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Living in Singapore, from the USA

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Economy & Finance

Banks in Singapore

When it comes to choosing a bank, expats in Singapore will be spoiled for choice. Our brief guide to banking in Singapore explains the differences between various types of banks and accounts. We also help you with opening an account, and finding the right bank to suit your needs.


Singapore is an important financial hub in Southeast Asia. The financial and insurance industries make a large contribution to the city-state’s tertiary economy, and offer various employment opportunities for jobseekers in Singapore. There is no shortage of banks in Singapore that cater to local customers, permanent residents, and foreign residents alike.

All banks in Singapore are subject to the Monetary Authority. It operates as a central bank, the financial agent of the government, and as a regulator for the local currency, finance, insurance, and securities. Moreover, any bank in Singapore is bound by the legal framework of the Banking Act. It applies to the various kinds of financial institutions active in the metropolis.

What Are My Options?

When it comes to the different types of banks in Singapore, there are several distinctions you need to make.

You don’t need to know the exact criteria for each category of foreign bank mentioned above, however, you should be aware of a couple of things. As the name implies, offshore banking offers only offshore accounts. Wholesale banks, on the other hand, provide a broad range of financial services but are limited to one main branch in Singapore, and forbidden from offering financial activities in Singaporean dollars. For these reasons, an offshore bank or a wholesale bank in Singapore is probably not appropriate for your daily business.

Opening a Bank Account in Singapore: The First Steps

There is definitely no lack of banks in Singapore that can provide various savings plans or investment schemes for foreign residents. If you would like to open a savings account or use a bank in Singapore for wealth management, choosing an institution will depend on your personal situation (assets, needs, planned length of stay, etc.). While it’s beyond the scope of this article to give such detailed financial advice, we strongly recommend that you talk to your bank back home or an independent advisor before moving to Singapore.

For everyday financial matters like receiving salary, paying rent, or withdrawing cash, a current account is sufficient. However, though there is no limit on cash imports or transactions from abroad, you should not deposit large sums in this kind of account. Only bank deposits of up to 50,000 SGD are covered by Singapore’s deposit insurance scheme. Account deposits in foreign currency and offshore accounts are not insured at all.

Much like the rest of the world, interest rates remain low on both current and savings accounts. However, bringing the inflation rate under control from over 5% in 2011 to 1% in 2016 has reduced the losses associated with moving money to Singapore. In the second part of this article, we’ll tell you how to find a bank to best suit your needs, and how to open an account.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

InterNations Expat Magazine