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Can a Foreigner Open a Bank Account in Singapore? Step-by-Step Guide for 2024

  • Published: 13 February 2024
  • 9 min read
  • Starting a Company
Can a Foreigner Open a Bank Account in Singapore? Step-by-Step Guide for 2024
  • Author Gabi Bellairs-Lombard

    Gabi Bellairs-Lombard

    Business Writer

    Gabi's passionate about creating content that inspires. Her work history lies in writing compelling website copy and content, and now specialises in product marketing copy. When writing content, Gabi's priority is ensuring that the words impact the readers. As the voice of Osome's products and features, Gabi makes complex business finance and accounting topics easy to understand for small business owners.

If you are wondering whether a foreigner can open a bank account in Singapore, the answer is yes. This article will provide you with the necessary steps to set up a bank account as a non-resident, including the eligibility requirements. Additionally, we will offer guidance on choosing a bank and managing your bank account in Singapore.

Key Takeaways

  • Foreigners, including Employment Pass, Student Pass, and Long-Term Visit Pass holders, can open a bank account in Singapore, with various types of accounts available, such as savings, checking, multi-currency, and investment accounts.
  • To open a bank account in Singapore as a foreigner, one must select the bank, prepare the necessary documents like passports and valid passes, and typically visit the bank branch for face-to-face verification.
  • Singapore provides online and digital banking options for foreigners, which require careful management, including maintaining minimum balances, understanding fee structures, and implementing strong security measures for personal and financial information.

Eligibility Criteria for Foreigners Opening a Bank Account in Singapore

Navigating the banking landscape in a foreign land can seem daunting without the right information. Before we get into the details, familiarise yourself with the general eligibility criteria for foreigners wanting to open a bank account in Singapore. The good news is that most Singaporean banks welcome foreign customers and offer a variety of account types to cater to their needs. However, the primary eligibility criteria for foreigners include holding a valid passport, being 18 years or older, and possessing a valid pass such as an EP, Student Pass, or Long-Term Visit Pass.

Subsequent sections elaborate on the specific requirements for different categories of foreigners. Understanding the nuances of each category is helpful in ensuring a smooth navigation of the process.

Employment Pass holders

If you’re a foreign professional, manager, or director of a Singapore company, you might be holding an Employment Pass (EP). This pass, granted by Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower, allows you to work and reside in Singapore and opens the door for you to open a corporate bank account in Singapore. The requirements for Employment Pass holders to open a bank account in Singapore include being at least 18 years old, possessing a valid passport and EP, and providing a residential address in Singapore.

Choosing a suitable bank can pose a challenge. DBS and OCBC are, according to some sources, favourable for EP holders. Opening an OCBC bank account may be a suitable option for foreigners. You may also want to consider a multi-currency account if you trade in more than one currency. Bear in mind that the duration of your EP does not affect the terms of your bank account. It's also important to prioritise a bank with a comprehensive suite of banking services so that you can operate as effectively as possible while remote.

Application and renewal of Singapore Employment Pass online

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Application and renewal of Singapore Employment Pass online

Student Pass holders

Though studying abroad presents its own set of challenges, banking need not be one of them. Student Pass holders in Singapore are able to open bank accounts, and reputable banks like DBS and POSB are known to accept them for account opening. Some banks even offer the option to open an account online for added convenience.

In Singapore, students can open accounts such as the CIMB FastSaver Savings Account, Standard Chartered JumpStart Account, and OCBC Bank Frank Savings Account. Even better, no minimum deposit is required to open a bank account for students with this pass in Singapore.

Long-Term Visit Pass holders

If you hold a Long-Term Visit Pass, Singaporean banks' doors are also open for you. To open a bank account, you must provide proof of identity, such as an up-to-date passport or national ID, proof of residence, and hold a Long-Term Visit Pass, Letter of Employment, or Admission.

Mainstream banks in Singapore, such as DBS, UOB, and OCBC, allow Long-Term Visit Pass holders to establish bank accounts with them. They offer personal bank accounts, and to open one, you would need to demonstrate tax residency and be physically present in Singapore when opening the bank account. If declaring tax residency elsewhere besides Singapore or your home country, proof of this is required.

