Best* savings accounts for expats and residents on a temporary visa
Finding savings accounts for expats in Singapore is easy when you compare your options.
Getting used to a foreign country’s banking system can be daunting. Fortunately, banking in Singapore is straightforward, especially when it concerns savings accounts. Every prominent bank in Singapore provides savings accounts that you can open as an expat. Some financial institutions let you open these accounts online, even before you arrive.
What's in this guide?
- What is an expat or non-resident?
- Compare savings accounts for expats in Singapore
- How does an expat or non-resident open a savings account before arriving in Singapore?
- What are the types of savings accounts available for expats and non-residents?
- How do I compare expat savings accounts?
- Pros and cons of opening an account as an expat
- Bottom line
- Frequently asked questions
What is an expat or non-resident?
An expatriate, or expat, is an individual who lives in a country other than that of his or her citizenship, temporarily or permanently, as an immigrant. The word comes from the Latin term ex patria, which literally translates to ‘out of country/fatherland’. In modern-day parlance, use of the term expat is common when referring skilled employees or professionals deputed overseas by businesses.
Expats tend to reside in their host countries temporarily. However, an increasing number of expats now choose to continue living in their host countries because of reasons such as higher standards of living, career opportunities and marital relationships.
As long expats don’t become permanent residents of Singapore or get Singapore citizenship, they remain, for legal purposes, non-residents.
Compare savings accounts for expats in Singapore
How does an expat or non-resident open a savings account before arriving in Singapore?
If you wish to apply for a savings account before you get to Singapore you can do so online. Some banks don’t require Singapore addresses for you to complete the application. Some let you apply for an account up to three months prior to your arrival. Once the bank opens your account you can transfer funds into it from anywhere in the world. You should get access to online banking, which lets you view your account balance at any time.
You’ll have to complete an identity verification process before you can access funds from your new savings account. You can do this by visiting a branch of the bank you choose, in your country, if it has one there. You can also through an approved certifier, a Singapore consular officer or a Singapore diplomatic officer. Alternatively, you can verify you identity after you reach Singapore.
What are the types of savings accounts available for expats and non-residents?
As an expat or a non-resident you can open different types of savings accounts:
- Current accounts. In Singapore, bank accounts let you access your money in different ways, which include with a Visa or Mastercard debit cards. There may be fall-below fees if your account balance is below the account’s required daily average balance. may have to pay ongoing monthly fees, although you may also qualify for fee waivers. These accounts tend to provide access to online and mobile banking. They normally offer a low base interest.
- Bonus saver accounts. A bonus saver account is a savings account that rewards you with extra interest when you meet the account conditions. These are also known as incentive saver accounts, as they incentivise you to save, or bonus interest accounts.
- Savings accounts. With a typical online savings account your money stands to earn interest. You may not get access to a debit card. However, you should get access to funds in your account using online and phone banking.
- Digital banks. App-based banks such as YouTrip, N26 and BigPay tend to offer an online current account, but some also allow you to save money in an attached account.
How do I compare expat savings accounts?
When you’re comparing expat savings accounts, pay due attention to these aspects:
- Sending money back home. If you plan to send money back home every now and again, look for an account that lets you make international electronic fund transfers easily. Find out how much you’ll have to pay as fees.
- International services. Find out if the bank you choose offers international services such as foreign currency accounts, foreign exchange services as well as foreign cheques and drafts.
- Foreign exchange services. While many Singaporean financial institutions provide foreign exchange services, not all are equally good. They vary in terms of the exchange rates they offer as well as turnaround times.
- Ability to open instantly. The time taken to open a savings account can vary from one financial institution to the next. Some that let you apply online before you arrive open your account on the day you submit your application.
- Online banking facilities. While most Singapore banks offer online banking facilities to their customers, what you can use these platforms for requires your attention. For example, in some cases, you can use online banking platforms to pay bills.
- Fees and charges. Find out if the account you wish to open attracts any fall-below fees. You may have to pay to get cheque book access. Other fees and charges can also apply.
Pros and cons of opening an account as an expat
- Access funds easily. Opening a local bank account in Singapore ensures that you have access to your money any time you need it. If you want, you can open an account that comes with a debit card.
- Earn interest. If you pick the right account your money can earn interest. Some savings accounts in Singapore offer interest using tiered systems, where higher balances earn greater interest.
- Save on fees. If you plan to use your overseas bank account when you’re in Singapore you may end up paying a tidy sum as fees. These can come in the form of overseas ATM fees and currency conversion fees.
- Limited choices. When you’re looking to open a savings account in Singapore as an expat you get limited options to choose from. This is because financial institutions don’t provide non-residents with their complete range of offerings.
Before you apply for an account take some time to go through its terms and conditions. This should give you a clear indication of all applicable fees and charges you may have to pay in different scenarios. Avoid applying for an account that you think charges unreasonably high fees. Look for other options instead.
Frequently asked questions
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