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How to open a bank account in Singapore

For anyone moving to Singapore, finding a job, securing accommodation and even buying a new car can be key steps to setting up a new life there. There is one thing all of these tasks require: A bank account. As a result, it can be a good idea to look into opening a bank account in Singapore before migrating.

Financial Services in Singapore

All financial institutions in Singapore operate in conjunction with the city-state’s Monetary Authority (MAS), which acts as a central bank. While many local and international banks are allowed operate in Singapore, they do so under strict guidelines which have been enacted by MAS. These regulations are in place to keep inflation in the state low, and also to prevent money laundering in a state where wealth is in abundance. As a result, creating an account with a Singaporean bank often requires face-to-face onboarding.

In fact, the same rule applies to many forms of Singaporean financial service providers, including CurrencyFair. This additional precautionary step helps to keep the city-state’s financial wellbeing and security intact.


Banks in Singapore

The main banks in Singapore are:

  • Development Bank of Singapore (DBS)

  • Post Office Singapore Bank (POSB – since acquired by DBS)

  • United Overseas Bank Singapore (UOB)

  • Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation Singapore (OCBC)

Alternatively, expats may discover that their bank at home, Citibank, HBSC or Barclays for example, also have operations overseas for example in Singapore. In such instances, they may be able to provide assistance with their existing customer’s application before they move.

Opening a Bank Account in Singapore

When opening a bank account in Singapore, it is necessary for the applicant to prove their long-term residence and need for a bank account there. This can be done by providing an employment or study pass. Other documentation relating to their identity, address (foreign or local), or credibility may also be required. Before moving abroad, it is advisable to decide which bank account would be of preference and taking note of what documentation will be needed at the appointment of application.

There are some additional differences in the Singaporean banking system to note which could influence the type of account we open. Below are a few of these factors which could be worth considering:

ATM Withdrawals in Singapore

The availability of ATMs can play a key part when deciding which Singaporean bank to open an account with. As Work Singapore advises, check with individual banks for more details on any fees or charges associated with a bank account in Singapore.

Multi-Currency Accounts

Those planning to open an account with multiple currencies should also be aware of a possible “commission in lieu of exchange”. This applies where an account holder wishes to have more than one currency in their account, and do not wish to convert to the base currency of their account – in other words, they will pay for the service of international payments regardless.

Global Bank Accounts

Some ‘digital nomads’ who are certain they will be travelling for the foreseeable future may take interest in setting up an expat-oriented account. These accounts offer a way of managing international funds more easily, and can be opened with banks such as Citibank and Standard Chartered. The main drawback with these accounts in Singapore can be, however, their low number of ATMs.

Minimum Deposits

Before applying to open a bank account in Singapore, expats should be aware that many bank accounts hold a minimum deposit, starting at S$1,000 all the way up to S$15,000. Where the account holder has a balance below the set threshold, they can be charged a ‘fall below fee’.

While it is generally necessary to visit the bank in-person when applying to open an account, doing some research prior to moving can help speed up the process. By prioritising the task of opening a bank account in Singapore, expats could schedule paying bills, rent and receiving wages - making it one less thing to think about after moving there.

CurrencyFair is an alternative transfer method to keep money transfers to Singapore fast, secure and with better value. Customers use CurrencyFair to not only pay for property, tuition and moving costs before emigrating but to move savings to their new country of residence. While having a bank account in Singapore is a necessity, one can easily avoid the hidden transfer fees and poor exchange rates associated with traditional banks with CurrencyFair.

The information contained in this article should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional advice in individual cases. Future changes in legislation, tax level, and practice could affect the information in this site. The information shown is based on date or information obtained from sources believed to be reliable but CurrencyFair makes no representation and accepts no responsibility as to its accuracy or completeness and will not be held liable for damages arising out of any person’s reliance upon this information.
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