An Expat’s Guide To Opening A Bank Account In Singapore
Packing up to work and live in another country can be exciting.
Dealing with the administrative headaches of the transition, however, is less so. Not to worry; here’s a quick rundown on one of the most important things you’ll need to strike off from your to-do list when you arrive: opening a bank account.
First, ask yourself these questions
If you’re looking to open a bank account in Singapore, you have plenty of choices, from local banks like DBS, POSB, OCBC and UOB, to foreign ones like Citibank, HSBC and Standard Chartered. Local banks tend to have the most ATMs, with DBS and POSB the topping the list as their ATMs are interchangeable.
Here’s what you have to consider when choosing a bank:
- Do you need to make international transfers? If you need to transfer money overseas regularly, you’ll want to look at the fees your bank will charge, whether or not you can transfer to other banks and how fast a transfer can be completed.
- Do you need to store your savings in multiple currencies? If you don’t want to convert all your currency to the Singaporean dollar immediately, or if you need to make regular transactions in your local currency, a multi-currency or foreign currency account will allow you to store cash in more than one currency.
- Does the bank have a presence in your home country? If you have an account with the same bank in your home country, you may be charged less fees for international transfers between accounts. Additionally, if your bank has many branch locations internationally, it’s more convenient to withdraw cash, as well as more cost-effective, as fees may be lower or waived when you withdraw from your bank’s ATM.
What types of accounts can you open?
Here are some of the types of bank accounts you can open in Singapore:
- Current/checking account. A current or checking account offers easy access to money that you need for daily transactions. You can use these accounts to deposit small amounts of cash and make payments by cheque, internet banking and debit card. However, they typically have zero or close to zero interest rates.
- Savings account. Savings accounts are good for keeping emergency funds or short-term savings. They typically have interest rates between 0.10% and 0.50% – however, some banks provide tiered interest rates if you meet certain criteria, such as depositing a minimum balance or you crediting your salary to the account. Standard Chartered’s Bonus$aver, for instance, provides an interest rate of up to 3.88%.
- Fixed/time deposit. These accounts generally give out higher interest rates than savings accounts. However, they’re more suited towards long-term savings, as you’ll have to deposit your money without accessing it for a certain amount of time (i.e. 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, etc). If you withdraw your money before the tenure is up, you’ll be penalised with lower or zero interest rates.
- Multi-currency/foreign currency account. These accounts allow you to hold multiple currencies in a single account. This means that you can make international transactions without incurring additional foreign exchange costs, or avoid having your money converted when the Singaporean dollar is weak. Multi-currency or foreign currency accounts also typically provide access to preferential foreign exchange rates, as well as allow you to make international transactions at zero or lower fees, compared to regular accounts.
What do you need to open an account?
As an expat, you’ll generally need the following documents to open an account:
- A copy of your passport
- A copy of your Employment Pass
- Proof of residence (e.g. bank, mobile or utility statements), typically a few months of records
You may also need an initial deposit sum. For regular savings and checking accounts, the minimum deposit is typically around S$1,000, if any. However, for multi-currency or foreign currency accounts, the minimum can go up to US$25,000 or its equivalent.
Comparison of bank accounts in Singapore
On the other hand, if you’re considering a multi-currency or foreign currency account, these are available to you in Singapore:
|Bank||Account name||Minimum deposit||Currencies||Notes|
|Bank of China||Multi-Currency Savings Account||S$1,500||SGD and nine other foreign currencies|
|Current Account||S$1,000||SGD, RMB, USD, EUR, GBP, NZD, AUD, JPY, CAD, HKD, CHF|
|CIMB||Foreign Currency Fixed Deposit Account||USD 10,000|
|USD, GBP, AUD, NZD, EUR, CAD, CNH|
|Foreign Currency Current Account||USD 1,000|
|USD, AUD, EUR, GBP, JPY||Unlimited free cheque books for your USD account|
|Citibank||CitiAccess||US$10,000||USD||First cheque book is free|
|US$ Savings Account||US$10,000||USD|
|US$ Checking Account||US$5,000||USD||First cheque book is free|
|Global Foreign Currency Account||AUD, CAD, EUR, HKD, JPY, NZD, GBP, CHF, USD||Pay using your Citibank Debit Card at point-of-sale or online, at no additional currency conversion fee
Access foreign currencies at Citi ATMs worldwide with no additional processing fee
|DBS||Multi-Currency Account (MCA)||SGD and 12 other foreign currencies||Same-day transfers at zero or lower fees when you remit funds online to countries like Australia, China, Canada, Eurozone countries, Hong Kong, UK, USA and others|
|Fixed Deposit – Foreign Currency||USD, GBP, AUD, CAD, NZD, CHF, JPY, CNY, HKD, EUR|
|HSBC||Foreign Currency Current Account||US$5,000 or equivalent||USD, GBP, AUD, HKD, JPY, EUR, NZD||Free cheque book for USD current account|
|Foreign Currency Time Deposit||USD 25,000|
JPY 10 million
|USD, GBP, CHF, JPY, AUD, HKD, CAD, NZD, EUR, CNY|
|Multi Currency Savings Account||S$2,000 or equivalent||AUD, CAD, EUR, JPY, NZD, GBP, CHF, USD, HKD, CNY||Able to make instant worldwide transfers to your other HSBC accounts|
|Maybank||Foreign Currency Current Account||US$1,000 or equivalent||USD, AUD, NZD||Free cheque book for USD current account|
|Foreign Currency Time Deposit||10,000 units for USD, GBP, AUD, NZD, CAD, CHF, EUR; 2.5 million units for JPY||USD, GBP, AUD, NZD, CAD, CHF, EUR, JPY|
|iSAVvy Foreign Currency Time Deposit||10,000 units for all foreign currencies||AUD, EUR, NZD, GBP, USD|
|OCBC||USD Current Account||US$1,000||USD||For existing OCBC Savings Account, Current Account and Online Banking customers|
|Global Savings Account||5,000 units for AUD, CAD, CNH, EUR, GBP, NZD, USD;|
50,000 units for HKD
|AUD, CAD, CNH, EUR, GBP, NZD, USD, HKD||No fee imposed for falling below minimum balance|
|Time Deposit (Fixed Deposit)||AUD 5,000|
|AUD, CAD, CHF, EUR, GBP, NZD, SGD, USD, HKD, CNH, JPY|
|UOB||Global Currency Premium Account||10,000 units for USD, AUD, EUR, NZD, GBP, CAD, CNH;|
1 million units for JPY
|USD, AUD, EUR, NZD, GBP, CAD, JPY, CNH|
|Foreign Currency Fixed Deposit||USD 5,000|
|USD, AUD, GBP, CAD, EUR, NZD, CHF, JPY, HKD||An introducer is required if a non-resident individual wishes to open an account|
|Global Currency Account||USD 1,000|
|USD, AUD, NZD, EUR, CAD, JPY, GBP, CHF, HKD, CNY||An introducer is required if a non-resident individual wishes to open an account|
|Standard Chartered Bank||FCY$aver||US$2,000 or equivalent||USD, EUR, GBP, AUD, NZD, CNH, CHF, CAD, HKD, JPY|
|Foreign Currency Time Deposits||USD 5,000|
|USD, GBP, AUD, NXD, EUR, CAD, HKD, CNH|
Other financial considerations you’ll have to take into account include what types of properties you can rent or buy, whether or not you’ll need to pay income tax and getting your first local credit card.
If you’re feeling intimidated by the move, don’t worry – Singapore is pretty expat-friendly, and there’s a large expat community online that you can refer to for help. Check out forums such as Singapore Expats and Expat Singapore to trade tips and anecdotes.