As a foreigner in Singapore you can quickly get lost in a sea of financial advertising none of which may seem familiar to you. If you’re used to finding ATMs from international names like Citibank, HSBC, or American Express, you’ll find that these banks have very little presence here. Instead the best banks for foreigners in Singapore are the ones that are local and yet suitable for international payments and transfers.
This article will tell you everything you need to know about choosing the bank that fits the non-resident Singaporean’s requirements.
Basic Banking Services Needed by Foreigners and Expatriates in Singapore
If you’re a non-resident, your banking needs will differ significantly from the needs of a citizen or a permanent resident. For one thing, you would need to send back remittances to your home country. So, you would need a bank that can make that transfer painless.
Listed below are the basic banking services that foreign individuals in Singapore would need on a continuous basis:
- Presence both in your home country and Singapore
- ATM and Savings Deposit services in both Singapore and your home country
- Low fees for both international and domestic transfers
- Low minimum balance requirements and low penalties on falling below
- Higher interest rates on Savings accounts
- Ask if your account allows you multi-currency deposits and withdrawals for travel or other urgent transfers
- Other convenience features, such as 24 by 7 branches, overdrafts, credit cards, multiple transfer options, club memberships, etc.
Documents Required for Foreign Individuals Opening a Bank Account in Singapore
The following document list is meant for online bank account opening applications and is only valid for Singapore citizens, PRs, Employment/S-Pass holders, Students on a visa, Entre pass holders, etc. Further the information here is valid at the time of writing and may be subject to change periodically.
- Identity Card/Employment Pass/S Pass/Student Visa/Entre Pass
- Address of Residence, either local or overseas – the latter address to be accepted on a temporary basis till you find a local address and inform the bank through their digital platform.
- Employment proof: Work passes issued by Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower usually suffice as proof of employment.
Best Local Banks in Singapore
DBS (Development Bank of Singapore)
- With 50+ years of heritage behind them and S$ 646 billion in total assets, DBS is easily one of Singapore’s largest and most recognizable banks.
- DBS has a presence in some of the biggest markets globally, including Los Angeles, London, Beijing, Mumbai, Penang, Jakarta, Seoul, and many others.
- This bank is known for its paperless account opening and digital services at very economical rates.
- At the time of writing, DBS had 250 branches globally, while it claimed to have the largest network of ATMs in Singapore.
OCBC (Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation)
- OCBC is one of the oldest and largest banks in Southeast Asia.
- Owns 470+ branches in 19 regions and countries worldwide.
- It has a major presence in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and China.
- OCBC has successful interests in Singapore’s insurance and capital markets, and serves personal banking customers as well as small to medium sized businesses.
UOB (United Overseas Bank)
- 3rd largest bank in Singapore.
- UOB has seen its asset portfolio grow consistently in recent years with a steady cost-to-income ratio.
- This bank currently has 63 branches in Singapore alone, and has marked its presence in 18 countries worldwide, including in Australia, the UK, US, India, & Canada, apart from almost all of Singapore’s neighbors and India.
- Known for its strong service support to SMEs.
- Southeast Asia’s 4th largest bank in terms of assets.
- 2600 branches in 18 countries that includes all 10 ASEAN members.
- Currently this Malaysian-origin bank also has 18 branches, 4 exclusive wealth centers, one high-end lounge and 12 self-owned ATMs. It partners with local qualifying ATM networks which give you further access to 200+ ATMs across Singapore.
Standard Chartered Bank
- Standard Chartered, with origins in the UK, has been a major player in Singapore since 1859.
- Part of a global banking group, its Singapore HQ offers one of the most diverse portfolio of products and services in the industry.
- Presently has 12 branches and 25 ATMs in Singapore with 4 Priority Service branches and 1 high-end International Banking & Priority Service branch.
- Custodian banker of choice for foreign institutions in Singapore having won numerous international banking awards.
- CitiBank was one of the first American banks to open shop in Singapore.
- As one of the largest banks in the world, it has access to deep funding and is already a formidable competitor in the Republic.
- CitiBank requires foreigners to submit an authorized ID and proof of residence along with their bank account application.
- If you do not have a SingPass (a login software that stores your personal identifier info for engagement with the Singapore government) you must either apply for one or visit a Singapore branch of CitiBank to have your account opened.
- Like Standard Chartered, HSBC, opened shop in Singapore in the second half of the 19th century.
- Is an authorized Primary Dealer of G-secs, and other foreign corporate bonds in Singapore.
- This bank is also part of an international group with branches in several countries including India, the US, UK, Australia, and many others.
- Branch visits are necessary for account opening at HSBC Singapore.
Time taken to open a bank account for a Foreigner
For most banks, it takes between 3 to 7 working days to have a fully functional bank account opened.
DBS commits to 3 business days. However, SingPass holders may be eligible for instant account opening.
Banking Services Comparison
Note that the information given here has been taken from the official websites of each of the banks concerned and were current at the time of writing. However, they may be subject to change and human error. These figures may be taken as reference only for the purpose of choosing the best banks for foreigners in Singapore.
Singapore has strict laws prohibiting money-laundering
In Singapore, there are immutable banking secrecy laws and account holders are not required to report funds available to the authorities regularly.
However, the Corruption, Drug Trafficking, and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act of 1999 (CDSA) makes it a punishable offence to engage in such acts.
Singapore banks are required to monitor and find suspicious transactions and unverified sources of income or wealth deposited with them. However, the Singapore authorities will not punish you if the source of your funds are not from a list of 184 criminal activities elaborated in the Act mentioned above.
Note that Singapore police can detain, arrest, or charge you for these 184 offences even if they are committed overseas.
If you’re planning to launch a business as a foreigner and want to visit Singapore occasionally, you may want to open a bank account in a bank that also serves your home country.
Although it might seem that familiar banks in your home country are more suitable, there might be conditions involved because of regulations in Singapore.
DBS Bank does not require you to visit one of their branches to open your account with them in Singapore. DBS has branches in India, the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada as well, among 18 countries in all.
However, be sure to carefully check their web pages for the most current applicable interest rates, foreign exchange commissions on remittance, initial deposits, average daily balance requirements, fall-below charges, and other levies.
Read More: Corporate Bank Account in Singapore
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Yes. Foreigners are allowed to open a Singaporean bank account provided they have valid documents to be in Singapore. For example, Singapore Employment Pass holders, EntrePass holders, and Student pass holders.
Yes. While Singapore citizens are required to quote their NRIC or PR Visa numbers, non-residents must provide more comprehensive proof of residence, passport copies, phone bills, other bank statements, etc.
Not at the moment. You may apply for the SingPass ( a digital authentication system that stores and shares your personal information such as address, passport number, contact details, and other traceable information. A SingPass may allow you to open a bank account faster with some banks.