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Singapore Banks for Foreigners: The Ultimate Guide to Finding the Perfect Bank in 2023

Whether you're a business owner, a student, or a professional, this Ultimate Guide will help you navigate the Singapore banking scene and find the perfect bank to meet your needs.

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Finding the Perfect Singapore Banks for Foreigners

If you’re a foreigner who’s planning to relocate, or a company looking to expand its business in Singapore, it can be quite intimidating to find the right bank and services that will fit your needs.

Anyway, it is necessary to make a considerate choice considering that one of the main benefits of living and making business in Singapore is the country’s well-developed banking system, which offers a wide range of options for both locals and foreigners. Singapore is home to global banking giants such as DBS, UOB, and OCBC, as well as numerous international banks like HSBC and Citibank. Additionally, the country has recently introduced virtual banks, which provide the latest technology for online banking.

Whether you’re a business owner, a student, or a professional, this Ultimate Guide will help you navigate the Singapore banking scene and find the perfect bank to meet your needs. With the right bank, you’ll be able to manage your finances effectively and make the most of your time in Singapore.

The importance of choosing the right bank in Singapore

Choosing the right bank in Singapore for foreigners is important for a number of reasons. First and foremost, a bank account is necessary for managing your finances and conducting everyday transactions such as paying bills, making purchases, and transferring money. A bank account can also help you save money and earn interest on your deposits, especially if you choose a bank with competitive interest rates.

In addition to these practical considerations, the right bank can also provide you with peace of mind and a sense of security. A reputable bank will ensure the safety and stability of your assets, and offer services such as deposit insurance to protect your money in case of unexpected events. Choosing the right bank can also save you money in the long run by avoiding fees and charges, and provide you with convenient services such as online and mobile banking.

Overall, taking the time to research and choose the right bank in Singapore can make a big difference in your financial well-being and overall experience living and doing business in the country.

Overview of the banking system in Singapore

Singapore is home to a robust banking system, which serves as the backbone of its financial sector with a range of banks offering a variety of services to both local and foreign customers. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is the regulatory body responsible for overseeing the country’s financial sector, including banks, both local and international, offering a range of products and services including deposits, loans, foreign exchange, overseas remittances, credit cards, merchant services, investments and internet banking. The MAS also provides deposit insurance for all banks, which covers deposits up to S$75,000 per customer in the event of unexpected events.

Singapore’s banks are known for their stability, efficiency, and strong risk management practices, which have contributed to the country’s status as a financial hub in Southeast Asia.

Furthermore, existing regulations ensure all banks in Singapore are on par with global standards in terms of governance and transparency while maintaining a commitment to sound risk management practices. This secure infrastructure led Deloitte to rank Singapore as the second-most competitive financial hub worldwide. The banking system in Singapore is predominantly made up of domestic banks, with a few foreign banks also operating in the country. Additionally, the use of digital banking is prevalent in Singapore, with many banks offering online and mobile banking services to make banking more convenient for customers.

Overall, the banking system in Singapore is strong, transparent, and well-regarded, making it a good choice for foreigners looking to open a bank account in the country.

business in singapore

Differences between local and international banks in Singapore

Singapore’s banking system is predominantly made up of local banks, which are banks that are incorporated and headquartered in the country. These banks typically have a strong focus on serving the needs of local customers and businesses.

On the other hand, international banks in Singapore are foreign banks that have established branches or subsidiaries in the country. These banks typically have a global presence, with operations in multiple countries around the world.

One key difference between local and international banks in Singapore is the scope of their operations. Local banks tend to have a more domestic focus, with the convenience of having personalized customer service on the same timeline. Local banks may also offer lower interest rates or other specific deals designed for citizens or businesses based in Singapore.

Instead, international banks may have a more global perspective due to their presence in multiple countries. This can be beneficial for foreigners who wish to access global financial services due to their greater breadth of offerings and worldwide market access.

Another difference is the size of the banks. Local banks in Singapore are often larger and more established in the market, while international banks may be smaller in comparison. This can impact the level of customer service and support offered by the banks, with larger banks often having more resources to devote to customer service.

Overall, both local and international banks in Singapore offer a range of competitive financial products and services, and it’s important for foreigners individuals or businesses to consider their financial goals and preferences when choosing the right bank.

How businesses can decide between local and international banks in Singapore

Businesses in Singapore have a wide range of options when it comes to choosing a bank, including both local and international banks.

One key factor to consider is the scope of the business’s operations. If a business has a primarily domestic focus, with most of its customers and suppliers located in Singapore, then a local bank may be a good choice. Local banks typically have a strong understanding of the local market and can offer tailored financial solutions to meet the needs of local businesses. On the other hand, if a business has a more international focus, with customers or suppliers located in multiple countries, then an international bank may be a better fit. International banks often have a global presence and can offer a wider range of products and services, such as cross-border banking and foreign exchange services, that can be beneficial for businesses with an international focus.

