Your First Bank Account in Singapore
By Everlyn Lee

A simple guide to setting up your bank accounts in Singapore.

If you are coming to work in Singapore for the first time, you would be glad to know that the country is a regional financial hub with a wide range of banks and financial services to choose from.

Infrastructure and facilities

The first thing you would want to do is to open a bank account. Some factors you might want to consider when choosing a bank are:

            • Location of branch: Is there a branch near your home or workplace? How accessible is it?
            • Location and number of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs): Not all banks have ATMs, and some have more extensive ATM networks than others. Note that some banks share the same network of ATMs.
            • Use and location of self-service lobbies Some banks have self-service lobbies, which are fitted with a few self-serve facilities such as cheque deposit boxes, cash deposit machines, and ATMs. These generally save you the hassle of queuing for these services at the bank.


Here is a quick comparison of the major banks in Singapore.

Name of bank/group

No. of branches

No. of ATMs island-wide

DBS Bank
POSB Bank

31
53

Collectively 677 ATMs. Users of either bank can use both DBS and POSB ATMs.

United Overseas Bank (UOB)

57

400

OCBC Bank

56

>400

ABN AMRO

6

18 ABN AMRO ATMs, >116 shared ATMS

Citibank

19

63 (including shared ATMs)

Standard Chartered

20

107 (including shared ATMs)

Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC)

9

90 (including shared ATMs)

Maybank

22

26 Maybank ATMs, 76 shared ATMs

What you will need
Opening a bank account is an easy affair. You simply have to present your:

  1. Passport
  2. Employment pass

Savings accounts
The most basic bank account you can open is a savings account.

Interest rates: Although interest rates on savings accounts are low, they still serve as a secure and convenient tool for handling your money.

Minimum initial deposit: Most banks require the initial deposit to be above S$500 or S$1,000.

Fees: Note that for savings accounts, most banks charge a small fee (usually around S$2) if the account balance should fall below a stipulated amount (usually S$500 or S$1,000).

Other facilities: Most banks offer passbooks and ATM facilities with their savings accounts. Some banks offer debit card facilities with certain types of savings accounts. Check with individual banks for more details.

Current accounts and cheques
In order to make payments via cheques, you need to have a current account. Like regular savings accounts, current accounts can also be used for deposits and withdrawals.

Interest rates: Current accounts do not yield any interest.

Minimum initial deposit: The initial deposit ranges from S$1,000 to S$3,000, depending on which bank you choose.

Minimum initial deposit: The initial deposit ranges from S$1,000 to S$3,000, depending on which bank you choose.

Fees: There is usually a fall-below service fee (about S$5 or more) if your average daily balance in the account falls below a minimum amount (usually about S$3,000). Some banks also charge a small transaction fee per cheque if the monthly average balance falls below a certain amount.

Other facilities: Current accounts offer extra convenience such as cheques and regular statements (usually monthly). Like savings accounts, they usually offer ATM facilities and sometimes debit card facilities as well.

GIRO
GIRO is a very convenient consumer banking tool that you can use to pay bills automatically. GIRO is especially useful for making regular payments such as utility bills and personal income tax, as it will help you to keep track of your numerous bills.

All you need to do is fill out an application form that you can get from the billing organisation.

There is no charge for setting up a GIRO service.

Using ATMs
ATMs are a common sight in Singapore and you will see them in just about every public building, train station and bus terminus – any place where there is high volume of human traffic.

You can withdraw cash conveniently from ATMs, and also make use of other services such as checking your account balance, adding value to cash cards, transferring funds, changing your Personal Identification Number (PIN), paying bills, and more.

ATM cards are issued whenever you open a new account with a bank. A default PIN will be mailed to you, and you are advised to change it immediately during your first ATM transaction.

NETS
The Network for Electronic Transfers (NETS) was founded because of the need for a centralised e-Payment operator by Singapore’s local banks.

It allows consumers to use an ATM card to make over-the-counter payments that deduct funds directly from their bank accounts. NETS is the most common form of cashless transaction in Singapore, the local equivalent of debit card services in many other countries in the world.

E-banking
Electronic banking, or e-banking, is becoming an increasingly popular means of handling finances. Apart from phone banking, most banks offer free e-banking services to their customers. Given the proliferation of Internet use in Singapore, e-banking is an easy way to manage your bank account from the comfort of your home.

Given the proliferation of Internet use in Singapore, e-banking is an easy way to manage your bank account from the comfort of your home.

Setting up an e-banking account can easily be done from your bank’s ATM. You can also apply for one directly from any of your bank’s branches.

All banks in Singapore have taken great pains to ensure secure e-banking. There are two layers of security: your e-banking user ID and password, followed by an additional Second Factor Authentication (2FA) number.

The 2FA is a randomly generated number that the bank sends via an electronic device (given to you by the bank) or your handphone. A different 2FA number is generated for each e-banking log-in and transaction.

Interest Rates for Savings Accounts
United Overseas Bank (UOB)
Passbook Savings / Junior Savers / Fun Savers / Coins Bank Accounts
Amount   (% p.a.)
First S$3,000 0.25%
Next S$47,000   0.275%
Next S$50,000    0.375%
Above S$100,000     0.475%
   
DBS Bank
Savings Plus Deposit Account      
Amount   (% p.a.)
First S$3,000 0.25%
Next S$47,000   0.275%
Next S$50,000    0.375%
Above S$100,000     0.475%
   
POSB Bank
Passbook Deposit Account      
Amount   (% p.a.)
First S$3,000 0.25%
Next S$47,000   0.275%
Next S$50,000    0.375%
Above S$100,000     0.475%
   

OCBC Bank

Passbook Savings / Young Savers Account Rates

Amount   (% p.a.)
First S$10,000  0.25%
From S$10,001 to S$50,000  0.27%
From S$50,001 to S$250,000  0.38%
Above S$250,000  0.48%
   

Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC)

Singapore Dollar Passbook and Savings Account

Amount   (% p.a.)
First S$20,000 0.125%
From S$2,000.01 to S$49,999.99 0.125%
From S$50,000 and above 0.25%
   

Maybank

Savings Account

Amount   (% p.a.)
First S$3,000  0.25%
Next S$47,000   0.25%
Above S$50,000    0.375%