Singapore is Asia’s top financial hub. Given its status as a globally competitive market, it is no surprise that many expats decide to relocate to the country. However, no matter how expat-friendly the city may be, settling down in a new country is still not an easy task. Amongst other things, you’ll have to figure out where to live, where to send your kids to school, what telecom solutions to purchase, and all the way to opening a bank account to manage your finances. To help you out, we’ll break down the banking system in Singapore and provide you with recommendations on the best bank services for expats on this sunny island!
Bank Services in Singapore
Famous local banks in Singapore include DBS (Development Bank of Singapore Limited), OCBC (Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation Limited) and UOB (United Overseas Bank Limited). At the same time, the country is also home to offshore and multinational banks like Standard Chartered and HSBC.
When choosing a bank, consider first your banking needs. As a general rule of thumb, most expats in Singapore will require these banking services:
No matter your income level or employment status, you will need a basic bank account for crediting your salary and depositing your money. You’ll also be earning interest on the money in your account. Interest rates differ across banks, so be sure to choose one that offers you the best rates.
Automated Teller Machine (ATM)
While credit cards and mobile wallets are widely used in Singapore, you’ll still want to ensure that you carry enough cash to purchase at places that do not accept those payment options. For instance, certain food places in Singapore operate solely on a cash-based system. Also, having cash when you ride taxis can save you from additional costs associated with paying by credit card.
Some banks allow you to store money in multiple currencies. This is highly beneficial for you, especially if you travel frequently, since you can hold one or more foreign currencies within the same account. At the same time, you may also wish to remit money to your loved ones back at home. Having a multi-currency account is a great way to avoid some of the international transaction fees that might be imposed on regular bank accounts.
A credit card is basically a must-have in Singapore, given its status as one of the most universally accepted modes of payment. Whether you decide to buy an electronic gadget, or groceries from our local supermarkets, credit cards will always come in handy for the transaction. Banks in Singapore also often strike deals with various merchants, giving you discounts and special rewards whenever you spend using your credit card.
Expat-Friendly Banking Services
Despite the sheer number of banks in Singapore, it must be noted that not all of them are expat-friendly. Nonetheless, it is important that you open an account with a bank that can best handle your needs, and give you the best savings possible!
We list 5 expat banking services in Singapore below, and provide information on how you can engage these services!
As an expat, you will want to consider opening a savings account with a multi-currency wallet. The DBS Multiplier Account allows you to set up various currency wallets, and exchange money 24/7 whenever rates are favourable. You can also shop, dine and pay overseas (up to 11 currencies) with no foreign exchange fees at all. Plus, you can earn an interest of up to 3.8% per annum.
You can open the DBS Multiplier Account online, but will need a list of documents:
- Your passport
- Employment Pass or In-Principle Approval Letter issued by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) of Singapore
- Proof of residential/mailing address
Should your EP not yet be ready, you can use your In-Principle Approval Letter (IPA) to back up your application.
Another expat-friendly bank in Singapore is UOB. Aside from other perks, the UOB One Account provides up to 10% rebate when you spend using your credit or debit card, and also offers competitive exchange rates for your overseas expenditure.
To apply for the UOB One Account, you’ll need to head down in person to any UOB Branch with these documents:
- Your Passport
- Proof of Residence Address
- Employment Pass/ S Pass/ Dependent Pass
Citibank’s Global Banking Programme helps you manage your international accounts more easily. This programme also offers fringe perks such as international relocation services, and provides other services to help you better manage your finances. If you have a Citibank account in your home country, you can use the Citibank Global Transfer service, which allows you to remit money with no fees. Citibank is one of the few banks in Singapore that will loan money to foreigners, unlike DBS and UOB.
To apply for the global banking programme, you’ll need to submit an application form with your personal particulars, and the type of banking services you’re interested in. Once you submit your application, you’ll be contacted by a Citibank personnel within two business days.
Standard Chartered is another bank that is recognised for its expat banking programme. You can even set up an account prior to arriving in Singapore, and remit money to an overseas StanChart account for free.
StanChart takes pride in prioritising its customers. With dedicated and personalised support from its Relationship Managers in your origin and destination countries, you can enjoy premium and preferential services no matter where you are.
To apply for StanChart’s Global Banking services, fill up the contact form at the bottom of the landing page, and a representative from the bank will get in touch with you shortly.
Similar to CitiBank and Standard Chartered, HSBC offers international banking solutions for anyone that is relocating abroad. You can open your bank account before arriving in Singapore, by simply getting in touch with the bank 1-2 months before your arrival. Once you’ve opened your account, you can get access to complimentary arrival and relocation services, and even apply for a HSBC credit card.
HSBC is unique as it offers free remittance to 230 countries, whether or not the recipient is an HSBC account holder. Also, HSBC loans money to foreigners who have had an EP for at least a year.
To open an account with HSBC Expat, simply fill up the contact form, and a representative will call you back.
Now that you better know the different expat-friendly bank services in Singapore, it is time to open a bank account in here!
Interested to find out more about Singapore? Check out our local guide.
Are you planning on relocating to Singapore post-COVID-19? Moovaz offers international relocation services tailored to your moving needs. Our movers are specially trained to give you the best possible experience in this sentimental journey. Get an estimate of your move now!