It’s common to use cash for smaller payments in Singapore. However, you will sometimes be asked to pay large amounts upfront. For example, for certain hospital treatments, you have to provide proof of insurance and a deposit, as well as credit card information. If you don’t, the hospital staff will insist on your pre-paying the estimated cost in cash.
When it comes to paying for goods and services, it may be useful to know about tipping. Tips are uncommon in Singapore’s hotels, restaurants, coffee shops, and taxis. In some restaurants, there is a service charge of 10%, which already covers tips for the wait staff. Most taxi drivers will hardly protest if you round up the fare with a small tip, especially if they help carry your luggage. Generally, however, you needn’t carry spare change for tipping.
Getting your hands on some cash isn’t difficult: there are plenty of ATMs across the island — at the airport, in banks, at MRT stations, and in shopping malls. Most let you withdraw money with a Visa or MasterCard, but ATMs that accept Diner’s Club or American Express are rarer. If you use an ATM with your credit card from home, there’s normally an overseas charge and a fee for foreign currency conversion.
It’s more practical — and cheaper — to open an account with a local bank allowing you to withdraw cash from its own ATM network free of charge. The DBS network and atm⁵ are the two biggest ATM networks in Singapore. ATMs provide other services too, such as paying bills or transferring funds. You will find more information on banking services in our guide to banks in Singapore.
When opening a bank account in Singapore, you usually receive a checkbook. Checks in Singapore are still commonly used for settling bills and small accounts.
Travelers’ checks, though, are seldom used for small transactions, but may be accepted in upscale restaurants in tourist neighborhoods. However, you should not rely on travelers’ checks: it’s far easier to simply cash them at a bank or licensed moneychanger’s.
When you’ve just landed, credit cards can tide you over until you set up your local bank account. As well as cashless payments, they can also be used to withdraw money from ATMs. Double check your account fees for both foreign transactions and cash withdrawals before you leave to avoid unwanted surprises.
Most major credit cards are widely accepted in shopping centers, hotels, and other facilities. For local ATMs, Visa or MasterCard works best. To get a credit card for your Singaporean account, just enquire at the bank of your choice about fees and conditions.
No matter where your credit card is from, you will need to provide your card details in advance for larger bills. At serviced apartments, car rentals, or medical clinics for example, you are expected to either provide your credit card information, or to pay most of the bill upfront. As a result, credit cards have become indispensable in Singapore!
Singapore is generally a safe place, but in case your credit cards in Singapore are lost or stolen, please get in touch with the relevant emergency hotline:
In addition to major credit cards, there are several methods of cashless payment in Singapore. They are part of NETS, a long-term initiative to create a largely cashless society.
Some banks combine several of these options, so you will get a joint Flash Pay and NETS Card, for instance. Moreover, there are dozens of so-called iNETS kiosks across Singapore where you can register to pay bills, buy entertainment tickets, top up NETS cards, and more.
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