How to open a bank account in Singapore
If you’re relocating and need an account to hold, spend and receive SGD, you may be wondering how to open a bank account in Singapore. You’ll usually need to be able to prove both your ID and your legal residence status in Singapore to be able to open a full service bank account there. That can make it tricky to get an account set up with a regular bank if you’re not in Singapore yet, or if you’re only staying temporarily.
This guide walks through account opening options and requirements for some major Singapore banks – and some alternatives like Wise and Revolut as a more flexible comparison. More on that, later.
What documents do I need?
Whenever you open an account you’ll need to provide some documents for identification. This is to comply with the law and keep customers and their accounts safe.
In Singapore, the documents which are required, and the range of documents accepted, are different for a Singapore citizen or PR, compared to a foreigner in the country to live, study, work or visit.
If you’re a foreign resident in Singapore you may have a Singpass account. In this case you may be able to apply for a bank account using Singpass and Myinfo, which automatically completes much of your application using verified personal data. However, in most cases you’ll still need to provide proof of residential address either manually online or in person.
If you’re not using Singpass to register your accounts, the basic requirements for a manual application are similar in all cases:
- Proof of identity – a government issued photo ID such as your passport
- Proof of address
- Proof of legal status in the country (Employment Pass, student pass or long term visitor pass for example)
When it comes to proof of address, there are a range of documents which may be accepted, such as a local utility bill, bank statement or letter from your employer or school.
In the vast majority of cases, traditional banks will require you to have a local Singapore address to get an account. A couple of Singapore banks also offer accounts to non-residents, but in this case you may need an introducer to vouch for your trustworthiness.
Save the paperwork with alternative solutions like Wise or Revolut
If you’re trying to set up a Singapore dollar bank account before you move to Singapore you may be better off with a modern online alternative like Wise or Revolut, instead of a traditional Singapore bank.
Providers like these offer multi-currency accounts which can hold, send, spend and receive SGD, alongside a range of other currencies. You’ll be able to open your account with a US proof of identity and address, which means you can access SGD bank details even if Singapore isn’t your home just yet.
Set up your account online or via the provider’s app and complete the verification process digitally before you travel.
How to open a bank account in Singapore
How you open your account in Singapore will depend a lot on the bank you select. In all cases you’ll be able to walk into a branch to get your account opened. Some banks do allow customers to open accounts remotely, subject to meeting eligibility requirements. More on that in a moment.
If you don’t have proof of a Singapore address, and legal residency in Singapore you’ll probably find it harder to set up a full service account with a traditional bank – check out some digital alternatives like Wise or Revolut for SGD accounts you can open from the US.
Can I open a bank account in Singapore before arrival?
It’s normal to need a Singapore address to open a full bank account there. In most cases you’ll also need to prove your legal residency in Singapore, by showing your valid pass.
You may be able to find a small handful of banks which allow you to apply for a non-resident account in Singapore before you arrive there. However, these accounts can come with relatively limited services and higher fees, compared with standard Singapore resident bank accounts.
If you’re not in Singapore yet you might find it easier to get set up using a specialist account service – we’ve got a couple coming up to kickstart your research.
Which account is best in Singapore for foreigners?
While there’s a huge choice of local, regional and global banks in Singapore, you’ll need a local proof of address for standard accounts, or you’ll have to go for a non-resident product. If you want a more flexible account, digital specialist services may be a better option.
Let’s take a look at a few examples, including a couple of specialist account providers, and popular Singapore banks DBS and UOB:
|Currencies covered||50+ currencies including SGD||Typically around 28 currencies including SGD||13 currencies in the popular My Account||SGD in the One Account; up to 11 currencies in multi-currency account products|
|Open before you arrive in Singapore||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Open online||Yes||Yes||Varies based on your personal situation||No – although non-residents can open in a branch with an introducer|
|Opening fee||No fee||No fee||$0||$1,000 minimum deposit|
|Maintenance fee||No fee||Fee free standard plans are available – or customers can upgrade to accounts which have a monthly charge||$2/month if you want paper statements||$5/month fall below fee if balance is under $1,000|
|International transfers||Low fee, varies by currency||Fee varies by currency and payment value||From SGD account – 1/8% ($10 minimum – $120 maximum) + agent charges as required + 20 SGD cable charges + exchange rate markup||From SGD account – 1/8% ($10 minimum – $100 maximum) + agent charges as required + exchange rate markup|
*Profiled accounts are DBS My Account and UOB One Account. Other accounts are available.
DBS and UOB are hugely popular banks in Singapore, and UOB also lets non-residents open SGD accounts in some circumstances. However, even if you’re eligible to open an account with UOB you’ll need to be physically in Singapore, and you’ll usually be asked to have an introducer – a current UOB customer who can vouch for you.
If you’re still in the US and don’t have a Singapore proof of address, an online account provider like Wise or Revolut can be a smart choice, to access low cost banking services in SGD alongside USD.
Wise offers multi-currency accounts which can be used to hold, exchange, send, spend and manage 50+ currencies including both US and Singapore dollars.
You can open your account while you’re still in the US and get bank details for up to 10 currencies – including USD and SGD – to receive payments, as well as having the option to send money to 80+ countries and spend internationally with Wise debit card.
Wise is a specialist in low cost currency conversion which uses the mid-market exchange rate with no markup. Use your Wise account as you transition from the US to Singapore, to get low fees and great rates every time you need to switch from one currency to another.
