Update to @adamdunkley’s post-
I tried out the various ATMs- withdrew cash using Starling at POSB, UOB and OCBC- was charged $5 after declining DCC at POSB which they don’t tell you about UOB rejected the card and OCBC went through with no charge. I’ll try HSBC and Standard Chartered in the future. Avoid POSB, DBS (partner banks) and UOB.
Update to @adamdunkley’s post-
@evangelskies I have a little further update which is that I tried a UOB else where (Little India MRT) and my Monzo went through fine and I didn’t get charged after declining POSB. I think the issue of rejected cards is local to the UOB machine at Bukit Timah.
The places I tried it at were at Bukit Batok and Jurong East. Maybe they don’t do it for more centralised, tourist areas
Yeah NETS seems to be a local thing, you can use a version of contactless that only local credit cards have. I don’t think debit cards have this, but both my debit cards there don’t. Feel free to correct me if someone has a more recent local card there.
There are two systems(?) for these cards- EZ-link and CEPAS.
NETS is associated with debit/credit cards and mostly used in retail, and EZ-Link cards for transport. They currently aren’t interchangeable and you need different cards for both functions. You can purchase CEPAS cards which have both the NETS and EZ-link function, but ezlink cards are only partnered with NETS in certain places, mostly partnerships with hawker centres/ school canteens for students.
If you’re a tourist with a temporary ezlink card, it’s unlikely that you’ll have the NETS function. It also won’t be very useful since not all hawker centres (usually only air-conditioned food courts etc.) allow you to pay with NETS. Stick to using Monzo and cash
I’m going to Singapore for 9 months!
All my income will still be coming from the UK. Do you think it will be ok to simply use or should I open a bank acct there?
Anyone had any experience with Singaporean banks?
Hey there! I’m from Singapore so I could give you a couple of tips.
I would probably say you would be able to comfortably survive on your Monzo card in Singapore within the £200 fee-free ATM limit/ month.
Card acceptance is pretty good except for if you’re going to hawker centres/ night markets. Those are usually cash-only/ mobile wallet system called PayLah. You scan a QR code to pay. Apple Pay isn’t as commonly used/available.
I’ve not tried taking out any cash recently but the last I checked POSB/DBS ATMs charge $5 (£2.80 ish) to get cash out. OCBC doesn’t charge (as of Feb) but I’ve not checked the others. If you do opt to open a bank account, OCBC has been marketing their new accounts pretty heavily and their customer service is pretty good. Love their FRANK card design options too. There are no account fees to open a basic account. I can’t really speak much for other banks as I’ve only had another account with POSB. POSB/DBS’s app/site is less friendly to navigate but they often do more card/ package options.
You might want to consider getting a multi-currency account. The basic plans are free at most banks. Be prepared to bring along usual documents like your passport/ deposit / employment pass/ proof of address. You can usually open a bank account on the spot and get the ATM card right away. The debit card takes a week to arrive.
Bear in mind ATMs aren’t always interchangeable between banks except for between POSB and DBS, or OCBC and UOB, so if you chose something more obscure like Standard Charted it might be a trek to find an ATM. You usually get 2-3 free withdrawals if you decide to withdraw at any 'ol ATM but if you’re planning on doing a lot more than that you should use the designated ATM.
Thank you so much for such a detailed response. I’ll see how it goes for the first month then.
I also have Revolut (sorry… ) as I use it for currency conversion from PLN to GBP (you can’t top up with a in ). So I will have a £400 limit per month (£200 Monzo + £200 Revolut).
Changing a bit the topic (sorry to go off topic for a second). Any suggestion for a mobile network operator?
If you absolutely hate those 2FA bank tokens good luck, because you’re going to get them if you use a local bank I hate adding new payees or generally doing anything. It’s so not user-friendly. I would just skip the whole faff and take your Monzo and Revolut cards, and get a Starling card too for the free unlimited ATM withdrawals. It’s what I did when I was in Europe for a month
The major network here is Singtel that generally has solid coverage, Circles.life is pretty new with a nice app too that prioritises data bundles and is very popular with the youth. It piggybacks on the M1 network (which has the best 4G speeds). I would avoid Starhub as the coverage is horrible.
Circles.life looks as a really good option.
Thanks for all of your tips. I did consider getting Starling but didn’t want to have to manage 3 UK banks.
If I can I will try an avoid banks then. I’ll simply use Monzo (Revolut) together with NETS/EZ-links or similar type of Singapore’s payment system.
No problem! I’m glad I could help.
And yes, definitely get an EZ-Link card, you’ll need it for all transport there’s no Uber btw, you’ll have to use Grab (who bought them out).
So UK debit cards are widely accepted? I was under the impression that Singapore would be more cash based like a lot of other Asian countries I have been to.
Singapore is quite complex with regards to payment methods.
They have what we are used to and cash.
The tricky bit starts with their Cashless Payment systems such as NETS and EZ link. EZ link is kinda an Oyster card as you use it to travel but you can also pay with e.g. for shopping, food. Some places only accept NETS or EZ link and do not take Mastercard or visa (I suppose Mastercard and visa have higher fees?).
Travelling through Asia I found Singapore to be way more accepting of debit card that other Southeast Asia countries.
Taxis (but may have +10%)
Small corner shops
Last 2 rarely accept cards and if they do it would mainly be NETS or EZ link cards.
It is also a rather non-tipping country so no spare change needed.
I was in Singapore a few months back for 3 days, I used Monzo everywhere apart from the train ticket machines as they don’t accept card (for singular trips at least).
Back in Singapore
Here is my suggestion:
Get a NETS card and carry a bit of cash. ← if you are here for a bit longer
Simply use Monzo card and carry lots of cash. ← for shorter trips
What is NETS?
NETS it is kind of an oyster card on steroids. You can pay with it for transport (don’t forget to touch in and out in the buses!), shops, food centres - basically everywhere unless it is cash only.
Top up NETS
You can top us using your card at MRT stations.
Do carry a bit of cash as some places do not accept any card payment including NETS
Acceptance of payment methods
Cash > NETS > Mastercard/Visa
It is worth having a NETS (not only because of transport) but also as it is more widely accepted than Mastercard/Visa. What I find is that some places accept Mastercard but not Visa (and vice-versa) or write ‘We prefer Visa’/‘We prefer Mastercard’.
- /debit card
Shops (not all)
Taxi (may have +10%)
Hawker centre (not all)
Small corner shops (not all)
There is a competitor to NETS which is EZ-link. However, I find it to have way smaller acceptance. In fact, it seems to be rather a transport (MRT/buses/etc) card only. Have not seen any stickers on shops but I am not sure if it means you cannot use it there.
Note: I will try to update this post as I learn more
Just adding to this, recently Grab (basically Uber) has been aggressively promoting their GrabPay function and you can now pay at many restaurants/ F&B outlets with GrabPay, with lots of offers post National Day. Simply scan a QR code or key in a mobile number.
You can top up your GrabPay wallet with credit/debit cards, so it could be an alternative to using PayLah (which you need a SG bank account for) in hawker centres if they push for more acceptance.