Types of Singapore Bank Accounts Available for Foreigners

After establishing your eligibility, proceed to familiarise yourself with the variety of bank accounts you can open in Singapore. Foreigners have the option to select from a range of bank accounts, such as:

  • savings
  • checking
  • a multi-currency account
  • investment accounts

A savings account comes with the perks of easy international transactions, money transfers, and the ability to transact in multiple currencies. Some accounts, like the OCBC 360 Account, offer competitive interest rates. However, do keep an eye out for fees or minimum balance requirements.

Open a bank account in Singapore 

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Open a bank account in Singapore 

A checking account might be your best bet if you’re more inclined towards everyday banking and if you want to use your bank account to pay bills. To open one, you will need to provide proof of identity and proof of residence.

If you’re a frequent traveller or deal with foreign currency often, a multi-currency account can offer cost-effective and convenient options for international transactions.

For the savvy investor, an investment account can be opened by downloading and filling out an application form and mailing it to the brokerage’s mailing address.

Process of Opening a Bank Account in Singapore for Foreigners

Once you’ve identified the type of account that meets your needs, you can proceed to the core of it all: the process of opening a bank account in Singapore. This involves selecting the appropriate bank, preparing the documents required, such as proof of residential address, and visiting the bank branch in person. Opening a bank account is incredibly seamless if you have a Singpass account, but it's still easy without one.

Some banks, such as OCBC, provide options for remote account opening.

Process of opening a bank account in Singapore for foreigners

Selecting the right bank

Selecting a suitable bank is an essential step in your Singaporean banking journey. Factors to consider when choosing a bank in Singapore include:

  • Fees for local and international transfers
  • ATM fees, both domestically and internationally
  • Minimum balance requirements
  • Customer service reviews
  • Interest-free savings accounts
  • If you are provided with a free debit card
  • Wealth management services

Each Singapore bank has its own requirements for minimum deposits and SGD bank account details. For instance, DBS Bank requires a minimum average daily balance of $3,000 (approximately $2,190 in Singapore dollars) for their accounts designed for foreigners. DBS also requires a regular Singpass account.

Banks in Singapore, such as DBS, provide a range of services for foreigners, including online account opening, international banking services, investment options, and fee waivers on international fund transfers and ATM withdrawals worldwide. Major banks that cater to foreigners include DBS (Development Bank of Singapore), OCBC (Overseas-Chinese Banking Corporation), UOB (United Overseas Bank), MayBank, Revolut, Citibank, Standard Chartered, and HSBC.

Preparing required documents

Once you’ve selected your bank, you must prepare the necessary documents. You are required to provide:

  • Your passport as the primary identification document or an identity card
  • A valid EP if you are employed in Singapore
  • A letter from your employer or institution as proof of address

For students with an eligible pass, there may be additional documents required, such as:

  • Student’s Pass
  • Birth certificate
  • Student matriculation card
  • Proof of enrolment in a Singaporean institution
  • Highest educational certificate and academic results
  • Financial/bank statements

Visiting the bank branch

Armed with the right documents and your initial deposit (if needed), the next step will be to visit the bank's branch. This is an important part of the process, as most banks in Singapore require face-to-face verification. Remember to keep your belongings secure during your visit, avoid dangerous areas and late hours, and be cautious of scams. From a cultural perspective, it’s important to show respect by refraining from touching anyone on the head and to receive business cards and your debit card (if relevant) with both hands or your right hand.

The typical operating hours for most major retail banks in Singapore are from 9.30 am to 3.00 pm on weekdays. On Saturdays, opening hours are usually from 9:00 am to 11:30 am.

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Online and Digital Banking Options for Foreigners in Singapore

In the era of digitisation, banking is no exception. Singapore provides a plethora of online and digital banking options for foreigners. Banks such as DBS offer digital services like online account opening through the digibank app.

If you’re an international customer using OCBC’s digital account opening service, you will have access to all the features of the OCBC Digital app, including wealth management tools. Apart from traditional banks, digital banks like GXS Bank and Trust Bank are also making their mark in the Singaporean banking landscape. They offer a plethora of services that can be accessed using Singpass, which serves as secure digital identity for Singapore residents.

