How to open a bank account in Singapore: A Full Guide [2022]

If you’re moving to Singapore, or even if you simply visit Singapore often, you might be wondering how to get an account to hold and spend Singapore dollars (SGD). Opening an account with a traditional bank in Singapore can be tricky if you’re not a resident – but the good news is that there are some options available.

This guide covers everything about opening an SGD account from abroad, or when you’re planning your relocation to Singapore. We’ll look at the documents you need, eligibility and the common costs. We’ll also take a look at how non-resident accounts from traditional banks stack up against modern alternatives, like Wise or Revolut.

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What documents do I need?

The big Singapore banks ask customers to provide a set of documents to open an account. While the exact paperwork you need might vary depending on your situation, you’ll often require:

  • Proof of identity – a valid passport, national identity card or driver’s licence for example
  • Proof of residential address – a bank or credit card statement, utility bill or tax return in your name
  • Your valid permit  (Employment Pass, Student Pass or Dependent Pass for example) or in principle approval letter showing your right to be in Singapore
  • A reference from your home bank or an introduction from an existing customer

These requirements are in place to make sure that banks comply with local legislation, and to ensure accounts aren’t opened or used for fraudulent or criminal purposes. It’s also an easy way for the bank to double check you’re eligible for an account. Unfortunately, as a non-resident or new arrival in Singapore it may be difficult or impossible to provide all the required documents.

The good news is that accounts from specialist providers tend to be easier for non-residents to open. Pick the right provider and you could get yourself a low cost and convenient account to pay and get paid in SGD, even before you head off to Singapore. More on that, next.

Save the paperwork with alternative solutions like Wise or Revolut

Singapore is a hugely popular expat destination – which means that the main Singaporean banks are used to dealing with foreigners arriving in the country to live, study or work. However, the key accounts available from mainstream banks aren’t usually suited to non-residents, and can be tricky for new-arrivals, too.

That’s where specialist services like Wise or Revolut can help. Specialist providers often offer accounts which can hold and handle a range of currencies, and which are available to residents and non-residents alike. Because they’re aimed at people living an international life, they can also usually be opened with a proof of address from your home country, so you can get your account set up before you even move.

With modern alternative providers, verification is typically done online by uploading images of your paperwork, and – often –  a selfie to show your identity documents match your image. This is quick, convenient, and can be done from home whenever you have time.

Save with WiseSave with Revolut
 

How to open a bank account in Singapore

Opening a bank account in Singapore without a Singapore address and paperwork showing your legal right to be in the country can prove hard work. Some banks do make a concession for people who plan to move to Singapore in the near future. In this case you may be able to open an account on the basis of a foreign proof of address – but you’ll need to update it to a Singapore address later once you move.

While non-residents may struggle to get their accounts open in Singapore, foreigners who are in the country with a valid pass and proof of a local address should have no problems. Processes vary between banks – some will allow you to apply online, others require an in person visit to a branch. Often opening an account online is available only for certain accounts, and aimed at Singaporean and Permanent Resident customers.

Whether you’re applying in a branch or online you usually need to have:

  • Proof of identity
  • Proof of address
  • Your valid permit or in principle approval (IPA) letter
  • A completed application with all your personal details
  • Opening deposit – there may be a minimum deposit requirement
  • Some banks may require an introducer or a reference from your home bank

Can I open a bank account in Singapore before arrival?

If you’re in the process of moving to Singapore you might strike lucky and find a bank which will let you apply online prior to arrival, but this isn’t commonplace. Often if you’re not a Singaporean or Permanent Resident you’ll have to be physically present to open your account, to present your paperwork in a branch.

Having an account which can hold and handle SGD before you arrive is a good way to make sure you can hit the ground running. Specialist providers like Wise or Revolut let you hold, exchange, send, receive and spend SGD – and can be a good alternative to trying to open an account with a mainstream Singaporean bank before you arrive. More on that coming up in a moment.

Which account is best in Singapore for foreigners?

Singapore banks do actively recruit expat customers, offering some services to help people get settled in the country, and learn more about life here. However, the accounts available are usually intended for people who have already relocated or who are moving to Singapore in the near future, rather than non-resident foreigners.

