How to Open a Bank Account in Malaysia
Looking to open a bank account in Malaysia? Whether you’ve just landed in Malaysia or you’re planning everything ahead of your arrival, opening a bank account in Malaysia can be a complex process.
This article guides you through how to open an account as a non-Malaysian resident, or when planning your relocation to Malaysia. We’ll cover the documents you need, the options available and the likely costs. We’ll also compare non-resident accounts from traditional banks against some more user friendly solutions, such as Wise or Revolut. But more on that later. Let’s dive right in.
What documents do I need?
To open a bank account with a traditional Malaysian bank as a non-Malaysian citizen, you’ll need to provide proof of identity and proof of address. This usually means you’ll need the following:
- Proof of identity – a valid passport and supporting documents like valid working/student permit, valid visa, letter of confirmation from Employer/Education Institutions.
- Proof of Malaysian residential address – a bank or credit card statement, utility bill or tax return in your name
Choosing these documents is often the easiest way for the bank to comply with Malaysian legislation designed to stop fraud, money laundering and illegal account use. It helps keep accounts and customers safe – but it’s not always easy to provide this paperwork as a non-resident or new arrival in Malaysia.
Luckily some specialist providers and expat services are more flexible in the ways they check customer identity – which can make it far easier for non-residents to legally get a Malaysian account. More on that, next.
Save the paperwork with alternative solutions like Wise or Revolut
All financial services companies in Malaysia need to verify customers’ identity and address details to comply with legislation and provide a safe service for everyone. However, while Malaysian banks usually require customers to provide address details showing a Malaysian residence, some specialist services, like Wise or Revolut, can accept an international proof of address which may be more convenient for expats, non-residents and digital nomads.
If you’re not yet in Malaysia, you’ll be able to use your proof of address from your country of residence to open a Wise or Revolut account, and spend MYR. That means you can get your account set up before you even move, to receive, hold, and spend MYR easily once you arrive in Malaysia.
With modern alternative providers like Wise and Revolut, 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.
How to open a bank account in Malaysia
There’s no legal restriction on non-residents or foreigners opening a bank account in Malaysia. However, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. Traditional banks tend to be wary of offering accounts to non-Malaysian residents because it makes it harder to complete legally required verification checks.
That’s why if you’d like to open a bank account with a traditional institution in Malaysia you’ll usually need to provide proof of residence and a Malaysia-based address. It’s just easier for the bank to verify addresses using Malaysian issued documents they’re familiar with. However, that can make it tricky for non-residents and new arrivals to get their Malaysian accounts up and running.
If you have your proof of ID and residence documents prepared already, you’ll have no problem opening a bank account with a major Malaysian bank. In many cases you’ll be able to get started online – but some banks will ask you to visit a branch to present your original paperwork. Generally all you need is:
- Proof of identity
- Proof of address and legal residence
- A completed application with all your personal details
- Opening deposit – there may be a minimum deposit requirement
Can I open a bank account in Malaysia before arrival?
It’s tricky to open a bank account in Malaysia prior to arriving in the country. That’s because most traditional banks need you to be able to show a Malaysian issued proof of address.
If you want to get ahead of the game and get your MYR bank account set up before you arrive you’ll probably be better off with a specialist service like Wise or Monzo. If you’re based in Europe already, Monese may also be an option. More on the best MYR account options for non-residents coming up in a moment.
Which account is best in Malaysia for foreigners?
Malaysian accounts for non-residents tend to fall into a couple of different categories:
- Multi-currency accounts from online specialists
- Expat accounts from major banks
Specialist services include financial technology companies which are not banks but which are regulated in a similar way to banks – which means that for the services they offer they’re just as safe. These options tend to be cheaper and more flexible. Expat accounts from major banks are usually aimed at high wealth individuals looking for a personal banking service. Let’s take a look at a few examples:
|Currencies covered||50+ currencies including MYR, GBP and EUR||30 currencies||16 currencies||25+ currencies|
|Open before you arrive in Malaysia||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Opening fee||$0||$0||1,000 MYR||1,000 MYR|
|Fall below fee||$0||$0||0 MYR||Varies|
|Maintenance fee||$0||Up to $16.99/month||20 MYR||20 MYR|
|International transfers||Low fee, varies by currency||Fee varies by currency and payment value||10 MYR – 30 MYR||10 MYR – 30 MYR|
*Maybank Personal Current Account
**CIMB Regular Current Account
Non-residents and foreigners in Malaysia can choose between a range of account types depending on their preferences and priorities. Multi-currency accounts allow for flexibility if you travel, send, spend or receive in a range of currencies, while accounts from traditional banks offer a variety of banking services and transfers to almost anywhere in the world.
We’ll take a look at these options in a little more detail now.
Wise is a financial technology company which serves millions of customers around the world with low cost international payments, as well as personal and business accounts. The Wise multi-currency account is free to open, and available to residents of any country where Wise has a presence. The account can be managed online or in the Wise app, and allows customers to hold 50+ currencies and exchange between them using the mid-market exchange rate with no markup. You can also send payments to 80+ countries and spend using your Wise international debit card all over the world.
Account types: Wise personal multi-currency accounts are free to open, with no minimum balance or monthly fees to pay.
Eligibility: Not all services and features are available in all locations – full details by location available on the Wise website.
Is it safe? Wise is regulated in Malaysia by Bank Negara Malaysia and overseen by global bodies around the world.
Revolut describes itself as a financial super app, and has some 18 million customers in the regions it serves.
