Singapore is a sovereign city-state, south of Malaysia, and just north of the equator - and a global hub for finance and trade. With a mixed and multi-cultural population, Singapore offers plenty for visitors and expats alike.
Whether you’re relocating to Singapore for work, or just going for a holiday, you’re going to need some cash. Using ATMs to withdraw the Singapore dollars you need to pay your way, is a convenient choice for many travellers and expats. Here’s all you need to know about using ATMs in Singapore.
Singapore is an important global financial hub. Finding an ATM will be no problem in populated areas.
As a very multicultural country, ATMs are often signposted in multiple languages including Chinese, alongside the universally recognised ‘ATM’. There’s no shortage of ATMs to be found in or near bank branches, shopping centres and supermarkets.
Find the most convenient ATM wherever in Singapore you happen to be, using one of the following ATM locators from large national and regional banks:
- OCBC ATM Locator
- DBS ATM Locator
- Citibank ATM Locator
- HSBC ATM Locator
- Standard Chartered ATM Locator
All major networks, including Discover and Amex, are fairly well covered in Singapore, with both ATMs and merchants accepting all major cards. With that said, it’s a good idea to have some cash in your pocket as some places will have a minimum spending limit before they’ll accept a card payment.
Don’t forget that not all bank cards can be used in all ATMs. You’ll need an ATM which is on the same network as your card. Find a handy ATM to suit your needs using one of the following locators:
- Maestro ATM locator
- Mastercard and Cirrus ATM locator
- Visa, Plus, and Plus Alliance ATM locator
- Discover ATM locator
- American Express ATM locator
Bank cards issued in Singapore usually have a 6 digit PIN code. However, if you have a 4 digit PIN code - for example, because you have a chip and pin card from a bank in Europe, the UK or Australia - it should also be accepted with no problem. Generally, the ATMs are able to accept PINs of varying lengths. If you have any concerns, use an ATM in a bank branch during working hours - then you can check with staff if you have any problems.
The magnetic stripe card, often issued in the USA, can still usually be used in ATMs in Singapore, but you’ll need to get the card’s PIN from your bank before you travel.
If your card has a maximum daily cash withdrawal limit set up with your home bank, it’ll apply in Singapore, too. If you don’t have your own limits in place, then the ATM providers rules will apply instead. These can vary a lot, and you might find that the transaction limits are lower at ATMs in locations like convenience stores, compared to banks.
Singapore isn’t cheap. The last thing you want during your trip is to discover you’re out of cash because your bank card is blocked or limited.
If your bank fraud department spots unusual activity, they might put a stop on your card for safety, until they can confirm it’s you using it. Let them know that you’re planning to travel, ahead of time, and you should be able to use your card as normal during your trip.
Using an ATM to get the cash you need is convenient, and if you find the right bank you might even get free or reduced fee withdrawals. There are many international banking brands which could give you free ATM access, and local banks also work with partners from other countries to offer cheap or free ATM use. Singapore based bank DBS works with the Westpac group, for example, which means that if you hold a Westpac card, you’re likely to be able to access low-fee or free ATMs if you stick to those in DBS branches.
It’s still worth knowing, though, that there are a few extra fees - and potential ripoffs - to watch out for if you use your foreign card in an ATM in Singapore.
The biggest problem you’re likely to have when it comes to getting a fair price for your foreign ATM withdrawal, is dynamic currency conversion (DCC for short). That’s where you’re asked if you want to pay in your home currency when you’re buying something, or using an ATM abroad.
It’s described as a ‘service’, but it’s not a good idea to use DCC, as DCC transactions leave you exposed to hidden fees. The issue is that the exchange rate used under DCC is often not the real, mid-market rate - the one you’d find on google. Instead, the exchange rate is set by the foreign bank or ATM provider, rather than your home bank. They often offer a poor rate, and pocket the difference as their profit. You’ll get a better deal if you always choose to pay in the local currency instead.
Often your own bank will also charge you to withdraw cash from an ATM abroad, especially if it’s one provided by another bank. The amounts vary enormously between different banks and account types and can be both flat fees and a percentage of the transaction amount. It’s a good idea to check out the details in your terms and conditions before you travel.
There are banks in Singapore which do not charge an ATM usage fee for some cardholders. If you’re banking with a global brand or your home bank has a partner institution in Singapore, you might strike lucky and get cheap or fee-free withdrawals. If not, expect a small fee for every transaction.
Some of the large banks in Singapore offer free withdrawals to their global customers and customers of their partner institutions abroad. You might dodge the worst of the ATM fees if you’re selective about which you use.
You can reduce ATM fees in Singapore with a few simple tricks, and make your money go further.
Singapore is home to a huge number of global and regional banking brands. If you don’t already bank with one of them, ask your home bank ahead of time, if they have any local partner institution in Singapore. This is the best way to get free or reduced-fee ATM use while you’re abroad - just so long as you stick to ATMs run by a partner bank.
Different bank accounts have very different terms when it comes to international cash withdrawals. If you have several different local bank accounts and can choose which to rely on when overseas, it’s worth checking the small print and choosing the one which offers the best deal. Foreign currency cash advances using a credit card are usually an expensive choice and should be avoided if at all possible.
Be wary of independent ATMs, often in the more obvious tourist locations, pubs, nightclubs and other places with a captive audience, which might not offer a great value. It’s best to stick to ATMs attached to banks, in supermarkets or shopping centres if you can.
And finally, don’t forget DCC. It’s one of the most common problems travellers have when using ATMs. As long as you choose to pay in local currency, you’ll avoid DCC’s high fees and poor exchange rates.
For many travellers and expats living abroad, TransferWise is a convenient and cheap alternative to get day to day cash. TransferWise only uses the real, mid-market exchange rate, and the fees are laid out up front so you know exactly what you’re getting.
If you already have a local Singapore bank account, or if you have a friend who does, you can transfer money between accounts before your trip. You can trust that you’ll get the best exchange rate available, with no hidden charges. Then you can simply use ATMs in Singapore to withdraw cash from the local account when you need it.
A borderless multi-currency account from TransferWise could leave you even better off if you’re a regular traveller or an expat. You can hold your cash in any one of dozens of different currencies, including Singapore dollars, with no monthly account fee to pay. Set up your debit card for the account, and pay with your SGD balance in shops and restaurants, to avoid ATM fees, and dodgy exchange rates, entirely.
Life in Singapore is not cheap, so cutting out unnecessary costs is essential. Sticking to ATMs can be a good way to get your cash for the trip without being hit by unfair fees. Alternatively, use TransferWise, to send money to a local account, or spend using your borderless multi-currency account card, and avoid ATMs altogether.
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