EnterAsia Information Services

Banking & Taxation

Introduction

With its strategic location and well-developed infrastructure, Singapore is a center for trade and financial services for the Asian region. Financial services are a key source of growth since the 1970s and the government constantly provides incentives for its development.

Commercial banks in Singapore are licensed under and governed by the Banking Act and may undertake universal banking. The license for commercial banking, permits deposit taking, the provision of cheque services and lending and any other business which is regulated or authorised by Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), such as financial advisory services, insurance broking and capital market services.

There are several benefits for non-residents (foreigners) and expatriates to open a banking account in Singapore. Please see section “Your Bank account“ on advise on what to ask before you open an account with any of the banks in Singapore.

Commercial banks can operate as:

 

Full Banks

Currently 27 full banks are operating in Singapore, of which 6 are locally incorporated and one is a locally incorporated subsidiary under a foreign bank. 23 banks are branches of foreign-incorporated banks. Seven of the foreign banks operating in Singapore have been awarded Qualifying Full Bank (QFB) privileges which are:

operate a total of 25 locations

share ATMs among themselves

negotiate with the local banks on a commercial basis to let their credit card holders obtain cash advances through the local bank’s ATM networks

may provide debit services through an EFTPOS network

offer Supplementary Retirement Scheme and CPF Investment Scheme accounts

accept fixed deposits

The following local banks offer a full banking service including current and deposit accounts, ATM’s, credit and debit cards, loans, mortgages etc. These banks have the most extensive branch network. DBS owns POSB and therefore customers may use either bank’s ATM’s. OCBC and UOB operate a shared ATM system and therefore clients of both banks may use either bank’s ATM machines.

 

Foreign Full Banks

Not all of the banks actually offer full bank services and there is a significant variation in the type and number of facilities provided. Depending on their cooperation agreements with local banks, they are limited in the number of ATM sites they may offer. Inquire about their arrangements when opening an account.

 

Wholesale Banks

Wholesale banks may engage in the same range of banking business as full banks, except that they operate as branches of foreign banks and may not carry out Singapore Dollar retail activities. They are not permitted to offer services such as the below without prior approval of MAS:

Operate savings accounts denominated in Singapore dollars

operate savings accounts denominated in foreign currency, whether in respect of its Domestic Banking Unit, or Asian Currency Unit accept fixed deposits but in respect of Singapore dollar fixed deposits, the initial deposit shall not be less than S$250,000 may operate current accounts, but in respect of current accounts denominated in Singapore dollars where the customer is a natural person and a resident of Singapore, the current account shall not be interest-bearing