Revolut offers a broad range of account services including multi-currency functionality for 30 fiat currencies, budgeting and saving tools, and opportunities to invest. You can choose between several different account types for yourself or your business, from a standard plan without an opening fee to a fee paid account which unlocks more features the more you’re willing to pay per month. Even the standard accounts that doesn’t have monthly fees or an opening fee come with some great features like a linked debit card and some no-fee currency exchange which uses the mid-market exchange rate. Paid account plans may also come with other perks like higher no-fee transaction limits, lounge passes and travel benefits.
Account types: Personal and business accounts available. Standard plans don’t have an opening fee for both personal and business customers. Or you can upgrade to a paid plan for up to $16.99/month as a personal customer or £100/month as a business customer.
Eligibility: Available to new Malaysian arrivals and non-Malaysian residents with addresses in the EEA, Australia, Singapore, Switzerland, Japan, and Malaysia.
Is it safe? Revolut is regulated by the FCA for all its activities. It also holds a European banking licence for the EU.
Maybank Personal Current Account
Maybank is one of the largest banks in Malaysia, as well as the South East Asian region. The bank offers various traditional banking services such as savings and current accounts, loans, investments and more. These accounts can be opened at Maybank branches or online and is open to legal Malaysian residents. Most savings and current accounts require a minimum deposit of at least 1,000 MYR and has a low annual service charge. Current accounts typically are not subject to fall below fees, but the bank may charge a fee for dormant accounts.
Maybank accounts are offered in MYR and account holders can send money to more than 200 countries and hold 16 currencies in the Maybank Master Foreign Currency Account linked to any savings or current account.
Account types: A wide variety of accounts including savings accounts and current accounts.
Eligibility: Accounts come with minimum balance requirements of 1,000 MYR.
Is it safe? Maybank is one of the largest banks in Malaysia and a major bank in the region. It is fully regulated in Malaysia and around the world.
CIMB Regular Current Account
CIMB is a major Malaysian bank with branches all over South East Asia. It offers Malaysian residents, including foreigners, a wide range of traditional banking services including debit cards, current accounts and savings accounts. Most current and savings accounts require a minimum deposit of between 500 MYR and 1,000 MYR with low maintenance fees. CIMB may charge a fee on accounts with balances below 1,000 MYR.
CIMB savings and current account holders can send more than 25 currencies and send money to more than 200 countries through the bank’s Foreign Telegraphic Transfer (FTT) and linked Foreign Currency current or savings accounts.
HSBC Expat current accounts are offered in GBP. USD and EUR, but you can also open savings account products in 19 currencies. HSBC has a service to help customers set up local bank accounts when they move to new countries – so you could open an HSBC Malaysian account upon arrival more easily if you choose to.
Account types: Foreign Currency Savings or Current accounts can hold 5 different currencies, but FTT transfers can send 16 different currencies.
Eligibility: Accounts come with minimum balance requirements of 500 MYR to 1,000 MYR
Is it safe? CIMB is of the largest banks in Malaysia and the region. It is fully regulated in Malaysia and around the world.
What are the costs?
In many cases you can open a non-resident Malaysian account for free, especially if you pick a specialist online provider. Traditional banks may require you to deposit your salary or a hefty minimum deposit amount to get your account.
Once your account is up and running you’ll pay transaction fees for the services you use, and may incur monthly charges too – the 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
- Chequebook and cheque cashing fees
- Account dormancy or early closure fees
Tips for transferring money
If you’re sending a payment overseas it’s good to know that you don’t necessarily need to rely on your bank to process the transfer. You could choose a specialist service and save money on both the fees and the exchange rate markups applied. Here are a few things to watch out for:
- Compare the exchange rate you’re offered against the mid-market exchange rate to see if a markup is being used
- Check the fees for different transfer types – arranging your transfer online is usually cheaper than doing so in a bank branch
- Ask about third party charges which can push up the overall costs significantly
Compare the overall costs of sending your payment with your regular bank against a specialist service like Wise to see if you can save. Wise uses the mid-market exchange rate with no markup, and low, transparent fees. This can work out 6x cheaper than using a regular bank for your international payment.
Conclusion: Can you open a Malaysian bank account from the US?
There’s no legal barrier to non-residents and new arrivals in Malaysia opening a bank account. However, non-resident accounts with traditional banks tend to be tricky to open, expensive and inflexible.
For many customers, choosing a specialist online service like Wise or Revolut will offer a better overall deal, including a more straightforward verification process, lower fees and better exchange rates.
FAQs on Opening Malaysian Ringgit Account
Can a foreigner open an account in Malaysia?
Yes. You can open a Malaysian account as a foreigner or non-resident. However, non-Malaysian residents will find it harder to open an account with a traditional bank, and may find it easier to get set up with a specialist online provider.
Can I open a bank account in Malaysia before landing?
If you’re not in Malaysia yet you might find it hard to open a traditional bank account. However, you can get a smart and flexible MYR account from an online specialist service like Wise or Revout instead.
How much do I need to open a bank account in Malaysia?
You can often open a bank account for free in Malaysia, although some traditional banks do ask for a minimum deposit amount to start with. Compare a few providers to get the best deal for your needs.
Can I open a Malaysian bank account online?
Yes. You can open a Malaysian bank account online with traditional banks if you have proof of a Malaysian address. If you don’t have this, you may be better off with a specialist online provider which allows you to open your account on your laptop or mobile device, with a more flexible verification process.