As a new expat in Singapore, you’ve got probably got a long to-do list which might or might not include figuring out how to gain access to Marina Bay Sands’ infinity pool, checking out the zoo, figuring out where to live and opening a bank account.
The last item on that list being by far the least fun, we’ll help you out by comparing the various banking options most expats will want to consider.
- What banking services do you need?
- Which banks can expats open an account with?
- Bank account comparison
- Our top picks
What banking services do you need?
Expats in Singapore come in all shapes and sizes, and a 24-year-old first-jobber who’s living in a shared flat with four other people will have very different banking needs from a billionaire who’s here to stash his wealth.
But as a general rule, most expats will want to consider these banking services:
No matter what your income level or employment status, you will need a basic bank account to stash your cash and for your day-to-day expenses. If you intend to use this account as your main spending account, you will want to ensure the bank has a decent ATM presence should you need to withdraw cash. Some savings accounts offer higher interest rates than others so you can grow your savings.
Current accounts are very similar to savings accounts, except that they make it easier to spend and usually pay little or no interest on your deposits. For instance, if you run out of money, you can usually overdraft a current account (which will lead to a negative balance), while not all savings accounts allow it. Current accounts also come with a cheque book. As with savings accounts, you will want to ensure your bank has enough ATM machines.
These accounts enable you to store savings in various currencies. If are coming to Singapore with some money in the currency of your home country but don’t wish to exchange it all, you can stash it in a multi-currency account.
Those who need to send money back home might want to use their bank’s remittance service. This can be done over the counter or by using your online banking’s overseas money transfer function.
Whenever you pay by credit card, the bank pays on your behalf and you only pay your bills on a monthly basis. You are usually given a credit limit that’s a few times your monthly salary. That also means you can end up spending money you don’t have, so use with care. One of the key benefits of using credit cards is that banks often dangle lots of perks such as air miles, cashback and rewards.
When you pay using a debit card, the amount spent is deducted instantly from your bank account. Debit cards are accepted wherever credit cards are.
ATM services and availability
Cash is still necessary to make purchases at most hawker centres and food courts, or to pay for a bus ride if your EZ-link card’s run out of money. As mentioned earlier, you will want to have a savings or current account with a bank that has a decent distribution of ATMs in the city.
If your goal in coming to Singapore is simply to make lots of money, you will probably want to open an investment account. These are offered by banks and brokerages, and enable you to invest in a range of vehicles such as unit trusts, equities and so on.
Which banks can expats open an account with?
Singapore being a financial centre and all, you might have noticed just how many banks have set up offices here. But only some of these banks provide personal banking services. The most popular banks in Sintgapore for expats and locals alike include:
- POSB and DBS – These two local banks have merged and most of their services can be used interchangeably. POSB/DBS ATM machines are also the most widespread in Singapore.
- UOB – Another local bank that has a decent ATM presence. ATM machines are interchangeable with OCBC’s.
- OCBC – Local bank whose ATM machines are interchangeable with UOB’s.
- Standard Chartered Bank
- Bank of China
Bank accounts in Singapore for expats
To make choosing between bank accounts easier for you, we’ve listed some of the more relevant offerings from each of these banks below. There are two types that you can go for, either a single-currency (SGD) savings account or a multi-currency account.
Bank accounts for saving in SGD only
|DBS Multiplier Account||Up to 3.5% interest per annum|
|UOB Passbook Savings Account||0.05%|
|UOB STASH Account||0.05% on your first $10,000, 0.8% on your next $40,000, 1% on your next $50,000 and 1.2% on the next $100,000 for every month you increase your monthly average balance|
|OCBC 360 Account||Bonus interest of up to 1.85% on your first $35,000 when you pass through the necessary hoops|
|OCBC Bonus + Savings Account||Up to 0.8% interest when no withdrawals are made|
|OCBC Monthly savings account||Up to 0.45% monthly interest when you deposit a minimum of $50 and make no withdrawals within a month. If you don’t withdraw for 3 months you get an additional bonus, which adds up to 1.18% total interest every quarter|
|Citibank MaxiGain Savings Account||Earn up to 2% on savings if you meet criteria for growing your balance each month, with a minimum balance of $10,000|
|Citibank InterestPlus Savings Account||Earn up to 1% bonus interest when you insure with Citibank, spend on Citibank credit cards and invest|
