Say goodbye to endless paperwork and long queues at bank branches—OCBC has become the first bank in Singapore to fully digitalise the account opening process for foreigners. That means foreigners relocating to Singapore for work or study will no longer need to travel here and visit a bank branch to set up their accounts. Nope, everything can now be done remotely and within minutes via the OCBC Digital app!
But surely, an OCBC bank account isn’t the only way foreigners can stash money in Singapore? You’re right—it isn’t. But for most other banks, opening a bank account as a foreigner in Singapore isn’t quite as straightforward. Let’s take a look at OCBC’s digital account opening process, as well as other ways and banks with which you can stash your money in Singapore.
- OCBC’s digital account opening for foreigners—Who is eligible?
- OCBC’s digital account opening for foreigners—What can I do with the account?
- OCBC’s digital account opening for foreigners—Is it safe without Singpass?
- OCBC’s digital account opening for foreigners—How does it work?
- But don’t other banks have a digital account opening process for foreigners too?
- Alternative #1: Open a local bank account using Singpass
- Alternative #2: Open a local bank account with your foreign bank
- Alternative #3: Open an account with a digital bank
1. OCBC’s digital account opening for foreigners—Who is eligible?
If you’re from Malaysia, Indonesia, mainland China, or Hong Kong SAR and are planning to work or study in Singapore, OCBC is your best bet for the most seamless bank account opening experience. That’s because OCBC’s process is now 100% digital, and the entire process can be done remotely via the OCBC digital app. So long and good riddance to long queues at the bank branches and physical documents for verification.
Unlike many other banks in Singapore, you don’t need Singpass to open your account with OCBC. So if for some reason you don’t have Singpass, OCBC is even more suitable an option for you. More on opening a bank account with Singpass later!
2. OCBC’s digital account opening for foreigners—What can I do with the account?
Once your OCBC bank account is set up, you’ll have access to the entire range of the OCBC Digital app’s functions. That includes its suite of wealth management services and investment tools, such as:
- Time deposits
- International remittances
- Unit trusts
- Single premium endowments
- Equities trading
- Foreign exchange trading
- Robo-investment services
- Blue-chip stocks
- Precious metals, such as gold and silver
3. OCBC’s digital account opening for foreigners—Is it safe without Singpass?
Singpass is a trustworthy, secure digital identity used by Singapore citizens and residents. It’s used to verify their identity for anything from paying taxes to applying for public housing. In the realm of bank accounts, it’s often used during the process of opening an account to ensure the process is safe and secure.
So what happens without trusty Singpass? Is OCBC’s fully digital account opening procedure secure? In lieu of Singpass, which not every foreigner has easy access to, OCBC’s used artificial intelligence, data analytics, biometrics, blockchain and cloud technologies. These serve as various layers of security to ensure your account opening is safe and protected.
4. OCBC’s digital account opening for foreigners—How does it work?
Opening an OCBC bank account digitally is a pretty easy process on the OCBC Digital app. The first thing you have to do is download the Singapore version of the app on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Take note, even if you’re still in your own country overseas, you need to download the Singapore version of the app.
Before you begin signing up for an account, have your passport and ID card on hand at the ready. Thereafter, it’s a matter of signing up as a foreigner and following the onscreen instructions:
- Open OCBC Digital app.
- Tap on ‘Sign up’ > ‘Foreigner with e-passport’.
- Use passport and ID card for digital verification on the app.
According to OCBC, it’s just a short wait of a few minutes after that before your account will open. You’ll then have access to all the digital, financial and lifestyle services on the OCBC Digital app.
5. But don’t other banks have a digital account opening process for foreigners too?
A lot of banks in Singapore do have options for foreigners to open an account online, but these require the use of Singpass. And for other banks such as UOB and Maybank, you still have to go down in person to the bank to set up your new account.
