To open an account in Singapore, you will need copies of your passport, Employer / Dependent passes, a statement from a bank in your home country, and the minimum opening balance available. The procedure is very simple and will be guided by bank staff; it should not take more than half a day to process all documents and set up the account. Unfortunately, trailing spouses on Dependent Passes will find that they have limited rights and powers when it comes to opening and managing accounts – most banks require that the person on the Employment Pass be present to open an account.
It is sometimes helpful to get a reference letter from a company or home country banker to speed up the process of opening an account in Singapore. Furthermore, you might call the bank ahead of time to confirm what documents will be required. If you bank with a global bank, such as HSBC, it is worth asking them to liaise with HSBC to set up an account before you actually move. This makes things much easier as they will use your existing records and the process will be relatively straightforward.
Expatriates often find it helpful to open either a checking account, savings account, or both. A ‘passbook savings’ indicates that users are issued a paper passbook that requires updating at automated machines. The types of accounts offered vary from bank to bank, but most require that a minimum balance be maintained.
It is not usually necessary to call ahead to make an appointment to open an account but it is always worth contacting your chosen bank in advance to ascertain their account opening procedures and document requirements.
Using a Singaporean Bank Account
After opening an account, you will receive cheques, a NETS and/or ATM card, documentation, and electronic keys used for online banking, depending on the bank and type of account chosen. Most banks offer online banking, and those that do often have special electronic key fobs, (security tokens) that transmit unique PINs each time you log in.
Network for Electronic Transfers (NETS) is a widely used transaction system and well-worth having access to. NETS cards are issued by the Singaporean banks and Standard Chartered and are linked to a bank account for automatic debiting. NETS cards double as ATM cards and are widely used in Singapore.
Also, Cash Cards are prepaid debit cards that can be purchased from 7-Eleven stores, service stations and local banks. Cash Cards are commonly accepted for low value retail purchases, shops, parking fees, and government offices, and are required for all drivers for ERP (Electronic Road Pricing) deductions. Cash cards can be topped up using a NETS card at top-up machines widely available near parking garages or at 7-Eleven outlets for a small fee.
Some of the foreign and local banks also offer ATM cards that can also be used as debit cards.
Cheques should be “crossed” by drawing two diagonal parallel lines on the upper left corner to indicate that the cheque can only be paid into the account of the payee stated. Furthermore, crossing out the words “or bearer” at the end of the line for the payee’s name ensures that only the payee can deposit the cheque. If the cheque is not crossed in this way, any person will be able to cash it at any bank.
Always write the amount in words followed by the word “only” to ensure that nothing can be added. The numbers must be identical to the words, and corrections must have a full signature against them.