|Citibank MaxiSave Account||Interest-bearing checking account where you can save from a base rate of 0.01% and step up to 0.13% when you save more each month|
|Citibank Step-Up Account||Interest climbs from base rate of 0.01% to up to 0.13% when your balance increases in consecutive months|
|Citibank Tap and Save Account||Receive 2% each time you top up your EZ-Link card, and 1% cash rebate at selected merchants. Earn up to 0.13% when your balance increases in consecutive months|
|HSBC Singapore Dollar Savings Account||Tiered interest with higher interest when you have at least $50,000|
|HSBC Singapore Dollar Current Account||Free cheque book|
|HSBC Flexi Account||Combines savings and current account|
|SCB Bonus$aver||Up to 3.88% interest on first $100,000 deposit when you spend using SCB credit cards, credit your salary, buy insurance and pay at least 3 bills. Free cheque book.|
|SCB e$aver||Up to 1.25% interest when you grow your balance|
|SCB XtraSaver||Earn 7% or 15% cashback on petrol, 1% or 3% on Mastercard transactions and with account balance of $6,000 or $200,000 and above|
|SCB SuperSalary||1% cashback on eligible MasterCard spending using SuperSalary debit card. Free cheque book.|
|SCB Singapore Dollar Cheque & Save Account||Combines savings and current account. Free cheque book.|
|CIMB FastSaver Account||High interest savings account offering 1% on first $50,000 when you have at least $1,000|
|CIMB StarSaver (Savings) Account||Interest rate 0.8% on entire account balance when you have at least $1,000|
|CIMB StarSaver Account||Current account offering 0.8% interest when you have at least $5,000|
|RHB High-Yield Savings Account||High interest savings account offering 0.08% on amounts below $10,000, and 1% on next $90,000|
|BOC SGD Savings Account||Savings account offering 0.25% to 0.475% interest.|
Multi-currency bank accounts
|Bank account||Interest rate p.a.||Currencies|
|DBS Multi-Currency Account||0.05% for the first $100,000, 0.15% on the next $250,000 and 0.225% for the next $650,000. Extra interest only for CNH, NZD and USD||SGD, AUD, CAD, EUR, HKD, JPY, NZD, NOK, GBP, SEK, THB and USD|
|UOB Global Currency Premium Account||Earn interest in USD, AUD, GBP, JPY, EUR and CHF||SGD, AUD, CAD, EUR, NZD, CNY, JPY, USD, CHF and HKD|
|OCBC Global Savings Account||Earn up to 1% on AUD, NZD, USD and CNY||AUD, CAD, CNY, EUR, GBP, HKD, NZD and USD|
|Citibank Global Foreign Currency Account||Checking facilities available for USD||AUD, CAD, EUR, HKD, JPY, NZD, GBP, CHF and USD|
|HSBC Multi Currency Savings Account||0.1% for first SGD$24,999.99, 0.15% for SGD$25,000 to $99,999,99, 0.2% from SGD$100,000 to $499,999.99 and 0.35% from $500,000 and above||SGD, AUD, CAD, EUR, JPY, NZD, GBP, CHF, USD, HKD, CNY|
|CIMB Foreign Currency Account||Interest for USD, GBP, AUD, NZD, EUR, CAD and CNY||USD, EUR, GBP, AUD, JPY|
|SCB FCY$aver||Interest for USD, GBP, AUD, NZD, CNY||USD, EUR, GBP, AUD, NZD, CNY, CHF, CAD, HKD, JPY|
|BOC Current Account||Non-interest bearing current account||SGD, RMB, USD, EUR, GBP, NZD, AUD, JPY, CAD, HKD, CHF|
|RHB Multi-Currency Savings Account||Interest on USD, GBP, AUD, NZD, CAD and HKD for up to SGD $99,999||SGD, RMB, USD, EUR, GBP, NZD, AUD, JPY, CAD, HKD, CHF|
Top savings accounts for foreigners living in Singapore
Which bank accounts would best serve your interests depends on factors such as your income, the amount of savings you have and which currencies you’re using.
Here are our recommendations.
Best account for withdrawing cash from ATMs: UOB STASH Account
While UOB/OCBC do not have as many ATM machines as POSB/DBS, they come in a close second, and their machines usually have much shorter queues. The UOB STASH Account stands out because it’s a savings account that offers a decent interest rate without penalising you for making withdrawals, so long as you grow your balance over time.
Best account to keep your savings in: CIMB FastSaver Account
So, you’re in Singapore to make money, you say? Then you’ll want to open a CIMB FastSaver Account to store that all that cash in. The account offers an unbeatable 1% interest rate on your very first dollar. The main drawback is that the 1% interest rate only applies to the first $50,000, after which you’ll receive 0.6%, which is admittedly still decent by Singapore standards. However, after crossing the $50,000 threshold, you can always open another account that will give you a better interest rate for your remaining cash savings.
Best multi-currency account: OCBC Global Savings Account
The OCBC Global Savings Account does not charge fall-below fees. So long as you make an initial deposit of 5,000 in your desired currency (50,000 for HKD), you are free to withdraw as much as you like.
That’s good news for those who are holding on to certain currencies until the exchange rate becomes more favourable, as you’re free to exchange and withdraw all of it without worrying about fall below fees.
As an added bonus, the account also pays interest on AUD, NZD and RMB. AUD and NZD savings get 0.25% on the first $100,000 and 0.40% on the next 250,000 units, while the first 1,500,000 RMB gets 0.20%.
Have you used a Singapore bank account before? Share your reviews in the comments!
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