Aside from old school banks, customers can also look at specialist financial technology companies. These tend to be cheaper and more flexible than traditional banks. They may not offer the full suite of services you could get from a regular bank – but they are regulated in a similar way to big Singapore banks for the services they do specialise in, making them a safe bet.

Let’s take a look at a few examples:

Service Wise Revolut UOB* POSB*
Currencies covered 54 currencies including SGD, USD and EUR 28 currencies SGD 13 currencies
Open before you arrive in Singapore Yes Yes No No
Open online Yes Yes No No
Opening fee $0 $0 Minimum balance: $1,000 Minimum balance: $3,000
Fall below fee $0 $0 $5 $5
Maintenance fee $0 Up to $19.99/month Waived if minimum balance is maintained Waived if minimum balance is maintained
International transfers Low fee, varies by currency Fee varies by currency and payment value 1/8% (minimum $10) + cable charges + agent charges if applicable [7] 1/8% ($10 – $120) + $20 cable charges + agent charges if applicable[10]
Early closure fee $0 $0 $30 $20 – $30

*UOB account profiled is the One Account; POSB account is the Multiplier account – other accounts are available which come with their own terms and conditions

The major Singapore banks are well set up to provide accounts to foreigners who are already legally residing in the country, or those who are in the process of relocating. However because you usually need a valid pass and a local address, it’s harder to get set up as a non-resident, visitor or digital nomad.

In this case, customers may be better off with an online specialist provider. Specialists often provide more flexible multi-currency accounts which are cheaper and easier to open.

Save with WiseSave with Revolut

Wise

Wise is a financial technology company which specialises in international payments and multi-currency accounts for individual and business customers. Over 11 million customers all around the world use Wise to send, receive, hold and exchange 50+ currencies including SGD.

Open a free Wise multi-currency account online or in the Wise app, using your regular proof of ID, and a proof of address from your home country. Accounts can hold and exchange 50+ currencies using the mid-market exchange rate with no markups. You’ll also get a linked debit card, and local bank details for 10 currencies including SGD, so you can get paid easily and with no fees in Singapore, and from around 30 other countries.

Account types: Both personal and business customers can open a Wise multi-currency account with no minimum balance or monthly fees to pay. You just pay a low, transparent fee for the services you use.

Eligibility: Non-residents and new arrivals in Singapore can apply with proof of address from their home country and still hold and manage an SGD balance. Full details of availability by location available on the Wise website.

Is it safe? Wise Asia-Pacific Pte. Ltd. is licensed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) as a major payment institution, and overseen by global bodies around the world.

Go to Wise
 

Revolut

Revolut describes itself as a financial super app. It’s only been around since 2015, but it’s grown rapidly thanks to its range of account options and low fees.

Customers can choose a free or fee paid Revolut account to hold and exchange 28 fiat currencies, and get a linked international debit card. Different account tiers come with their own features including a set amount of fee free currency exchange which uses the mid-market exchange rate, and extra benefits like lounge access and travel perks for customers who select the fee-paying account plans. Accounts are for personal use only.

Account types: Standard account plans are free or you can upgrade to a paid plan for up to $19.99/month.

Eligibility: Available to customers in Singapore and non-residents with addresses in the UK, the EEA, Australia, Switzerland, Japan, and the US.

Is it safe? In Singapore Revolut is licensed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) as a major payment institution.

Go to Revolut
 

UOB

UOB – United Overseas Bank – is a Singapore bank with a large presence elsewhere in the Southeast Asia region too. To open a UOB account you’ll need to physically attend a meeting in a branch – but proof of address from outside Singapore may be accepted, making this a potential option for non-residents who come to Singapore personally from time to time. As well as providing a fairly standard suite of paperwork like proof of ID and address, you’ll be asked to find an existing UOB customer to act as a referrer, or provide a letter from your home bank demonstrating your good standing.

As a large bank, UOB has a broad range of account products available, which means that if you’re able to fulfil the eligibility requirements to open an account you’ll almost certainly find one you like the look of.

Account types: Broad range of account types including current accounts and savings accounts.

