How to open a bank account in Singapore

Need an account to manage your money in Singapore? Whether you've just landed in Singapore or you're currently planning your relocation, opening a bank account in Singapore can be a complex process. 

This guide walks through how to open a Singapore dollar (SGD) account as a non-resident. or before you head off to Singapore. We’ll cover the documents you need, the options available and the likely costs. We’ll also compare accounts available for non-residents from traditional banks against modern alternatives, like Wise or Revolut. More on that later. Let’s dive right in. 

What documents do I need?

To open a bank account with one of the main Singapore banks you’ll be asked to present original or certified copies of a suite of documents. These can include:

  • Proof of identity - a valid passport, national identity card or driver’s licence for example

  • Proof of residential address - a bank or credit card statement, utility bill or tax return in your name 

  • Your valid work permit or in principle approval letter

  • A reference from your home bank or an introduction from an existing customer

Providing these documents makes it easy for Singapore banks to comply with local legislation, check you’re legally in the country, and make sure you’re eligible for an account. However, pulling together this paperwork as a non-resident or new arrival in Singapore can prove tricky, or even impossible. 

Luckily some specialist account providers are more flexible in the ways they check customer identity and will allow non-residents to open an account to handle SGD transactions. More on that, next.

Save the paperwork with alternative solutions like Wise or Revolut

Specialist services like Wise or Revolut were created with international customers in mind. That means accounts are open to residents and non-residents alike. 

One of the big barriers to opening an account in Singapore with a regular bank is that you need a local residential address. With specialist services you’ll be able to open your account using proof of address documents from your home country, and still open up a SGD balance to hold, send and spend Singapore dollars. And because your proof of address doesn’t necessarily need to be from Singapore, you can get your account set up before you even move.

Modern alternative providers like Wise and Revolut can be a great solution for expats, non-residents and digital nomads. 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 Singapore

Some Singapore banks will offer accounts to non-residents who plan to move to Singapore. However, without a Singapore address and paperwork showing your legal right to be in the country, it's often pretty tricky.

If you’re a resident of Singapore and have your proof of ID and Singapore residence documents prepared already, you’ll have no problem opening a bank account with one of the big Singapore banks. Some let you get started online - but it's common to need to visit a branch to present your original paperwork. Generally you need to show:

  • Proof of identity

  • Proof of address

  • Your work permit or in principle approval (IPA) letter

  • A completed application with all your personal details

  • Opening deposit - there may be a minimum deposit requirement

  • Some banks may require an introducer or a reference from your home bank

Can I open a bank account in Singapore before arrival?

It’s tricky to open an account in Singapore with a regular bank prior to arriving in the country. In most cases you’ll need to be physically present to open your account, and even if you can apply online from abroad, accounts which accept non-residents are usually aimed at expats moving to Singapore. That means you’ll need to update your details to show a Singapore address once you arrive.

If you want to get your SGD bank account set up before you arrive you’ll probably be better off with a specialist service like Wise or Revolut. More on the best Singapore account options for non-residents and people moving to Singapore coming up in a moment.

Which account is best in Singapore for foreigners? 

Singapore bank accounts which can be opened by non-residents are fairly restrictive. They’re usually intended for people moving to Singapore, which means that while you may be able to use a non-Singapore residential address to open your account, you’ll need to update it later to show your new Singapore home. 

Specialist services include financial technology companies. These are not banks but are regulated in a similar way to banks - which means that for the services they offer they’re just as safe. The good news is that specialist services like these tend to be cheaper and more flexible than traditional banks. Let’s take a look at a few examples:

Service

Wise

Revolut

UOB*

POSB*

Currencies covered

54 currencies including SGD, USD and EUR

28 currencies

SGD

13 currencies 

Open before you arrive in Singapore

Yes

Yes

No

No

Open online

Yes

Yes

No

No

Opening fee

$0 

$0

Minimum balance: $1,000

Minimum balance: $3,000

Fall below fee

$0 

$0

$5

$5

Maintenance fee

$0 

Up to $19.99/month

Waived if minimum balance is maintained

Waived if minimum balance is maintained

International transfers

Low fee, varies by currency

Fee varies by currency and payment value

1/8% (minimum $10) + cable charges + agent charges if applicable [7]

1/8% ($10 - $120) + $20 cable charges + agent charges if applicable[10]

Early closure fee

$0

$0

$30

$20 - $30

*UOB account profiled is the One Account; POSB account is the Multiplier account - other accounts are available which come with their own terms and conditions

Non-residents who intend to relocate, and foreigners already in Singapore are likely to be able to open a bank account at any of the major Singapore banks. However, it’s far more difficult to do without having a Singapore address or being physically in the country. In this case, customers may be better off with an online specialist provider. Specialists often provide more flexible multi-currency accounts which are cheaper and easier to open.

Go To Wise
Go To Revolut

Wise

Wise was set up in 2011 with a mission to make it faster, cheaper and easier to send international payments. Today, Wise  serves 11 million+ customers around the world and has expanded its services to offer personal and business multi-currency accounts. 

