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International bank accounts
Manage your global finances with an international bank account.
International bank accounts are known for their wide suite of wealth management solutions. So whether you’re looking to save in multiple currencies, make overseas investments or access financial products that are not available in Singapore, you’d typically be able to find one that accommodates to your banking needs.
Learn more about the benefits and risks of using an international bank account in this guide.
Compare bank accounts you can use internationally
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What's in this guide?
- Compare bank accounts you can use internationally
- What are international bank accounts?
- Five reasons to open an international bank account
- Which banks offer international accounts?
- What are the benefits of having an international bank account?
- What are the risks of having an international bank account?
- How to compare international bank accounts
- What to consider before opening an international account
- How to apply for an international bank account?
What are international bank accounts?
International banking (also known as offshore banking), allows you to open a bank account in a foreign country without being a resident of the country. The account can either be an individual or a company account, and may be open in a selection of currencies.
While a domestic bank account is usually sufficient for most banking activities, an international banking account can offer advantages such as the flexibility of operation, tax benefits and capitalising on global market opportunities.
Five reasons to open an international bank account
International bank accounts are an option for combining a lot of different benefits into one package. Do any of these sound good to you? It might mean that an international bank account is a right choice.
1. Foreign currency use
Domestic banking here is typically done all in Singapore dollars, but international accounts let you use overseas currencies more easily, often with more preferable exchange rates and fewer fees. International banking can get you more value for money if you use a lot of foreign currencies. International bank accounts can get you similar benefits to multi-currency bank accounts, with other useful differences too.
2. International money transfers
If you frequently send money overseas then an international bank account might be able to get you better rates, lower fees and more benefits. Enjoy some perks of international money transfers with more ease and convenience.
3. Access to foreign markets
Only having a domestic bank account might inhibit you when making foreign investments, while an international bank account may let you more easily access this part of the market. If you have a keen interest in forex trading or international share trading then it may be worth considering an international bank account.
4. Overseas investments
Are you making investments overseas? Some Singaporeans, feeling squeezed by the domestic market, are buying property overseas and enjoying the benefits. If you are interested in doing this then an opening international bank account is worth consideration.
5. Tax advantages
International banks bring opportunities to enterprising account holders in the form of applied local tax laws, or “loopholes” as some might call them. If you want to manage your bank account for optimal returns then an international bank account, rather than a domestic one, provides more options.
What are the benefits of having an international bank account?
- Tax. Take advantage of overseas tax rates, conditions and privacy laws with an offshore bank account. For example, you might open up an international bank account based in a country that has a lower tax on investment income than Singapore does.
- Privacy. Sensitive financial information may be safer overseas, in an anonymous account, than in a standard domestic bank account. If your occupation requires you to protect sensitive client information or your own, then an international bank account may be preferable.
- Multiple currencies. With a standard bank account, you will typically need to exchange money through the bank or a third party, paying fees and exchange rates on that transaction. International bank accounts typically use more types of currency with more fluidity.
- International money transfers. If you keep making international money transfers through a domestic bank account, you can very quickly spend a large amount on fees and currency exchange rates. An international bank account typically lets you do it with preferable rates and at a lower cost.
- Linked accounts. Depending on your preferences, you may link other accounts to your international bank account to earn interest on them or enjoy other benefits.
- 24-hour service. Banks in Singapore usually run on standard business hours, but international accounts need to be manageable and accessible 24 hours a day. Choosing an international bank can get you easier access to your account around the clock.
What are the risks of having an international bank account?
- Regulations. It’s your responsibility to remain within all applicable laws when holding overseas accounts. Do note that if you don’t file taxes properly, you may come under suspicion of tax evasion, so it may be advisable to use an experienced tax accountant to help you.
- Fund protection. Money held in Singapore bank accounts is protected by SDIC’s Deposit Insurance Scheme. Money held in overseas bank accounts does not have this guarantee.
- Fees. There may be additional fees and costs involved with international banking, and these can vary between providers. You should make sure you are well informed about all applicable fees and conditions before opening an account.
How to compare international bank accounts
Here are some common priorities to consider when comparing between offshore bank accounts to find one that is best suited for your needs:
- Reputation. A well-reputed banking system typically translates to a pro-business and stable environment. In business, clients also tend to develop an impression of your company based on where you bank. Countries such as Seychelles, Cayman and Panama generally carry negative connotations, so you might want to avoid having an offshore bank in these countries.
- Remote opening. The ability to open an offshore account remotely – instead of flying over to the country and opening an account in person – can help save a lot of time and money.
- Deposit. Some offshore banks require an initial deposit for opening a bank account, while some don’t. Bear in mind that countries with the best offshore banking jurisdictions such as Hong Kong and Singapore often require high deposit minimums.
- Processing time. Most banks today offer online applications and streamlined processing, allowing you to open an account quickly. The timeframe of opening an offshore bank account typically only take several working days.
- Client’s nationality. The list of prohibited countries usually varies from bank to bank, so make sure to check for the suitability between your nationality and the bank policy.
- Nature of business. Depending on your business activities and operations, different offshore banks may or may not allow you to open an account with them. Before applying, be sure to check the offshore bank’s policy.
What to consider before opening an international account
Get more out of your international bank account by ticking these off.
Have a purpose in mind
By deciding if you want your account to be more geared towards specific benefits, like easier international investments, more tax options or cheap international money transfer, you may be able to hone these benefits by tailoring your account or managing it in certain ways.
Know your must-haves
Know what the account absolutely must-have. For example, if you know with certainty that you will be investing in the Chinese property market then you’ll probably want an account that delivers advantageous SGD-RMB currency conversion rates and lets you quickly transfer and convert funds to take advantage of great deals or compete at auctions.
Know the law
International accounts can be more legally complicated because they might mean obeying the laws of two different countries at once. You need to operate within both Singapore law and the laws of whichever nation your account is being held in.
How to apply for an international bank account?
The basics of opening an offshore bank account are similar to opening any bank accounts in Singapore.
Once you’ve compared the options available, make sure you’ve met the eligibility requirements and have the necessary documents and information on hand. Do note that the eligibility criteria and exact documents required may vary from bank to bank.
Eligibility requirements usually include:
- At least 21 years old
- Investment or minimum initial deposit (varies from bank to bank)
- Personal information (e.g. your name, date of birth, citizenship, occupation etc)
- Government-issued ID, passport or driver’s license
- Proof of residential address (e.g. telco/utility bill, letter from government bodies, bank statements etc)
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