Here’s a summary of the account opening process for foreigners for each bank. Click on the bank name to read more.
|Bank||Account opening process for foreigners|
|OCBC||100% digital via OCBC Digital app, Singpass not required.|
|DBS||Via the DBS digibank app. Can be done with or without Singpass.|
|UOB||Must be done physically, in person.|
|HSBC||Apply online using EasyID or by phone appointment. Depending on your country or origin and whether you’ll be physically in Singapore, you may only be able to open an HSBC Premier account. Use this tool from HSBC to find out what your options are.|
|Citibank||Must be done physically at a Citibank branch, via the 24-Hour CitiPhone Hotline at +65 6225 5225, or online via Singpass for selected accounts. Note that the Basic Banking Account is only open to Singaporeans and PRs with a monthly income of below S$2,000.|
|Standard Chartered||Apply for the Bonus$aver account online via Singpass.|
|Maybank||Must be done physically at a Maybank branch.|
Banks such as DBS and Standard Chartered do give you the option to open an account online, but by using Singpass. The trouble with using Singpass to open a bank account for foreigners is that not everyone has access to it.
There are 2 types of Singpass accounts:
- Regular Singpass—Anyone with a government-issued ID above the age of 15 is eligible for a Singpass account. This includes Singapore Citizens, Permanent Residents, Passholders (e.g. Employment Pass, S-Pass etc) and Work Permit holders.
- Singpass Foreign user Account (SFA) for Foreign Individuals—For individuals who don’t have a government-issued ID or whose ID is about to expire. For example, perhaps you’re a Fin Holder who has cancelled your work pass.
More importantly, you need a regular Singpass account to open a bank account with banks like DBS—not just an SFA. Each SFA is issued by a different SFA organisation, such as Corppass, and can only be used for that SFA organisation. In other words, the SFA you use to access MyTaxPortal isn’t going to also get you access to the DBS account opening page.
That’s why on balance, OCBC is still currently the first and only bank account in Singapore to have a fully digital account opening process for foreigners, unhindered by the need to have a Singpass account.
6. Alternative #1: Open a local bank account using Singpass
If you have a long-term pass (Employment Pass, S-Pass etc) or Work Permit, you can register for Singpass online. This gives you the option of applying for a bank account with banks like DBS and Standard Chartered. To recap, here’s the sequence of events that need to occur:
- If you aren’t already a FIN holder, apply for an Employment Pass, S-Pass, Work Permit, or any government-issued long-term pass that comes with a FIN number.
- Apply for Singpass online using your FIN number and date of issue.
- Apply for your new bank account with your Singpass.
You can apply for a local bank account remotely if you already are a FIN holder. However, if you have yet to apply for a long-term pass, do note that you will need to be in Singapore at certain stages in the application process. Let’s take the Employment Pass as an example. You can apply online while outside of Singapore up to the in-principle approval (IPA) letter stage, but need to be in Singapore to pay the fees and verify documents thereafter.
Wait, doesn’t the IPA letter contain your FIN number, which you need for Singpass application? It does, but you also need the date of issue to apply for Singpass. You’ll only have that after actually receiving the card, and thus you can only complete your Singpass application then.
7. Alternative #2: Open a local bank account with your foreign bank
Already have an account with a bank in your home country? If that bank has branches in Singapore, you might be able to open a new bank account in Singapore that is tied to your original bank.
However, there are several potential downsides to this that you might want to consider:
- There is no guarantee that your bank can open an account for you in Singapore from across the seas. You may need to go down physically anyway.
- Even if you can open a local bank account in Singapore, this may come with requirements such as a high minimum deposit.
- Your bank may not have as competitive interest rates or as extensive an ATM network as the large local banks in Singapore.
At the end of the day, these are factors you also have to consider in choosing which bank you want to open a bank account in Singapore with. The bank with the simplest account opening process may not give you the best banking experience when you’re actually in Singapore.
8. Alternative #3: Open an account with a digital bank
With banks like UOB and Maybank, you have no choice but to travel down to Singapore and join the queue at a bank branch in order to open an account. With digital banks, you can be assured you won’t have to—they have no physical branches. Digital banks are banks that exist completely online, and that you can access from anywhere.
Two digital banks that foreigners can open an account with are GXS Bank, backed by Grab and Singtel, and Trust Bank, backed by NTUC. Any Singapore citizen, Singapore PR or foreigner who is 16 years old (GXS Bank) or 18 years old (Trust Bank) and above is eligible to apply. What’s the catch? Unfortunately, we have the same problem here of needing Singpass to open an account.
Don’t have a Singpass account? Trust Bank is your better bet as far as digital banks go. While foreigners need to use Singpass and upload a copy of their passport in order to access the full features of their app, you can still log in to the app without Singpass. However, without Singpass, certain features will be limited.
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