One of the world’s major financial centres, Singapore gives expats access to leading banking systems, with dozens of local and foreign banking and financial institutions present in the city-state.

Needless to say, expats will find a full spectrum of services to manage their banking, money and taxes in Singapore, from consumer banking, asset management and foreign exchange to dedicated insurance services and investment banking.

Money in Singapore

The unit of currency is the Singapore dollar (SGD). One dollar is divided into 100 cents.

  • Notes: 2 SGD, 5 SGD, 10 SGD, 20 SGD, 25 SGD, 50 SGD, 100 SGD, 1,000 SGD and 10,000 SGD
  • Coins: 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents and 1 SGD

As Singapore progresses towards a cashless society, digital payments have become increasingly prevalent. However, cash remains a significant mode of transaction, particularly in traditional markets and small retail outlets. Major credit cards like Visa, MasterCard and UnionPay are accepted in most establishments, offering convenience and safety for both locals and expats.

For daily transactions, it’s advisable to carry a mix of cash and cards. ATMs are widespread, providing easy access to cash withdrawals. In comparison to currency exchange at banks or money changers, ATM withdrawals are usually more cost-effective. For certain less common currencies, some money changers in Singapore may offer more favourable rates than banks or credit card companies.

Banking in Singapore

With so many foreign and local banks in Singapore, expats will certainly not be at a loss for a reputable service provider. It’s important to consider the services offered, the location and the ATM network available when choosing a bank.

The banking system in Singapore is recognised globally for its efficiency and robust security measures. With the presence of major multinational banks like HSBC, Standard Chartered, and Citibank, alongside strong local institutions, customers have access to a broad range of financial services. These banks offer options tailored to both residents and foreigners, making the country an appealing destination for international business and expatriates.

Opening a bank account

It’s easy to open a bank account in Singapore, and the process can be completed in a single day. English is the primary administrative and professional language in Singapore, so expats are unlikely to face a language barrier when it comes to managing money.

To open an account, expats typically need to provide proof of identity, residency status, and financial credibility. The exact documentation varies among banks, but a passport, employment pass, and sometimes proof of address are usually required. Some banks mandate an in-person branch visit, while others allow for online initiation of the process but may still require branch visits for document verification.

ATMs and credit cards

ATMs abound in Singapore, most of which accept international cards. ATM fees at local banks tend to cost less than their international counterparts.

Credit cards are widely accepted, though expats should be advised that international cards tend to incur high transaction costs. However, local cards can be more cost-effective, especially for frequent transactions. It is advisable for expats to consider applying for a local credit card if they plan to stay in Singapore for an extended period.

Taxes in Singapore

All expats working in Singapore are liable to pay income tax, though the specifics will depend on their tax residency status.

Expats are considered tax residents in Singapore if their period of stay is longer than 183 days in a year or if they have Singapore Permanent Residency (SPR). For tax residents, the income tax rates are progressive, starting at 0 percent for the first SGD 20,000 and going up to 22 percent for income exceeding SGD 1,000,000. 

Non-residents, on the other hand, are taxed at a flat rate of 15 percent to 22 percent, depending on their income. Understanding these tax brackets is crucial for expats to plan their finances effectively while in Singapore.

Expats owning property in Singapore should be aware of the property tax, which is levied on both occupied and unoccupied properties. The tax rates vary based on the annual value of the property and whether it is owner-occupied or rented out.

Additionally, Goods and Services Tax (GST) applies to most goods and services in Singapore. Foreigners are also subject to Stamp Duty when involved in real estate transactions. Understanding these additional taxes is vital for expats to manage their financial obligations correctly.

Useful links

*Tax regulations are subject to change at short notice, and expats are advised to seek the assistance and advice of a professional tax consultant.

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