Another factor to consider is the size of the business. Smaller businesses may benefit from the personalized service and support offered by local banks, while larger businesses may prefer the resources and expertise of international banks.

international business

Essential services to consider when choosing a bank in Singapore

Fees and charges

Fees and charges are an important factor to consider when choosing a bank in Singapore, as they can significantly impact the cost of using the bank’s services. Some common fees and charges to be aware of include account maintenance fees, ATM usage fees, and fees for bank drafts or cheques. It’s a good idea to compare the fees and charges of different banks to find the most cost-effective option. Additionally, it’s important to consider whether the fees and charges are transparent and easy to understand, as some banks may have hidden fees or charge fees for services that are offered for free by other banks.

Banking services and features

Banking services and features are an important consideration when choosing a bank in Singapore. Different banks offer a range of services and features, such as online banking, mobile banking, and ATM access. It’s important to consider which of these are most important to you and ensure that the bank you choose offers them. For example, if you frequently travel, you may want to choose a bank with a wide network of ATMs or one that offers mobile banking to make banking more convenient.

Companies instead may have different needs and preferences when it comes to banking services, depending on the size and nature of the business. Some key services and features that companies may want to consider when choosing a bank include:

  • Business loans: Many banks offer business loans to help companies finance their operations or expand. It’s important to consider the loan terms, including the interest rate and repayment period.
  • Trade finance: If your company engages in international trade, you may want to consider a bank that offers trade finance services, such as letters of credit and export financing.
  • Payroll services: Some banks offer payroll services in Singapore, which can be convenient for companies that need to make regular payments to employees.
  • Business account options: Different banks offer different types of business accounts, such as savings accounts, current accounts, and fixed deposit accounts.

Foreign currency exchange rates

If you plan to make or receive payments in a foreign currency, it’s important to consider the exchange rates offered by different banks. Some banks may offer more favorable rates, which can save you money in the long run.

Accessibility and convenience

Consider the locations and hours of the bank’s branches and ATMs, as well as the availability of online and mobile banking options. If you frequently travel or are not always in the same location, you may want to choose a bank with a wide network of ATMs or one that offers mobile banking to make banking more convenient. On the other hand, if you prefer to do your banking in person, you may want to choose a bank with multiple branches in your area. It’s also important to consider the hours of operation of the bank and whether it offers extended hours or 24/7 access to its services. Overall, it’s important to choose a bank that is accessible and convenient to meet your banking needs.

Safety and security

Look for banks that have strong risk management practices in place and are compliant with regulatory requirements. This can help ensure that your money is safe and secure while it is in the bank. It’s also a good idea to choose a bank that offers secure online and mobile banking options, such as two-factor authentication, to protect your accounts from cyber threats. Additionally, consider whether the bank has a good track record of protecting customer data and privacy.

Best Singapore banks for foreigners

Singapore local banks (DBS, UOB, OCBC)

  • DBS: Development Bank of Singapore is the biggest bank in Singapore and has a wide range of banking products and services. It offers foreign currency accounts, savings accounts, credit cards, loans, and investment solutions. DBS also provides mobile banking and internet banking services as well as an extensive network of ATMs throughout the country.
  • UOB: United Overseas Bank is another popular bank in Singapore, ranking as the third-largest bank in terms of total assets, with a wide range of banking products and services. It offers foreign currency accounts, savings accounts, loans, investment solutions, and credit cards. UOB also has an extensive network of ATMs throughout the country as well as internet banking and mobile banking services.
  • OCBC: Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation is one of the largest local banks in Singapore and offers a wide range of banking products and services. It has an extensive network of ATMs throughout the country, as well as internet banking and mobile banking services. OCBC also offers foreign currency accounts, savings accounts, loans, investment solutions, and credit cards.

Singapore International banks (HSBC, Citibank)

  • HSBC: Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation is a well-established international bank in Singapore with an extensive network of ATMs throughout the country, as well as mobile banking and internet banking services. It offers foreign currency accounts, savings accounts, loans, investment solutions, credit cards, and more. The bank has a strong focus on serving the needs of both personal and business customers and has a network of branches and ATMs throughout the country.
  • Citibank: Citibank is another international bank in Singapore with a wide range of banking products and services. It offers foreign currency accounts, savings accounts, loans, investment solutions, credit cards, and more. Citibank is known for its global reach and expertise in foreign exchange services, which can be beneficial for customers with an international focus.
Singapore banks

Which one is more suitable for you?

Singapore is home to a variety of businesses, from small start-ups to large multinationals. Different types of banks offer services tailored to meet the needs of each type of business. For example, local banks like DBS, UOB, and OCBC are well equipped to handle the banking needs of smaller businesses, while international banks such as HSBC and Citibank offer a range of services tailored to the needs of larger multinationals.

