Banking in Singapore

by Barclays Wealth International on May 31, 2010

Moving to Singapore?

Expatriate banking services in Singapore

The Republic of Singapore covers an area of approximately 700 square kilometres, and consists of an island at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, plus over 50 small islets.

The national language is Malay, but English, Tamil and Mandarin are also widely spoken.

Singapore is one of the world’s leading financial centres and is a key financial hub in south-east Asia. Not surprisingly, it boasts one of the world’s most advanced banking systems. There are approximately 700 local and foreign banking and financial institutions in the country.

The currency is the Singapore dollar and as of April 2010, the exchange rate was approximately $2.17 Singapore dollars to £1 GBP (pound sterling).

Banks in Singapore

Central bank

  • Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)

Commercial Banks in Singapore

  • Bank of Singapore
  • DBS Bank
  • Far Eastern Bank
  • Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation
  • United Overseas Bank
  • The Islamic Bank of Asia

Foreign banks with a presence in Singapore

  • Bank of Tokyo−Mitsubishi
  • Barclays
  • BNP Paribas
  • Citibank
  • Credit Agricole
  • HSBC
  • Standard Chartered Bank

Bank opening times in Singapore

These are usually from 9.30am to 3pm on weekdays, and 9.30am to 11.30am on Saturdays. Some banks have branches with longer opening hours, while a few are also open on Sundays.

Banking services in Singapore

The banks in Singapore are considered to be efficient and highly automated, and service is generally excellent. Bank branches can be found throughout the country, in the major cities, towns and rural areas. Nearly all accounts can be managed and operated online, with telephone banking also available for certain accounts, and electronic banking and payments by card are popular.

Due to high competition between financial service providers, it is worth shopping around in Singapore to compare account features and benefits.

The main types of bank account in Singapore

The main types of accounts used for everyday banking and savings in Singapore:

  • Current accounts – typically used for everyday banking. They generally have no monthly fees, but may require a minimum balance be maintained. Interest rates paid on current accounts are usually low
  • Savings accounts – typically pay a higher rate of interest than current accounts, but with limited access to funds. Savings accounts typically require a minimum balance to be maintained
  • Fixed-deposit accounts – primarily designed for long-term saving, with interest rates offered typically higher than either current or savings accounts. These accounts may offer limited or no access to funds until the account matures, and typically have a higher minimum account balance than other accounts

Opening a bank account when you arrive in Singapore

To open an account with a bank in Singapore, you will need to provide a number of forms of identification, which can include:

  • A verified copy of your passport
  • A copy of your residence permits (if applicable)
  • A recent utility bill
  • A letter of reference/employment from your current employer
  • A recent bank statement and letter of reference from your current bank

Opening an account, subject to providing this information, is relatively straightforward, and in many instances can be completed the same day, if applying in person at a bank branch.

Opening a bank account before you arrive in Singapore

It may be possible to open a bank account in Singapore while still in your home country, by contacting one of the major banks with international branches, in person. However, the application process can be completed by telephone or post if you are unable to visit a branch.

An alternative to opening a domestic bank account in Singapore is to open an international bank account. An international account will give you access to a wide range of international banking services. These services include online banking, tax efficient offshore savings options, along with accounts and a debit card available in major currencies.

An international account can be used by clients living or working in Singapore, and is ideal when travelling between international locations.

ATM facilities in Singapore

Banks in Singapore have a shared network of ATMs (automatic teller machines). The ATM network is both widespread and efficient, and in addition to accepting cards from Singapore banks, many machines accept foreign cards, but you should expect to pay a charge. ATMs can be found throughout the major towns, cities, and outlying areas, as with the UK, the majority of bank branches have ATMs located on their premises.

Singapore also has a cashless payment system called NETS (Network for Electronic Transfers), and this offers a convenient way to pay for purchases. NETS is widely accepted throughout Singapore, and many of the major banks offer cards for this system.

Credit cards

Most businesses accept payments using major cards such as Visa and MasterCard, although a surcharge may be applied to any purchases or payments.

To apply for a credit card in Singapore, it is likely that you will have to show proof of employment for a minimum period of six months, (or guaranteed future employment), together with proof of an annual income of at least $30,000 Singapore dollars.

Money transfers to and from Singapore

In addition to money transfer services offered by banks, there are a wide variety of specialist businesses operating in this market. It is worth researching the charges beforehand to get the best deal.

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.

As of April 2010 there are no restrictions on the movement of either local or foreign currency into or out of Singapore.

Bank charges in Singapore

As you might expect with such an advanced banking system, banks compete extensively when it comes to charges. Generally, there are monthly charges applied for operating current accounts, although online accounts may be offered free of charge.

Banking in Singapore – additional information

Singaporean ombudsman

If you have any complaints or issues with a bank in Singapore, contact the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS):

More information on banking with Barclays Wealth International

For further information about the benefits of opening an International Account before you move to Singapore, you can speak to a specialist adviser at Barclays Wealth International by calling +44 (0) 141 352 3902.

Alternatively, find out more about the overseas banking services and expat banking that are available from Barclays Wealth International.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

jimmyliew February 19, 2016 at 2:27 pm

S’pore banks generally provide good service, but avoid dealing with OCBC. They will give you nightmares.


Wijnand D. Langeraar September 13, 2016 at 6:40 am

Terrible trouble with HSBC. I have been denied access to my accounts without being given a reason why. Totally unacceptable. Calling the Hotline gives no respite. I am promised a phone call which does not materialize. I do not live in Singapore so I cannot just walk to my bank branch to investigate. Meanwhile I am stuck. Bad bad bad.


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