Singapore banking surprises

Online banking sucks

It's like banking in Europe 10 years ago. Think Internet Explorer. Think Javascript scripts timing out. Think Java. Think no way to report bugs. Think no acknowledgement of reported bugs. Think if they ever roll out an update to fix your issue, they break something else. True story.

I'm thinking of starting a blog highlighting the hilariously bad engineering going into Singapore made banking Web applications.

20SGD per page of statements

Want your statements re-issued because they were sent to the wrong address? Missed exporting your PDF statements online every 3 months?

Prepare to fork out 20SGD for every page of transactions you need to pass onto your accountant, come the company return time.

No super convenient ATM network

You have to learn where your bank's ATMs are to avoid charges. Good luck!

Domestic transfers take THREE DAYS are INSTANT SINCE 2014!


Transfer done before 12pm on day 1 will arrive either by 6pm on day 2 or 1pm on day 3. That's the one that costs no money. If you want a domestic same day transfer it costs 20SGD per transfer.

It's like going back to the pre-2008 in the UK. Without the 20SGD charge.

Interestingly the EU only recently regulated faster payments across Europe.

Using a debit card? That's 10% thanks!

1.34SGD for paying by direct debit WTF??!?

There is a charge for using you card. For example it can be charged 10% if you hand over your card to the taxi driver.

One way to lessen the charge is to ask to pay by NETS, whereby you are only charged 30 cents. Compare that to Europe where debit cards incur no costs, so don't make assumptions.

Evidently merchants are confused whether you want to be charged by the more expensive direct debit or NETS. ALWAYS ask for NETS, then the merchant will probably demand cash since remember it takes 3 days for them to get their money from NETS.

Confusion over bank codes

You might get a Bank code number like 7144 and a Branch code number like 057. These are used in transfers between Singapore and Malaysia typically.

Nonetheless the term Bank code is interchangeable with the SWIFT code, leading to a lot of confusion. Good luck paying your bills!

Don't change your mobile number

If you change your number in Singapore you might be in for a shock. Most security is tied to your telephone number and you have to at the very least go to a branch to get your number changed.

If you are abroad, you might have to do what I did. Email. Email again. Write a letter. Wait a month. Have bank staff tell your number is updated and still see the old number in the system. Go crazy. Go back to Singapore to go to a branch to update the number. Surprise!

Paypal UK != Paypal SG

That goes for banks too. If you think it's easier to move money around because you have a account with the same company in your country, don't.

For example if I want to move my company's UK subscribers to Singapore, I have to get each one to re-setup in Singapore. Ha ha ha, oh god no.

Charges are opaque

I received over 100SGD in charges on my account, which looked online like:

8163    05/12/2012      05/12/2012      Cash fees for: 0337322GR:1307

I emailed my banker asking what there were exactly. She said she won't know until the paper bill arrives. forehead slap

Good luck working out foreign payments

If you invoice clients abroad, you will need to wait an unpredictable amount of days until it arrives in your bank account.

Furthermore when the remittance arrives, you are left with the conundrum of working out who just paid you.

050IT13011500224	8835	16/01/2013	16/01/2013	050IT13011500224 1/GEMEINDE GROEB	SGD	 241.89CR

This was painstakingly worked out as a payment of 200USD from a Scottish customer. I.e. a very manual task.

No automation features with Standard Chartered's company bank account

Want to complete standing order online? You can't. More manual work you need to account for.

Want your "relationship manager" to do something?

Write a letter. If you expect you can book an appointment or just breeze into the branch hoping to speak to a sane human, be prepared to be turned away. Write a letter and don't post it; come back to the branch and drop it off.

Oh it must have a letterhead. Don't have one? Go get one.

Good luck setting up a GIRO!

If you want to setup a GIRO so that a supplier can take a certain amount of money out of your account every month, the process is kafka-esque.

Hopefully it won't be like my experience. Fill in form with Ipad. Get it rejected since the signature must be inked.

Go find a print service to print form. Finally send off the filled in form and inked signature. Wait. Ask bank what's happened to the GIRO. Wait some more. Eventually bank says the GIRO must be lost. :(

Update: After resubmitting the GIRO, Standard Chartered says their GIRO form changed last month and I need to re-submit. :( OMFG

Update: Charges are exorbitant

I've since found out the 100SGD charge above (charges are opaque) was for transferring money to a Malaysian account. I ticked the box to accept the charge for the receiver and charged (like a wounded rhino) 50SGD for sending and 50SGD for receiving. 100SGD is more than 50GBP, for something that I equated in my mind to be something like a EU money transfer.

100SGD to send money in "Malaya" is INSANE. I asked my accountant at Kolibri Solutions Pte Ltd and she said that's normal and what a lot of companies do instead is use remittance services. Remittance services which you need to attend in person at a counter in Clarke Quay area, where they charge something like 5SGD instead of the online bank's 100SGD to get your money transferred.


Account numbers are not what they seem

Example given for account 50978XXXX001, the Branch Code should be 509 and the Account No. should be 78XXXX001. Yes, drop the first 3 digits of the account number! Isn't that obvious?! Actually it can be different from account type to account type.

Next, you need to look up the Payee Bank Code & Payee Bank Local Clearing Code. If you think the Payee Web form is going to help you, you will be mistaken. If you make a mistake, money will go out. Maybe come back in about 3 days with a 0.45SGD fee. That means you got it wrong.

Try again! There is perpetual confusion over account numbers in Singapore. Despite having a body called the Association of Banks Singapore allegedly trying to clarify the situation with these PDFs like:

It makes the 8 digit account numbers and 6 digits sorting codes of Britain seem like UTTER GENIUS.

UPDATE: FAST bank account numbers seem to have 9 digits. But they might be written like XXX-XXXXX-X and prepare for forms to choke on those dashes!

Can't find that POSB savings account ?

When paying someone with a POSB account, you actually need to select DBS in forms.

@kaihendry Hi Kai Hendry! If you'll be transferring funds, simply choose DBS Bank LTD from the drop down list. Hope this info helps! ~je

— POSB (@posb) July 24, 2015

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