Small Businesses in Singapore

Local banks such as DBS, UOB, and OCBC typically offer lower fees and more personalized service. These banks also have extensive networks of ATMS throughout Singapore so businesses can easily access their funds. Additionally, these banks offer a range of business banking products and services such as foreign currency accounts, savings accounts, loans, investment solutions, credit cards, insurance plans and more.

Larger Multinationals with presence in Singapore

International banks like HSBC and Citibank may be better suited as they provide a wider range of services catering to the specific needs of businesses with an international focus. These banks offer access to global markets, foreign exchange services, and specialized banking products tailored for multinationals such as foreign currency accounts, loans, investment solutions, credit cards and more. Additionally, these banks have extensive networks of ATMS throughout Singapore so businesses can easily access their funds.

Startups

Startups are businesses that are typically in the early stages of operation and are focused on developing and selling innovative products or services. Startups often face unique challenges and may have different financial needs than more established businesses. When choosing a bank in Singapore, startups may want to consider the following factors:

  • Business loans: Startups may need funding to finance their operations or expand, and banks that offer business loans can be a good option. It’s important to compare the loan terms, including the interest rate and repayment period, of different banks to find the most favorable option.
  • Digital banking: Startups may rely heavily on digital tools and technologies, and choosing a bank with strong digital banking options, such as online and mobile banking, can be beneficial.
  • Flexibility: Startups often experience rapid growth and change, and it’s important to choose a bank that is flexible and able to adapt to the changing needs of the business.
  • Support: Startups may benefit from banks that offer support and resources specifically for entrepreneurs, such as mentorship programs or networking events.

DBS, OCBC, and UOB are the three most desired banking partners not only for SMEs but also for startups in Singapore.

E-commerce Business

E-commerce businesses may face unique challenges, as they rely heavily on digital tools and technologies and may have customers located all over the world. When choosing a bank in Singapore, e-commerce businesses may want to consider the following factors:

  • Credit card processing: E-commerce businesses often rely on credit card payments from customers, and choosing a bank that offers convenient and secure credit card processing options can be beneficial.
  • Cross-border banking: E-commerce businesses may have customers or suppliers located in multiple countries, and banks that offer cross-border banking services, such as foreign exchange services, can be useful.
  • Digital banking: E-commerce businesses may rely heavily on digital tools and technologies, and choosing a bank with strong digital banking options, such as online and mobile banking, can be beneficial.
  • Support: E-commerce businesses may benefit from banks that offer support and resources specifically for online businesses, such as e-commerce marketing or online payment gateway solutions.

DBS Bank could be a suitable solutions as it offers a range of financial products and services, including credit card processing and cross-border banking services. The bank also has a strong focus on digital banking, with a range of online and mobile banking options.

Worth considering also OCBC Bank that offers credit card processing and cross-border banking services, as well as a range of digital banking options. The bank also has a strong focus on supporting small and medium-sized businesses, including e-commerce businesses.

Expats

When choosing a bank in Singapore, expats may want to consider the following factors:

  • Foreign currency exchange rates: Expats may need to make or receive payments in a foreign currency, and choosing a bank with favorable exchange rates can help save money.
  • Cross-border banking: Expats may have financial obligations or connections in multiple countries, and banks that offer cross-border banking services, such as foreign exchange services or the ability to transfer money between accounts in different countries, can be beneficial.
  • Digital banking: Expats may appreciate the convenience of digital banking options, such as online and mobile banking, which can make it easier to manage their financial affairs from anywhere.
  • Support: Expats may benefit from banks that offer support and resources specifically for expats, such as information about financial regulations and tax requirements in Singapore.

Citibank and HSBC are global banks with a strong presence in Singapore, and offer a range of financial products and services, including cross-border banking and digital banking options. The banks also have a focus on serving the needs of expats, with a range of resources and support available.

Conclusion

Recap of key points to consider when choosing a Singapore bank as a foreigner

  • Credit card processing
  • Cross-border banking services
  • Digital banking options
  • Support and resources specifically for entrepreneurs, e-commerce businesses, or expats.

The three most desired banks in Singapore are DBS, OCBC, and UOB. For startups, DBS Bank could be a suitable solutions as it offers a range of financial products and services, including credit card processing and cross-border banking services. For e-commerce businesses, OCBC Bank should be taken into consideration as they offer credit card processing and cross-border banking services, as well as a range of digital banking options. And finally, expats may want to consider Citibank or HSBC that have a range of financial products and services, including cross-border banking and digital banking options.

Finding the right bank for your needs can take some time, but it is well worth the effort in order to ensure you are getting the best service and most comprehensive support available.

Singapore Banks for foreigners
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