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Singapore - Banking
The Singapore dollar (S$) is made up of 100 cents. Notes come in the denominations of S$2, S$5, S$10, S$50, S$100, S$500 and S$1000; coins used are 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, and S$1.
Cash is used in many locations, especially for smaller purchases. Banks and ATMs are widely available, and you will usually find Cirrus enabled ATMs at MRT stations and in malls. The ATM5 network consists of major banks including HSBC and Standard Chartered.
Credit cards are accepted in most places, including shops and restaurants, but a minimum spend of S$20 is usually required. Prices are usually fixed, especially in units occupying the huge air-conditioned malls, although there may be the possibility of haggling at a market stall if you are serious about a purchase and are buying several items.
The Network for Electronic Transfers (NETS) scheme lets you use ATM cards in retail shops without any fees, and is offered by many bank accounts. It has been in operation for over 30 years and you can use the cards with more than 91,000 businesses. It works in the same way as debit cards in the UK or USA.
If you are using a taxi and pay in cash, no tip is expected, not even rounding up the bill. However, if you offer a tip the driver will gratefully accept it. If you find a taxi driver willing to accept a credit card, there will usually be a 10% surcharge added. Ensure you use an officially registered taxi with a meter installed, to avoid being overcharged.
Money-changers are easily found in most malls and busy locations. There is no fee, and you can sometimes haggle a bit on the exchange rate if you are changing a larger quantity.
Mobile phone SIM cards usually cost S$18.
Banks are usually open 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday, though some branches close anywhere between 3pm and 6pm. Branches usually open on a Saturday morning at 8.30am, but again the closing time varies anywhere between 11.30am and 1pm. Branches can be very busy, despite the mainstream provision of online banking facilities such as Bank Statements and Online Transfers.
You can often open a bank account before moving to Singapore, but check with the individual bank about your eligibility to do this, because it varies for different countries. Singapore’s banking rules aim to prevent money laundering and tax evasion, so it can be quite hard to open an account as a non resident. You may also prefer to move to Singapore before opening a bank account, so that you can assess the access to bank branches and ATMs in your new work and residential area.
In order to set up a bank account, you will need a valid passport, a work or study visa, a reference from your current bank in the country you are leaving, and official proof of address such as utility bill or an official document from employer. It will normally take a bank five working days to open a bank account once they have received all the essential documents.
Most banks with overseas headquarters will have limited presence in Singapore, but many familiar names are available. Some of the more popular choices of bank account for expats include:
• POSB/DBS banks: popular for their excellent ATM coverage, and DBS also has an expatriate bank account which offers multiple currencies.
• United Overseas Bank (UOB): noted by expats for great customer service & its online banking app.
• HSBC offers a GlobalView screen which allows expats to see their accounts in different countries and currencies on one screen.
It is possible to open a savings account from the age of 15, but you must be 18 years and over to open a deposit account. If your spouse is accompanying you to Singapore, your bank account must be in joint names because your spouse will not be able to set up an independent account.
Before you choose a bank, find out what their fees and charges are for services in the branch or online. There is usually a fee structure for local and international transfers, cheque books, standing orders, transaction alerts through SMS etc. Telegraphic transfer (wire) fees are waived in most banks if you open a premier account with them.
You should also ascertain what the minimum balance is, as there will be a financial penalty for going below this and the account may be closed. Many banks offer an overdraft facility, arranged for a period of 12 months, which can be renewed. Overdrafts operate on a ‘revolving credit facility’ basis, which means when you repay into the overdraft account you can withdraw it again as long as the outstanding amount is within the overdraft limit granted by the bank. Some overdrafts are unsecured, while others are secured by having assets available to become property of the bank in the event there is a default on the overdraft.
Many banks offer an app to allow you easier access to some aspects of online banking, which you may find useful.
If you are opening a business account, an appointment should be made with the bank for all the authorised signatories and directors to attend in person. They are required to be present at the same time to sign documents, and present important documents such as the memorandum of articles, resolution of board of directors etc. The exact paperwork required should be confirmed with the individual bank at the time the appointment is arranged.
If you have a complaint about something that has gone wrong with your account, or any transactions you have made, you should first report the problem to the bank concerned. If the situation is not resolved to your satisfaction, then you can apply to the Financial Industry Disputes Resolution Centre Ltd (FIDReC) for the matter to be investigated further. For further details of how to initiate a process and see how their procedures work, their website is available here.
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