The Wise multi-currency account is free to open online or in the Wise app, and available to non-residents and new arrivals in Singapore. You can hold 50+ currencies including SGD and exchange between them using the mid-market exchange rate. You’ll also get local bank details for 10 currencies including SGD, so you can get paid easily and with no fees in Singapore, and from around 30 other countries. 

Account types: Wise multi-currency accounts are free to open, with no minimum balance or monthly fees to pay.

Eligibility: Available to non-residents and new arrivals in Singapore. Not all services and features are available in all locations - full details by location available on the Wise website.

Is it safe? Wise Asia-Pacific Pte. Ltd. is licensed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) as a major payment institution, and overseen by global bodies around the world.

Go To Wise

Revolut

Revolut calls itself a financial super app. Founded in 2015, it now has around 18 million customers.

Revolut accounts let customers hold and exchange 28 fiat currencies, and get a linked card for spending and ATM withdrawals. You can choose between a free standard plan and one of 2 different fee paid accounts, depending on the features you want to access. All accounts have some great features including fee free currency exchange which uses the mid-market exchange rate, up to a limit set according to your account tier. 

Account types: Personal accounts only available - no business account product. Standard plans are free or you can upgrade to a paid plan for up to $19.99/month.

Eligibility: Available to customers in Singapore and non-residents with addresses in the UK, the EEA, Australia, Switzerland, Japan, and the US[11].

Is it safe? In Singapore Revolut is licensed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) as a major payment institution.

Go To Revolut

UOB

UOB is fairly unusual in Singapore in that it’s a large traditional bank which may allow foreigners who are not resident in Singapore to open accounts. However, you’ll need to physically attend a meeting at a UOB branch to present original copies of documents, and the bank may still choose to decline your application. 

If you’re successful in opening an account with UOB the good news is that there are plenty of different accounts to choose from. Whether you need a current account for day to day use, a savings account or a foreign currency account product you may find one to suit you from the range offered by UOB.

Account types: Broad range of account types including current accounts and savings accounts.

Eligibility: Varies by account type. For example, the popular UOB One account has a minimum balance requirement of $1,000.

Is it safe? UOB is one of the largest banks in Singapore, and is fully regulated and licensed by MAS.

POSB

POSB is another major Singapore bank which may be an option to new arrivals in Singapore. It’s possible open a POSB account using a proof of address from outside of Singapore, as long as you’re planning on moving to Singapore and will therefore be able to update your details with a local address in future.

If your application is accepted by POSB you’ll have a good range of accounts to choose from including the popular Multiplier account which lets you earn more interest the more you use your account. There are also cashback accounts, savings accounts and a range of specialist products which you might select depending on your personal needs.

Account types: Range of accounts available, including current and savings account products, and some foreign or multi-currency account options. Some accounts are available through POSB’s partnership with DBS.

Eligibility: Varies by account type. For example, the popular POSB/DBS Multiplier account has a minimum balance requirement of $1,000.

Is it safe? POSB - as well as its partner institution DBS -  is fully regulated and licensed by MAS.

What are the costs?

You might be able to open an account for free if you pick a specialist online provider. However, regular banks in Singapore usually require you to deposit a variable minimum deposit amount to open your account.

Once your account is up and running there are likely to be service fees, and monthly charges including fall below fees if you don’t maintain the minimum balance required - 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 

  • Account dormancy or early closure fees

Tips for transferring money

As you saw in the table above, sending a cross border payment with a Singapore bank can prove expensive with a transfer fee, cable charge and possible agent fees to consider. There’s also likely to be a markup on the exchange rate applied - an extra fee which is tricky to see and can mount up very quickly. Here’s what to look out for;

  • Compare the exchange rate you’re offered against the mid-market exchange rate to see if a markup is being used

  • Review the terms and conditions of your specific account to see the transfer fee which will apply - usually there’s a minimum payment value, but there may not be a maximum cap to the amount paid

  • Check if there are agent fees which can push up the overall costs 

Instead of sending your payment with your regular bank you might be better off sending your transfer with a specialist service like Wise. 

Conclusion

Getting a bank account in Singapore as a non-resident or new arrival can be tricky. Even if your application is successful you’re likely to need to be in Singapore to open your account, and you may also find the products are relatively  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.

FAQ

Can a foreigner open an account in Singapore?

Theoretically you can open a bank account in Singapore as a foreigner, but if you’re not a long term resident you may find it tricky. Non-residents and new arrivals may find it easier to get set up with a specialist online provider.

How much do I need to open a bank account in Singapore?

You can often open a bank account for free in Singapore, although it’s typical to be asked for a minimum deposit amount which comes with fall below fees if your balance drops. Compare a few providers to get the best deal for your needs.

Can I open a Singapore bank account online?

Some Singapore banks will allow you to open an account online if you have all the required documents and fulfil their eligibility criteria. If you don’t have all the paperwork needed just yet and want to open your account from home 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.

Can I open a bank account in Singapore before landing?

If you’re not in Singapore yet you might find it hard to open a traditional bank account. However, you can get a smart and flexible SGD account from an online specialist service like Wise or Revolut instead.

By Ileana Ionescu
Updated 12 April 2022