Managing Your Singapore Bank Account as a Foreigner

Now that your account is open, the next step is to manage it effectively. This can involve various aspects, such as maintaining the minimum balance and managing your home currency and Singapore dollars if you have a multi currency account. For instance, UOB requires a minimum balance of S$1,000.

Another critical aspect of managing your bank account is understanding the associated fees, including monthly service fees. Avoiding unnecessary charges can involve understanding the fees associated with your bank account and opting for a bank account with transparent charges. Also, fluctuations in exchange rates can influence international product prices, affecting business profit margins.

Additionally, it's important to understand the core purpose of your Singapore bank account: will you be paying bills with it or using it solely as a business account? Deciding this will help you streamline your financial management.

It’s also crucial to safeguard your personal and financial information. This includes using strong and unique passwords, enabling two-factor authentication, and consistently updating and patching your devices.

Managing your Singapore bank account as a foreigner

Comparing Major Banks for Foreigners in Singapore

In navigating the Singapore banking landscape, comparing the offerings of major banks can be useful. The big banks that cater to foreigners include:

  • DBS (Development Bank of Singapore)
  • OCBC (Overseas-Chinese Banking Corporation)
  • UOB (United Overseas Bank)
  • MayBank

Each bank offers unique features to foreigners. For instance, DBS offers a convenient online account opening process for a DBS bank account, while UOB requires a physical presence for account opening. Regarding foreign transaction fees, DBS, OCBC, and UOB each apply a fee of up to 3.25% for transactions conducted overseas or with overseas-based online merchants. Some offer no foreign exchange conversion fees and no initial deposit, while others do. It's important to compare the features of the bank accounts you are considering so that you can choose one that best suits your needs.

Alternative Banking Solutions for Foreigners in Singapore

In addition to traditional banking options, foreigners in Singapore have access to alternative banking solutions. These include opening an account with a foreign bank such as HSBC or Standard Chartered. Another alternative is digital banks. GXS Bank, MariBank, ANEXT, and Green Link Digital Bank are among the top choices for leading digital banks in Singapore that are accessible to foreigners. These banks offer the convenience of online banking and a faster account opening process. However, they have disadvantages, such as susceptibility to technological issues or cyber-attacks, lack of physical bank branches, and limited ATMs and CDMs.

Summary

In conclusion, opening and managing a bank account in Singapore as a foreigner is straightforward. From determining your eligibility based on your status as an Employment Pass holder, Student Pass holder, or Long-Term Visit Pass holder to selecting the right bank and preparing the necessary documents, each step brings you closer to becoming part of Singapore’s robust banking sector. Whether you opt for traditional banks like DBS, OCBC, and UOB or explore digital banking options, the wide range of services and account types cater to a variety of needs and preferences.

Author Gabi Bellairs-Lombard
Gabi Bellairs-LombardBusiness Writer

Gabi's passionate about creating content that inspires. Her work history lies in writing compelling website copy and content, and now specialises in product marketing copy. When writing content, Gabi's priority is ensuring that the words impact the readers. As the voice of Osome's products and features, Gabi makes complex business finance and accounting topics easy to understand for small business owners.

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FAQ

  • Can you open a bank account in Singapore for non-residents?

    Yes, as a non-resident, you can open a bank account in Singapore by visiting the bank in person and providing the required documents, such as a valid passport or an identity card. Different banks have their own eligibility rules, so it's important to research your options based on your situation.

  • Which bank account is best for foreigners in Singapore?

    The best bank accounts for foreigners in Singapore are offered by the local banks. If you're a foreign business owner, service providers like Osome can guide you on the best account according to your needs.

  • How can a foreigner open a MayBank account in Singapore?

    To open a MayBank account in Singapore as a foreigner, you will need to visit a MayBank branch and provide your passport, proof of address, tax residency proof, and a valid pass such as an Student or Employment Pass. Make sure your name on the documents matches your passport and pass.

  • What is the minimum age requirement for a foreigner to open a bank account in Singapore?

    You need to be at least 18 years old to open a bank account in Singapore as a foreigner.

  • What are the alternative banking options available for foreigners in Singapore?

    If you're a foreigner in Singapore, you can explore alternative banking options like foreign banks (HSBC, Standard Chartered), digital banks (GXS Bank, Trust Bank), or multi-currency accounts like Wise. Consider these options according to your banking needs.

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