Indonesia boasts the largest economy in Southeast Asia, though there’s been a slowdown since 2012, due to the end of the export boom. A major chunk of Indonesia’s 258 million people reside on the island of Java, to the tune of 145 million residents; that’s about 57% of the country’s entire population. Java is considered one of the most densely populated places on Earth, ranking at number five for largest population in the world. Java dominates Indonesia politically, economically and culturally.
This year, a total of 10 million foreign visitors will visit the country, 20% of whom are frequent visitors. With the influx of tourism comes an influx of expats, moving to the country for the incredibly rich culture and stunning landscape and beaches. As such, it’s more relevant now than ever to understand how to open a bank account in the Southeast Asian nation.
Although banking can come across as a little complex, there’s no need to worry; this guide will walk you through everything you need to know about opening a bank account in Indonesia.
Recently, the process has even been simplified to allow smoother business transactions for the growing expat population, thus improving the economy and flow of foreign currency.
Yes, it is possible but many banks still do require some type of stay permit (i.e. Temporary Residence Permit Card) before they allow you to open a bank account. If you can find a bank which has adopted the new reform allowing non-residents to easily open accounts, you’ll find three different account options to choose from. The options are the Limited Balance Tourist Account (USD $2,000 - USD $50,000), Unlimited Balance Expat Account (From $50,000 and up) and the Special Balance Expat Account (Balance must exceed 1 million USD). To open these accounts you would just need some combination of a passport and one additional document (e.g reference document from a bank in your country of origin, domicile letter of the expat, identity papers of the spouse, copies of residence contracts, or a credit/debit card). Also, these are (non-rupiah) bank accounts and must be denominated in USD.
If you have all the necessary paperwork, which includes copies of your identity card, opening an account can all be done in a day, though it can take up to five days depending on bank regulations.
If you do have a residence permit in Indonesia, to make sure your visit to the bank goes smoothly you’ll want to bring a few documents with you, including:
- Temporary Residence Permit Card
- Letter from Employer or Permanent Residence License
- 4 X 6 Photograph
Sometimes you may also need:
- Bank document from your country of origin
- Residency contact
- An existing credit or debit card
- Domicile letter
- Your spouse’s government-issued ID
Yes, you can open a bank account from abroad, as long as you work with a lawyer who you have granted power of attorney. At the moment you can not open an account online as a foreigner.
As with all bank accounts, your Indonesian bank will probably charge a number of fees, including monthly administration fees. You may also be required to make a minimum initial deposit, typically around, USD 100, or maintain a minimum balance of USD 100. You could also be charged for letting your balance drop below the minimum. Some other important fees to look out for include:
Most banks don’t charge anything to use an ATM within their network, but if you use an ATM from another bank you may see a small charge.
Beware of high fees when using a card from your home country. You won’t get charged by the bank in Indonesia, but can face high fees from your home bank. Make sure to check with your bank before you leave, and inquire about whether they offer a no foreign transaction fees-debit card to avoid losing your shirt over foreign withdrawals.
There are fees related to keeping your balance above a certain minimum, depending on where you bank. These are variable, and are typically pretty nominal. Your bank should have a price list available online, or you can inquire about their fees at the time of your account opening.
The fees for international money transfers vary widely and can add up, as they’re typically comprised of a flat charge on top of a percentage of the total transaction.
With bank fees that are unclear and can vary highly, as well as an additional exchange rate markup that isn’t pointed out to consumers, banking can get very expensive in Indonesia if you don’t do your research beforehand. Transferwise provides a solution that makes sense and allows for a fairer exchange rate that isn’t tweaked by banks just to benefit them.
There are a number of local and international banks, like HSBC, to choose from in Indonesia, and which you select should depend on proximity to where you’re living or working, or what services you need most. While this decision is different for everyone, some of the most popular banks in Indonesia include:
Bank Mandiri delivers a broad range of financial solutions for you, whether your needs are commercial, micro or small business. Some of the bank’s perks and services include:
- Make international transfers quickly and with transparent fees (USD 25 + Rp 35,000)
- Largest bank (by assets) and is government owned, so it has more staff and branches than other banks, making it a more secure option
- Friendly, helpful and professional customer service staff
To go the most traditional route, this bank is the first one formed and owned by the Indonesian government, which comes with certain benefits. It was ranked one of the four largest banks in the country. Some services that come with having an account include:
- Payments & Remittance
- Singapore Deposit Insurance Scheme
- Trade Financing
This bank is one of the strongest and largest in the country. The bank’s financing sector has established itself as among the largest micro financing businesses in the country. Some benefits include:
- No monthly account fees if you meet the minimum balance (above USD$700)
- Two debit cards for joint accounts
- Range of debit card designs
Since it was established in 1957, Bank Central Asia has continued to grow. With dedicated teamwork and unending support of its customers, it has established a motto that it always strives to excel at their company motto: “Always By Your Side.” People choose BCA for:
- Only card that offers “cash back” or in Indonesia, referred to as “cash out” to withdraw cash from your account while making a purchase
- Internet banking system
- BCA Gold customers can access a machine that automatically prints your passbook transactions, instead of having to wait in line
If you pay or get paid in multiple currencies with any regularity, using TransferWise to get the real exchange rate and cut back on international transfer fees is a good option. TransferWise always uses the mid-market rate and breaks your transaction into smaller local ones in order to save you money on charges.
It’s clear to many that Indonesia is one of Asia’s hotspots, both for tourism and new residents. Understanding the financial sector can greatly improve your business and daily life in this beautiful country, and can help make the transition easier when you know how to navigate your finances. Good luck opening your bank account in Indonesia!