Moving to Malaysia?
Your guide to expatriate banking services in Malaysia
The Federation of Malaysia lies at the heart of Southeast Asia, bordering southern Thailand. The country comprises two geographically distinct areas separated by the South China Sea. Peninsular Malaysia, comprising 11 states, is at the southern portion of the Malay Peninsula, which extends south from the mainland of Southeast Asia. The remaining two states, Sabah and Sarawak, lie on the northern coast of the island of Borneo.
Malaysia’s Central Bank has a well-developed regulatory regime, and as a consequence of a policy of maintaining healthy foreign exchange reserves and limited exposure to riskier financial instruments, Malaysia came through the recent global financial crisis largely unscathed.
The official language is Malay, although English is widely used in commerce and industry and many other languages are also spoken.
The currency is the Malaysian ringgit (MYR). As of April 2010, the exchange rate was approximately 5.38 MYR to £1 GBP (pound sterling).
Banks in Malaysia
- Bank Negara Malaysia
Commercial banks in Malaysia
- Bank Islam Malaysia
- Bank Muamalat Malaysia
- CIMB Bank
- Malayan Banking (Maybank)
- Public Bank
- RHB Bank
- Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia
Foreign banks with a presence in Malaysia
- ABN Amro Bank
- Bank of America
- Barclays Bank
- BNP Paribas
- Crédit Lyonnais
- Crédit Suisse First
- Deutsche Bank
- Macquarie Bank
- Société Générale
Bank opening times in Malaysia
Typical banking hours in the major towns and cities are as follows;
- 9.30am to 4pm (Monday to Friday)
- 9.30am to 11.30am (Saturdays)
However, the states of Kelantan and Terengganu operate different banking hours, due to religious considerations. Here the banks are typically open from;
- 9.30am to 4.00pm (Saturday to Wednesday)
- 9.30am to 11.30am (Thursdays)
Authorised money exchange bureaus in hotels are often open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Banking services in Malaysia
Online banking is now becoming more readily available in Malaysia, although not all of the banks provide online banking services, and those that do may offer only limited services, such as viewing account balances and account-to-account transfers. The use of credit, debit and cash cards is common for payments in major towns and cities, although cash payments are still more popular than cards or cheques. Telephone banking is also available with certain account types – check with individual banks for a full list of services that they provide.
The main types of bank account in Malaysia
The major banks in Malaysia offer a comprehensive range of financial services. As well as mortgage, insurance, loan and investment services, the banks offer a range of bank accounts and savings accounts. The core accounts offered to retail banking customers are:
- Current accounts – used for daily banking. Current accounts may include an ATM/debit card, a chequebook and credit card facility on request. They typically offer a low rate of interest, but provide easy access to account funds.
- Savings accounts – typically offer higher rates of interest than current accounts, but may have limited access to funds, with restrictions or interest penalties applied for making account withdrawals. Savings accounts may offer either fixed or variable rates of interest, and may be fixed for a period of time (e.g. one year)
- Deposit accounts – typically offer higher interest rates than savings accounts or current accounts, but access to funds may be limited or not available until the account maturity date. If you require regular access to funds, deposit accounts may not be suitable.
Offshore accounts may also be available, and can be useful for tax efficient long-term savings and for general tax planning purposes. Offshore savings accounts can be held in various worldwide currencies. You should get independent advice before opening an offshore account.
Opening a bank account when you arrive in Malaysia
Both residents and non-residents of Malaysia are able to open bank accounts, subject to individual account requirements and conditions, although accounts for non-residents may initially offer lower limits to reduce a bank’s exposure to debt. As in the UK, new customers will be required to provide proof of identity, and may also be required to provide evidence of either residency or employment status. Documentation, such as your passport, work visa, letter of employment, recent bank statements and a letter of reference from your current bank will all be helpful in the application process.
Opening a bank account before you arrive in Malaysia
In some cases it may be possible to open a bank account in Malaysia without being present at the bank. You could contact the nearest branch of your chosen Malaysian bank, which may have branches in the major cities in Europe, North America and Asia.
A flexible alternative to a local bank account in Malaysia is to open an international account, which can be opened before you relocate there. An international account will give you access to a wide range of international banking services, including tax efficient offshore account options, online banking and a debit card in a choice of major currencies.
International accounts can be used by clients living or working in Malaysia, and also when travelling between international locations.
ATM facilities in Malaysia
The major international credit cards (MasterCard and Visa) are generally accepted in urban centres, as are cheques.
ATMs are widely available, and you can use your credit card in many banks to obtain cash advances, although this is likely to incur a charge and you may need your passport as proof of identity.
Some smaller shops may apply a surcharge on goods bought with a credit card. In this case, ask to phone the credit card company to verify the charge. Cash payments are the most straightforward payment method, and in some smaller outlets you may receive a discount for cash payment.
Most major banks have ATMs that allow deposits and cash withdrawals. If you are using an international banking card, check to see if any fees or charges will be incurred. ATMs are designed to accept local ringgit notes in a wide variety of denominations.
You will also find foreign currency changing machines, which are mostly located at the international airports that are convenient, but may not offer the most competitive rate of exchange.
Money transfers to and from Malaysia
Money transfers are usually fast and efficient, and in addition to money transfer services provided in bank branches there are a range of specialist businesses operating in this market. Research the charges and exchange rates in advance to help you secure a competitive rate.
Currency regulations relating to the import and export of currencies are subject to change. You should check with the national bank for the latest details on current payments and capital payments. As of April 2010, the following limits apply;
- A resident and non-resident are permitted to carry into and out of Malaysia ringgit notes not exceeding RM 1,000 per person (approximately £186 GBP).
- There is no limit for a resident and non-resident to bring in foreign currency notes and traveler’s checks to Malaysia but non-residents need to declare total amounts that exceed $10,000 USD (approximately £6,370 GBP).
Bank charges in Malaysia
Charges will vary from bank to bank, depending on the service and account held, although many current accounts incur a monthly charge.
Banking in Malaysia – other information
There is no ombudsman in Malaysia. However, if you have any complaints or issues with a bank in Malaysia, contact the Financial Mediation Bureau. This is an independent body that was set up by leading financial organisations to help mediate in disputes. Details can be found at www.fmb.org.my
More information on banking with Barclays Wealth International
For more information on opening an International Bank Account, speak to Barclays Wealth International by calling +44 (0) 141 352 3902.
Alternatively, find out more about the overseas banking services that are available to expats living and working in Malaysia, by visiting Barclays Wealth International expat banking information site.