How to: Set-up a bank account in Singapore.
Living in Singapore requires you to first set up a few essentials before you can settle in. Arguably one of the most important things is to open a bank account.
Just moved to Singapore? Welcome to the little red dot! That said, Crypto isn’t taking over the financial system just yet. So you still need to open a good-old bank account in Singapore to access your savings and funds. It becomes all the more important when you’re starting a business in Singapore. Here’s a quick guide on what you need to have to open a bank account in Singapore, as well as the range of banking options out there.
What should I consider when choosing the right bank?
- Location of branch
Is there a convenient location near your home or workplace? Though most transactions can be done through internet banking or mobile banking apps these days, this might not be a big concern. While you can check if the bank from your home country has a branch in Singapore, most foreign banks would only have a handful of branches in Singapore. So if you’re interested in investment products and other financial services of a foreign bank, you’d have to travel all the way down to their branch.
- Location of self-service lobbies
Some bank branches offer 24/7 services with self-serve facilities such as cheque deposit boxes, cash deposit machines, and ATMs; all great options to help skip the long queues. Some DBS/POSB bank branches even have video teller machines (VTM) that can offer services such as issuing a Debit Card or ATM Card, as well as face-to-face video teller assistance.
All AXS Machines and DBS/POSB ATMs let you top-up your EZ-Link card as well. If you have an OCBC account, you’d have to look out for OCBC ATMs with the EZ-Link logo.
- Accessibility of ATMs
Not all banks have their own ATMs, some have an extensive and shared network.
Local banks such as DBS-POSB has the most ATM locations (over 677 ATMs). Due to its local popularity, DBS-POSB ATMs generally feature long queues.
UOB (United Overseas Bank) and OCBC (Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation) have shared networks of over 800 ATMs.
Other foreign banks like Citibank, Standard Chartered and HSBC (Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation) have a shared network of 63, 107 and 90 ATMs, respectively.
- Interest rates
Interest rates are frequently tiered based on balance and range from 0.05% to 3.5%. Interest range is driven by the balance you maintain and number or amount of transactions (salary credit, bill payments, credit card spend etc).
- Minimum initial deposit
Most banks require this to set up a bank account. And you don’t need to fear for a bank run. The Deposit Insurance Schemes protects Singapore dollar deposits of bank and non-bank depositors for up to S$75,000 in aggregate per depositor per Scheme member by law.
If you’re closing your account, do note that most banks charge a closure fee.
- Minimum deposit amount and fall below fee
Minimum balance to maintain and/or is subject to monthly bank service fees.
- International money transfers
If you plan on transferring money back to your home country in your home local currency, check what the typical FX rates are compared to FX boards and what the transfer charges (flat fee or percentage commission) are. We find that the global banks like HSBC and CITIBANK have the most competitive transfer rates and fees but require high minimum deposits for expats to open an account (more than SG$50K). But if you’re looking for convenience, the DBS Multi-Currency account is also a great choice.
- Foreign currency accounts
Interest rates are frequently tiered based on balance and range from 0.05% to 3.5%. Interest range is driven by the balance you maintain and number or amount of transactions (salary credit, bill payments, credit card spend etc). But if you’re lucky enough, you may get extra bonus interest rates when banks offer those types of promotions.
The interest rates can be affected by the different types of bank accounts. Nowadays, most banks are luring customers in with all kinds of high-interest savings accounts, be it with rebates on your credit card spending or your salary credit transactions.
What documents do I need at hand?
- Employment Pass
- Proof Of Address (POA)
Some banks would also need a Proof of Mobile Ownership as well. If you don’t have a Long Term Visit Pass, some banks would even need a letter of reference from another bank that you use, or a letter from an introducer.
Can foreigners open a bank account in Singapore without an employment pass?
Foreigners need a long-term visit pass to open a bank account in Singapore. The pass can be a Student Pass, Employment Pass, Work Permit, S Pass, or Dependent Pass.
While most banks let you sign up for their different financial products on line, opening bank accounts for foreigners may also require proof of identity (passport, national ID) and proof of residence (phone bills or utility bills).
If you’re not staying in Singapore for a long term, you can consider alternative financial accounts like Wise. Though those types of services may not let you pay cash via PayNow, a popular near-instant real-time payment system used by many banks in Singapore.
Are there Expat-friendly banks?
Say hello to the DBS Expat Programme.
We find that it’s more important to have your bank account up and running as soon as possible. So stop weighing the interest rate differences (which is only significant for balances of more than $30K). For a smooth and easy set-up, we suggest the DBS Expat Programme.
The programme not only allows you to apply online but it allows you to apply with just your IPA (In-principle approval letter) and use your employers address as your application address (you will need a formal letter from your employer confirming your employment). You can subsequently update your account address when you have settled your accommodation.
Should I set-up my account online or at the bank?
To apply online, simply upload the necessary documents and wait to hear back on whether your application is successful. Occasionally, the bank may ask you to head down to their local branch for in-person verification.
Most banks require you to head into the bank to apply in person with the required documents. Prevent having to make multiple trips by checking what documents are required online, before anything else.
How long does it usually take?
For the DBS expat programme, the online application depends on your profile – between 1 – 2 weeks.
For walk-ins, if you have all your documents in place, you could do so in less than an hour if there is no queue. It helps if you have a local mobile number so that you can get an SMS-queue number.
List of banks that offer Savings Accounts
Contact Number: 1800 111 1111
UOB (United Overseas Bank)
Contact Number: 1800 222 2121
OCBC (Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation)
Contact Number: 1800 363 3333
Standard Chartered Bank
Contact Number: 6225 8888
Contact Number: 6550 7888
CIMB (Commerce International Merchant Bankers)
Contact Number: 6333 7777
HSBC (The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation)
Contact Number: 1800 4722 669
Contact Number: 6225 5225
Bank of China
Contact Number: 1800 338 5335
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