Singapore - Country Commercial Guide
Trade Financing

It covers payment methods and information on, banking systems, foreign exchange controls, and U.S. and correspondent banking.

Last published date: 2021-08-13

Methods of Payment

Singapore has a well-developed financial system, which offers a full range of export finance instruments.  Shipments are generally made under letters of credit and sight drafts (or bills of exchange), depending on the exporter’s preference and the extent of past dealings with the purchaser.  Standard credit terms are generally 30 to 90 days and they are allocated on market terms.  Quotations are generally made on a C.I.F. basis.  Prices given in U.S. dollars should be clearly stated to avoid confusion with the Singapore dollar.  Exporters making quotations in Singapore dollars should consult their banks for the prevailing exchange rate.  Singapore uses the metric system, so it is beneficial for price/quantity quotations to be prepared accordingly.  Credit rating agencies in Singapore include S&P Global Ratings, Moody’s, Singapore Commercial Credit Bureau, and Experian Credit Services Singapore.  Primary credit or charged cards used in the country include Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Diners.

For more information about the methods of payment or other trade finance options, please read the Trade Finance Guide.

Banking Systems

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) performs all the functions of a central bank including the issuance of currency.  The unit of legal tender is the Singapore dollar.  Besides regulating financial institutions, the MAS has a Financial Sector Promotion Department that promotes new financial activities, develops IT infrastructure and manpower resources for the financial sector, and designs appropriate incentives to attract international financial firms to conduct activities in Singapore.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) regulates all banking activities as provided for under the Banking Act.  Singapore maintains legal distinctions between foreign and local banks and the type of license (i.e., full service, wholesale, and offshore banks) held by foreign commercial banks.  As of April 2021, 30 foreign full-service licensees and 90 wholesale banks operated in Singapore.  An additional 24 merchant banks are licensed to conduct corporate finance, investment banking, and other fee-based activities.  Offshore and wholesale banks are not allowed to operate Singapore dollar retail banking activities.  Only full banks and “Qualifying Full Banks” (QFBs) can operate Singapore dollar retail banking activities but are subject to restrictions on their number of places of business, ATMs, and ATM networks. Additional QFB licenses may be granted to a subset of full banks, which provide greater branching privileges and greater access to the retail market than other full banks. As of April 2021, there are 10 banks operating QFB licenses.  China Construction Bank received the most recent QFB award in December 2020. 

Following a series of public consultations conducted by MAS over a three-year period, the Banking Act 2020 came into operation on February 14, 2020.  The amendments include, among other things, the removal of the Domestic Banking Unit (DBU) and Asian Currency Unit (ACU) divide, consolidation of the regulatory framework of merchant banks, expansion of the grounds for revoking bank licenses and strengthening oversight of banks’ outsourcing arrangements.  Newly granted digital banking licenses under foreign ownership apply only to wholesale transactions. 

There are no trading restrictions on foreign-owned stockbrokers.  There is no cap on the aggregate investment by foreigners regarding the paid-up capital of dealers that are members of the SGX.  Direct registration of foreign mutual funds is allowed provided MAS approves the prospectus and the fund.  The U.S. Singapore FTA (USSFTA) relaxed conditions foreign asset managers must meet in order to offer products under the government-managed compulsory pension fund (Central Provident Fund Investment Scheme). 

Foreign Exchange Controls

The USSFTA commits Singapore to the free transfer of capital, unimpeded by regulatory restrictions.  Singapore places no restrictions on reinvestment or repatriation of earnings and capital, and maintains no significant restrictions on remittances, foreign exchange transactions and capital movements.

U.S. Banks and Local Correspondent Banks

 Major U.S. banks operating in Singapore include Citibank, JP Morgan Chase Bank, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, State Street Bank and Trust Company, The Northern Trust Company, Wells Fargo Bank.  A full list of local and foreign banks can be found at https://eservices.mas.gov.sg/fid.