Account types: Both personal and business customers can open a Wise multi-currency account from the US with no minimum balance or monthly fees to pay. Read our Wise Fees guide to learn more.
Eligibility: Accounts are offered in most countries around the world – you’ll need a government issued ID and in some cases a proof of address or tax number to apply. Full details of availability by location available on the Wise website.
Is it safe? Yes. Wise is also overseen by a range of global regulatory bodies around the world. Check out Is Wise Safe for more.
Revolut describes itself as a financial super app. Accounts are offered to customers based in the US and a range of other countries, and can hold and exchange around 28 currencies including SGD.
You’ll be able to spend on your linked debit card, get some fee-free currency exchange depending on your account type, and even earn interest on your account balance.
Revolut offers free standard accounts, or if you want to unlock more features you can upgrade to a paid plan for a monthly fee.
Account types: Standard account plans are free or you can upgrade to a paid plan on a variety of different tiers – if you’re in the US, plans range up to 16.99 USD/month.
Eligibility: Available to customers with addresses in the UK, the EEA, Australia, Singapore, Switzerland, Japan, and the US.
Is it safe? Yes. Revolut operates safely in the countries it serves, with oversight from a range of global bodies.
DBS My Account
While DBS has plenty of different accounts to choose from, we’ve highlighted the My Account as a popular and flexible option for people with a Singapore proof of address. You’ll be able to hold 13 currencies, and add in up to 150 banking services to tailor make the account in the way you need it. That means you can save, spend, invest and exchange all in the same place.
The My Account is available for individuals, but also as a joint account, including joint accounts for children where one account holder is a parent or guardian. This makes it a good teen account if you’re looking for a way to help your child manage their money safely.
Account types: DBS has accounts for individuals and businesses – the multi-currency My Account is one of the most popular personal account options
Eligibility: Available to Singapore citizens, PRs and legal residents
Is it safe? Yes. DBS is the biggest bank in Singapore, and fully regulated by MAS.
UOB One Account
UOB is one of the biggest banks in Singapore, and has a full range of Singapore dollar accounts for spending and saving. If you’d rather manage your money across several currencies there are also multi-currency account options – while the SGD account we picked out to profile was the UOB One Account.
The UOB One account is a flexible SGD account which lets you earn up to 2.5% interest on savings, and 3% cashback on eligible card spend. Terms and conditions apply, including a 1,000 SGD minimum balance to avoid monthly fees. If you’re a non-resident, you might be able to open a UOB personal account if you have an introducer – but you’ll have to be in Singapore in person to get started.
Account types: UOB has a range of accounts including day to day use SGD accounts, and multi-currency accounts which let you hold and handle a range of currencies
Eligibility: Available to Singapore residents, or eligible non-residents with an introducer
Is it safe? Yes. UOB is an established bank which is regulated by MAS.
What are the costs?
Opening a bank account in Singapore will not usually involve paying any specific fee, but you may be asked to deposit a set minimum amount of money. You may also find there are monthly or annual account and card fees, as well as transaction costs.
Because banking in Singapore can come with significantly different fees compared to the US you’ll want to review the fee schedule carefully before you start using your account.
Online specialists like Wise or Revolut can offer low-cost services and free accounts. Revolut has various account types with monthly fees, including a Standard account which is fee-free, while Wise personal accounts are free to open without monthly fees.
Tips for transferring money
If you’re moving to Singapore you may well need to manage your money across both SGD and USD for a while, which will mean sending transfers internationally. Overseas payments can be pretty costly, with fees that are often confusing. You’ll need to compare both the transfer fee and the exchange rate being applied whenever you send money to make sure you get a good deal.
Here are some tips to avoid the costs on international transfer fees:
- Banks typically use a marked up exchange rate – compare the exchange rate you’re offered against the rate you find on Google to check
- International transfer fees tend to be complex and include several different charges – make sure you’re clear of all that will apply
- Review the terms and conditions of your specific account to check if it’s cheaper to send your payment online – this is usually the case
- Don’t forget that third party fees – also called agent charges – may be deducted as the payment is processed, and can mean your recipient gets less than you expect
Singapore banks commonly ask for a proof of address from Singapore, plus proof of your legal residence status, such as an Employment pass. That can limit your options for a Singapore bank account from a regular bank if you’ve not yet relocated, or if you’re only planning on being in Singapore on a temporary basis.
If you need an SGD account with more flexibility, check out specialist providers like Wise or Revolut, to get an account opened and verified online, with SGD banking details and a linked payment card.
- Can a foreigner open an account in Singapore?
Yes, foreigners can open Singapore bank accounts. However, you’ll often be asked for a proof of address from Singapore, as well as your valid pass to prove you’re legally in the country. If you’re still based in the US a flexible multi-currency account from a specialist provider may be a better option.
- How much do I need to open a bank account in Singapore?
It’s usually free to open a Singapore bank account, but there may be a minimum initial deposit, monthly or annual card fees, and there are always some transaction fees to consider, depending on how you use your account.
- Can I open a Singapore bank account online?
Some Singapore banks do allow online account opening, but you’ll find this easier if you have Singpass and Myinfo to upload and verify your personal information.
- Can I open a bank account in Singapore before landing?
You’ll normally need a proof of address from Singapore to get a full Singapore bank account. However, online and digital specialist services like Wise and Revolut may be more flexible, with accounts you can open online, with proof of address from your home country instead.