6 Money Saving Tips for Expats Moving to Singapore

Ryan Ong

Ryan Ong

Last updated 30 September, 2015
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Moving to Singapore? You might want to pick up these tips to save some money through the move.

If you have to go through the hassle of moving, you don’t want to end up with the added stress of financial issues. The good news is that Singapore is a global financial hub, so you’ll have no end of options and service providers. The bad news is that many expats still lose money through common mistakes, and learn the hard way. Here’s how to save yourself a bundle:

1. Understand How Property Taxes Work Before You Move

If you have property back home, you may be wondering whether you should keep it, rent it out, sell it, etc. That decision will mostly be based on property taxes--in some countries, you will not be charged taxes as a non-resident, and it makes for great rental income. In others, the taxes may actually rise when you turn it into a for-rent property.

These issues are complicated and costly to deal with, so be sure to settle it before you shift to Singapore. If you are going to sell or rent the property, it is also ideal to do it before coming over.

2. Don’t Assume Our Tax System is as Simple as it Looks

Singapore’s tax system appears simple, due to the lack of capital gains tax, inheritance tax, etc. However, there is a lot of fine print that can cost you more money than you think.

For example, Singapore has no capital gains tax. However, if you exercise stock options offered by your company, the stocks are considered part of your income--and that makes your gains taxable.

Likewise, a lot of expatriates are eager to buy property here, but may not realise that foreigners pay 15% more in additional stamp duties. That could make a property purchase far less attractive for mid-term stayers (e.g. 10 years).

Talk to a tax agent (or find one through a qualified wealth manager) as soon as you arrive on the island.

3. Don’t Just Pick a Bank Because It’s More Familiar

There are well over 100 banks operating in Singapore. Beyond the “big name” brands like HSBC or Citibank, Singapore is host to a range of private and offshore banks that may offer you a better deal if you are affluent. Local banks, such as DBS and OCBC, also have an accessibility advantage. They tend to have more ATMs, which makes it easier to withdraw and deposit cash.

It is advisable to pick two banks when you land. The first bank should be an international bank used to send money to and from home; this is usually cheaper than using a non-bank remittance service, and you may get a better exchange rate.

The second bank should be a local bank, through which it is more convenient to handle transactions such as withdrawals.

4. Don’t Buy a Car

There is virtually no need for a car in Singapore, a heavily interconnected island that can be walked across in a single day. Furthermore, Singapore is one of the most expensive cities in the world for car ownership. A modest family car will run up costs of over S$110,000, and that doesn’t include the prohibitive road taxes, electronic road pricing, parking fees, mandatory insurance, etc.

If you must have private transport (again, highly unnecessary considering the two furthest points of the island are about 90 minutes apart by public transport), consider long term leasing.

5. Consider Switching to a Global Insurance Policy

Many insurers will terminate your policy once you leave the country. Likewise, local insurers may not want to cover you if you spend significant amounts of time travelling to and from Singapore (at least, not without high premiums).

It may be financially efficient to opt for a global insurance policy instead of a local one, especially if you are staying for the short term (seven years or less) or have to move around a lot. Premiums may be higher, but it will still be cheaper than repeatedly adding coverage from a local insurer.

Speak to an independent financial advisor if you want global insurance - financial advisors who work for a particular insurer will be biased toward their own products.

6. Get in Touch with a Forex Broker

If you are bringing a large amount of money into Singapore, or intend to transfer large sums on a constant basis, speak to a Forex broker. These brokers use options and futures to secure the best currency exchange rates, and can do the same for you for a slight fee.

If you are not in a hurry, a Forex broker can also advise you on when would be the best time to make a currency exchange. It is sometimes worth waiting a few months to minimise the loss of thousands of dollars, if you are exchanging a substantial sum.

You can also save more money with the right credit card. Use SingSaver.com.sg's free comparison tools to find the best credit cards for you. 

Read This Next:

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7 Ways the Haze in Singapore is Costing You Money


Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.


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