The best banks in Singapore for international students

Prodigy finance Logo

Bryan Smith - December, 29 2023

10 min read

About the author

Content Manager at Prodigy Finance, helping international students gear up to study abroad

Singapore, a vibrant city-state, renowned for its world-class education system and cultural tapestry, welcomes students from all corners of the globe. Choosing to study abroad is filled with lots of opportunities and excitement, but it can also be quite challenging as you navigate a new culture and currency, find accommodation and decide upon a bank account that suits your needs.

Singapore is home to many major multinational banks such as HSBC, Standard Chartered, and Citibank, and a strong group of local banks that have become regional giants in their own right.

When considering which bank to choose, here are some pointers on what to look for:

  • Account fees: what the bank charges for any account maintenance fees, transaction fees, ATM fees (in Singapore and abroad) as well as local and international transfers
  • **Minimum balance requirements: **understand what the minimum balance requirements are and fees charged if your balance drops below that
  • ATM accessibility: check out the bank's ATM network to see how close they are situated to campus for easy access to cash withdrawal
  • Online banking: how user-friendly the online banking platform is, as this is essential for managing your finances conveniently
  • Currency exchange fees: inquire about the bank's exchange rates and fees for international transactions, in case you need to convert foreign currency
  • Interest rates: ask about interest rates for savings accounts
  • Student promotions: ask about any special promotions or benefits they have running for students, such as waived fees or discounts on certain services
  • Multi-currency accounts: check if they are available

Singaporean banks charge a unique combination of fees for retail banking services. While monthly service fees are usually not charged, banks in Singapore charge a monthly fee if your average monthly bank account balance falls below a certain amount (usually between S$1,000 and S$5,000). This "fall below fee," as it's known, can be fairly high too — sometimes as much as S$7.50 for each month that the balance is below the threshold.

Additionally, most bank accounts in Singapore require a minimum initial deposit. This amount varies depending on the bank and account type and falls anywhere between S$500 and S$5,000.

You may choose to apply for the SingPass ( a digital authentication system that stores and shares your personal information such as address, passport number, contact details, and other traceable information. A SingPass may allow you to open a bank account faster with some banks.

To find out more about what options you have for banking in Singapore as a non-resident, take a look at the major offerings below:

Development Bank of Singapore (DBS)

DBS Bank Ltd is a multinational banking and financial services firm based in Singapore, formerly known as "The Development Bank of Singapore Limited."

Features and benefits

  • My Account: a digital multi-currency bank account that makes banking simple
    • Save, spend, invest and tailor different banking services to meet your financial needs
    • Pay bills, exchange currencies, perform overseas funds transfers and invest globally all in one place
    • Your go-to account for foreign currencies: access 13 currencies instantly via digibank at attractive exchange rates with no FX conversion fees
    • No account fees
    • No minimum balance, no initial deposits, no service charge.

International transfer facilities and fees

  • DBS Remit, the low-cost money transfer service, offers competitive rates when sending money abroad from Singapore:
    • Fees and exchange rate margins are quite competitive
    • High level of security as part of DBS, the safest bank in Asia
    • Speedy, same-day transfers (if sent before the cut-off time)
    • High daily transfer maximum of S$200,000.

Availability of ATMs and branches

  • DBS has many ATM machines across the country, and over 250 branches globally.

Online banking features

  • This bank is known for its paperless account opening and digital services at very economical rates.
  • DBS digibank, allows you to view your account balances, transferring money and paying bills, apply for new accounts and credit cards instantly, and manage your finances.

Customer support

  • Known for their good reputation for customer service, staff are generally helpful, knowledgeable, and speak English.

Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC)

OCBC Bank is one of the largest banks in Southeast Asia in terms of assets, market capitalizations, and profit.

Accounts and services aimed at students

  • OCBC Frank Savings Account
    • Minimum age: 16 to open account
    • No minimum initial deposit
    • Minimum balance fee: S$0 if younger than 26 years old, S$1,000 for 26+ account holders
    • Fall-below fee: 0S$ if below 26 years old, S$2 (if balance is less than S$1k)
    • Base rates: range up to 0.20% p.a. (applied to the band of balance between S$25k and $50k)
    • Promotion: 1% unlimited cash back on selected transport, online merchants, convenience stores and transport
  • The OCBC Global Savings Account is another good option, offering customers the opportunity to hold and spend 8 major world currencies¹.

