⁷ is another bank with a great branch and ATM network in Singapore, making it a convenient option more or less wherever on the island you live and work. OCBC offers a good selection of account products including the super popular 360 Account which lets you earn interest at higher rates the more you use your account.
OCBC also offers specialist accounts for young people and students, credit cards, loans, insurance, investment and wealth planning advice and a mobile app you can use to manage your money, including converting currencies and sending overseas payments.
UOB⁸ has lots of different account options including the One Account which has high interest earning opportunities if you credit your salary to your account, frequently use a UOB debit or credit card, and also use other add-on services like GIRO payments.
UOB has good digital services which can help save you a visit to a branch, but for those times you can’t avoid it, there’s a large branch network and plenty of ATMs around the island.
While most banks in Singapore offer bank accounts with no monthly fees, you can expect at least some additional costs. Each bank will have its own specific fee structure, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with your bank’s terms and conditions. Keep an eye out for the following fees and charges:
Very often, you’ll need to meet a minimum deposit requirement, which is normally between S$1,000 and S$3,000. Most banks also have a minimum in-credit balance requirement, and you’ll be charged a fee if your balance falls below it.
Many banks require you to keep your account open for a minimum period of time, normally set at six months. Close your account before this period expires, and you’ll be slapped with an early closure fee in the region of S$30.
Withdrawing from your bank’s ATM machines is free; and some banks will also give you at least a set number of free withdrawals a month from other ATMs. However, as a general rule, it’s better to use your bank’s ATMs.
That way, you’re sure you’re not being charged for making a withdrawal. Withdrawing from an ATM whilst overseas is rarely free. Chances are you’ll be slapped with an administration fee and a service charge.
As an American living in Singapore, the chances are that you’ll need to send overseas payments from time to time. It’s worth knowing that using your bank to make international transfers can get very expensive.
You should expect to be charged a transaction fee and a handling fee, as well as agency fees for each transfer. Depending on the bank, this may be either a flat fee or a percentage commission.
Either way, the cost will add up, so you’ll want to double check your options and the possible charges before you begin.
Generally, banking in Singapore is fairly straightforward once you get your local bank account arranged. Use this guide to help you pick the right bank for your specific needs, and gather all the paperwork needed - and you should be good to go.
- UOB non-resident account opening requirements
- Standard Chartered
- DBS expatriate Program
Sources checked on 10.18.2023
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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