Eligibility: Varies by account type. For example, the popular UOB One account has a minimum balance requirement of $1,000.

Is it safe? UOB is one of the largest banks in Singapore, and is fully regulated and licensed by MAS.

POSB

POSB – which was formerly the Post Office Savings Bank, and is now owned by local banking giant DBS – may be a good choice for new arrivals in Singapore and people about to relocate. That’s because POSB will allow customers to open their account with a foreign proof of address, and then later update it to show your Singapore address once you’re settled. That should mean you don’t need to wait for a utility bill to arrive to show your local address – giving you a bit of a head start.

POSB has a strong branch and ATM network, and offers a good range of accounts from day to day products, to options for savings and investments. Check out the popular Multiplier account to hold 13 currencies and earn higher interest the more you use your account.

Account types: Range of accounts available to suit different customer needs, including some which are available through POSB’s partnership with DBS.

Eligibility: Varies by account type. For example, the popular POSB/DBS Multiplier account has a minimum balance requirement of $1,000.

Is it safe? POSB – as well as DBS –  is fully regulated and licensed by MAS.

What are the costs?

It’s common for accounts from traditional banks in Singapore to ask for a minimum deposit amount to open your account, as well as having fall below fees if you don’t maintain a set balance amount in the longer term. You’ll also need to consider service and transaction fees. Costs to look out for can include:

  • Monthly maintenance fees – or fall below fees
  • International payment fees
  • Foreign transaction fees when spending or withdrawing with your card
  • Overdraft fees
  • Credit card costs including cash advances and interest
  • Account dormancy or early closure fees

Choosing a specialist provider instead can mean you get a more flexible account with no minimum deposit or monthly fees. You might also be able to access lower transaction fees, and a more intuitive user experience through online and in-app services.

Tips for transferring money

Whether you’re moving to Singapore or just pass through the country often, you might find yourself needing to move funds from your home currency to SGD.

Unfortunately sending a cross border payment with a Singapore bank can be complex and expensive. Fees include a transfer fee, cable charge and possible agent fees, plus a markup on the exchange rate applied. Before you move your money, check out these tips:

  • Compare the exchange rate you’re offered against the mid-market exchange rate to see if a markup is being used
  • Review the terms and conditions of your specific account to see the transfer fee which will apply – usually there’s a minimum payment value, but there may not be a maximum cap to the amount paid
  • Check if there are agent fees which can push up the overall costs

Instead of sending your payment with your regular bank you might be better off sending your transfer with a specialist service like Wise.

Conclusion

Big Singapore banks are well set up to provide accounts for foreigners who have a local residential address and valid permit like an Employment Pass or Student Pass. However, if you’re a non-resident or new arrival without an address in Singapore yet, getting a traditional bank account can be tricky.

Specialist online services like Wise or Revolut can often make the account opening process easier, with online application and verification. You’ll be able to hold, send, spend and receive SGD using your account – and you’ll often also get lower fees and better exchange rates compared to a regular Singapore bank.

Open a Wise AccountOpen a Revolut account
 

FAQ:

  1. Can a foreigner open an account in Singapore?

Foreigners can open a bank account in Singapore but will usually need a local proof of address and a valid permit showing legal residence in the country. Non-residents and new arrivals may find it easier to get set up with a specialist online provider.

  1. How much do I need to open a bank account in Singapore?

Singapore banks often have minimum deposit requirements and may charge monthly service or fall below fees. Compare a few providers to get the best deal for your needs.

  1. Can I open a Singapore bank account online?

If you’re already in Singapore and have SingPass or MyInfo set up, you’ll find it easier to create an account online. However, banks will usually need you to have all the required documents to meet their eligibility criteria, and might ask for you to visit a branch in person to show originals. Alternatively, choose a specialist provider to open your account from home on your laptop or mobile device, with a more flexible verification process.

  1. Can I open a bank account in Singapore before landing?

If you’re not in Singapore yet you might find it hard to open a traditional bank account. However, you can get a smart and flexible SGD account from an online specialist service like Wise or Revolut instead.

By Ileana Ionescu Updated March 16th, 2022