International transfer facilities and fees

  • Cost of receiving an international payment:
    • SGD10 Send an international payment with currency conversion: 1/8% commission (min SGD10, max SGD120) + Agent fee (if applicable) + Cable Charge (SGD20)
  • Send international payment without currency conversion: 1/8% commission (min SGD10, max SGD120) + 1/8% commission in lieu of exchange (min SGD25, max SGD120) + Agent fee (if applicable) + Cable Charge (SGD20)

Availability of ATMs and branches

  • OCBC Pay Anyone lets you pay for anything via PayNow and NetsQR code, and withdraw money at the ATM
  • With a global reach, its branches cover over 18 countries
  • Free from ATMs in the OCBC network
  • Overseas withdrawals from OCBC network ATMs are free, however, if you use other international ATMs, the following fees apply:
    • Service charge of 3% on withdrawals via the Visa/Plus service (min SGD5 and max SGD20 per transaction)
    • +Administrative fee of 2.25% of the withdrawal value
    • +Additional service fee, which may vary from bank to bank

Online banking

  • Mobile banking: manage your money easily with Money In$ights, pay bills, top up cards
  • Mobile banking app for Apple Watch: easy access to bank balances, latest transactions and credit card overview - even check out your closest ATMs and branches
  • OCBC OneTouch™ ENHANCED: check your bank balances, latest transactions and credit card overview with just your fingerprint, available on iPhones

Customer service

  • OCBC Bank has a good reputation for customer service. The staff are generally helpful and knowledgeable, and they are able to speak English.

United Overseas Bank (UOB)

UOB is a well-established and third-largest bank in Singapore that has grown to become a leading financial institution in Southeast Asia, providing many different types of checking and savings accounts.

Accounts and services aimed at students

  • UOB OneAccount and One Debit Card: offers a high interest rate on your savings, as well as a number of other benefits, such as free ATM withdrawals and discounts on travel insurance.
    • Up to 10% cashback on daily spend
    • Earn up to 0.65% p.a. interest from the first dollar when you spend S$500 monthly
    • Minimum average daily balance: S$1,000
    • Fall below fee: S$5 /month
  • UOB Uniplus Account with One Debit Card: simple and fuss free
    • Perpetual fee waiver for the Uniplus Account and an exclusive 3-year fee waiver for the UOB One Debit Card
    • No minimum deposit
    • Up to 10% cashback on daily spend
  • UOB Global Transfer Account: allows you to make international transfers at competitive exchange rates, and offers a number of other benefits, such as free ATM withdrawals and online banking services in multiple languages.

International transfer facilities and fees

  • Transact with foreign currencies anytime at competitive exchange rates with telegraphic transfers and cheques.
  • Up to 10 major foreign currencies: USD, AUD, GBP, CHF, CAD, NZD, EUR, HKD, JPY and CNH.

Availability of ATMs and branches

  • UOB has a global reach, with branches in over 19 countries.
  • However, UOB’s ATM network is not as extensive as some other banks in Singapore, meaning you will be charged ATM fees when you use an ATM outside of UOB’s network.

Online banking

  • UOB TMRW, is the all-in-one banking app built around you and your needs - for online and mobile banking

Customer service

  • UOB has a good reputation for customer service. The staff are generally helpful and knowledgeable, and they are able to speak English.

Standard Chartered

Standard Chartered is known for its international focus, leveraging its global network to facilitate cross-border transactions and other international banking needs.

Standard Chartered, with origins in the UK, has been a major player in Singapore since 1859.

Features and benefits

  • Standard Chartered Bank JumpStart Account: offers the JumpStart account, specifically designed for young adults.
  • Aimed at postgraduate students who've completed their secondary education
  • Open an account with little-to-no risk:
    • No initial deposit requirement
    • No minimum balance requirement (and therefore, no fall-below fees)
    • Ideal for those with balances below S$20k, as amounts up to this level earn 2.00% p.a.–one of the highest base rates on the market
    • Only individuals aged 18 to 26 years old can hold an account.

International transfer facilities and fees

  • Enjoy $0 transfer charges with SC Remit by sending money to over 50 different markets
  • Get SGD 20 cashback when you make a minimum SGD 1,500 transfer with SC Remit from your Standard Chartered account.

Availability of ATMs and branches

  • Presently has 12 branches and 25 ATMs in Singapore with 4 Priority Service branches and 1 high-end International Banking & Priority Service branch.

Online banking features

  • Offers an all-in-one digital banking experience with mobile and online banking available.

Customer support

  • Standard Chartered has a good reputation for customer service. The staff are generally helpful and knowledgeable, and they are able to speak English.

Citibank

Citibank is one of the most widely recognised and oldest banks in the world, with a vast network of ATMs across Singapore. It is well-known for its innovative digital banking offerings and customer-centric approach.

Features and benefits

  • There are three different types of accounts promoted to students:
    • Citibank MaxiSave: an interest bearing checking account with a host of exciting features.
    • Citibank’s Time Deposits: earn higher interest on your deposits (in either foreign or local currency) for up to 36 months, with a minimum of S$10,000 deposit.
    • Citibank’s Global Foreign Currency Account: lets you access multiple foreign currencies and transactions using a single platform, making it easy to manage your day-to-day transactions.
  • Make purchases in-store, online or withdraw cash from ATMs fee-free with a Citi debit Mastercard
  • Use Mastercard Travel Rewards and enjoy automatic cashback from participating restaurants, hotels, and retailers worldwide. Your Citi debit card gives you access to this programme!
  • Citibank Singapore offers attractive interest rates on some of its savings accounts.

* Receiving banks may charge a fee

International focus

  • Citibank has a global reach, with branches in over 100 countries.

Online banking features

  • Use Citibank's debit MasterCard worldwide to withdraw cash from ATMs, and manage daily transactions through Internet Banking, ATM, AVR and CitiPhone banking.
  • However, Citibank Singapore’s ATM network isn’t as extensive as some other banks in Singapore, which means you may have to pay ATM fees when you use an ATM outside of Citibank Singapore’s network.

Customer support

  • Citibank has a good reputation for customer service. The staff are generally helpful and knowledgeable, and they are able to speak English.

Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC)

HSBC is a widely recognized international bank, initially established in Hong Kong, but now boasts a big branch presence in Singapore, with many branches around the world.

Features and benefits

  • With HSBC Premier, you can:
    • Open an account in the destination country before you arrive as a foreign student and receive your debit card / credit card before leaving home
    • Transfer money between HSBC accounts of your family, friends around the world securely and fee-free
    • Get full medical coverage even from miles away with HSBC Life
    • Pay tuition fees and accommodation expenses conveniently via online banking or mobile app, using HSBC Global Money Transfer at zero fees
    • With Global Study, get coverage for unexpected events such as accidents, illness, study interruptions, with 1-month up to 12-month cover options.
    • Free ATM withdrawals and discounts on travel insurance
  • HSBC Platinum Credit Card: This credit card offers a number of benefits, such as travel insurance, airport lounge access, and cashback on purchases.
  • HSBC Global Transfer Account: allows you to make international transfers at competitive exchange rates, and offers free ATM withdrawals and online banking services in multiple languages.

International transfer facilities and fees

  • HSBC Global Money Transfers lets you send money overseas faster and fee-free

Availability of ATMs and branches

  • HSBC is a global bank with branches in over 70 countries.

Customer support

  • HSBC has a good reputation for customer service. The staff are generally helpful and knowledgeable, and they are able to speak English.

Conclusion

Finding the right account for your needs will take a bit of research and time. As an international student living in Singapore, you’ll need to make sure you have the right paperwork to get your account up and running, and you’ll also want to check out the charges for transactions you need to make frequently.

Before opening an account, it's advisable to visit the bank's website or contact them directly to get the most up-to-date information for international students.

Disclaimer: The contents of this guide are intended as an overview for illustrative and educational purposes and do not constitute an endorsement of any international bank, nor international bank account, mentioned.

Image of webinar host

Talk to us

Wednesday & Friday 12 pm (GMT) | 5:30 pm (IST)
Hosts: Nangi and team

Join webinar
Download our mobile app

Our global teams are based out of:

South Africa

India

United Kingdom

United States

© Prodigy Finance Limited 2007 - 2024. All Rights Reserved. Prodigy Finance Limited is incorporated in the United Kingdom (Company Number 05912562) with its registered address at 85 Great Portland Street, London, W1W 7LT and registered with the Office of the Information Commissioner (Reg. No. Z9851854). Prodigy Finance is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (firm registration number 709641) for certain consumer credit activities. Prodigy Finance loans are offered to eligible borrowers and these loans are governed by English law. Prodigy Finance Servicing, LLC is incorporated in the state of Delaware, USA, is an affiliate of Prodigy Finance Limited and conducts the business of servicing of loans for residents of certain US states. NMLS # 2155440 (Prodigy Finance Servicing, LLC) and NMLS #1611590 (Prodigy Finance Limited) (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org). View Prodigy Finance's lending, servicing and collection licenses.