Best digital banks in Malaysia in 2023
Digital banks, and online account providers are becoming increasingly popular in Malaysia and worldwide, thanks to their flexible account services - and, often, low fees.
But which digital bank is best for Malaysian customers?
In this article we'll cover what you need to know about opening a digital account, including the best options already in the Malaysian market, like Wise and BigPay.
What is a digital bank?
The world of digital banks is pretty new here in Malaysia. However, there are a few digital banks in Malaysia like Wise and BigPay, and we also benefit from traditional banks such as HSBC, which are known to be good at digital banking.
If you pick a digital account from a traditional provider, you may still be able to use their branch network for things like cash deposits. However, these accounts can come with restrictions, and fees when you access physical services.
Specialist digital account providers like Wise and BigPay, on the other hand, do not offer face-to-face services. Instead they offer ways of managing your funds from the convenience of your phone or computer, they are fully digital - so you can cut out wait times in branches, and some of the traditional banking bureaucracy we’re all familiar with.
Specialist digital accounts have varied features and fees - such as accounts from international specialist services which can help you with currency conversion and overseas spending. That can cut the costs of sending and spending in foreign currencies, in person and online.
Can a digital account be opened in Malaysia?
Are digital banks safe to use?
Yes. Digital accounts from traditional banks are provided by banks with full licences through Bank Negara Malaysia. And if you pick a specialist provider, you can also rest assured that reputable services are overseen and regulated at home and abroad. Wise, for example, is regulated as a remittance, money changing and e-money issuer, by Bank Negara Malaysia and also overseen by a range of other global bodies.
3 Top digital banks in Malaysia
As we’ve mentioned, you could pick a digital service from a bank, a local Malaysian digital bank, or an international digital bank, depending on what suits your needs.
Here are a few examples - and we’ll look at them in more detail in just a moment:
International digital banks: Wise
Digital banks in Malaysia: BigPay
Digital banks from traditional banks: HSBC
The best digital account for you will depend on your specific preferences and needs. However, to help you see some differences between different account types, let’s look at an overview of some of the most popular accounts out there from the providers named above:
|Digital bank||Account and transaction fees|
|HSBC (Everyday Global)|
|Digital bank||Accounts and cards|
|HSBC (Everyday Global)|
Wise is available in almost all countries around the world, with multi-currency accounts you can open online or in-app. You can hold and exchange 40+ currencies, and get local bank details to get paid easily from 30+ currencies with Wise account. You’ll also be able to order a linked Wise debit card which can be used to spend all over the world. You can also send money internationally to 70+ countries.
It’s free to spend any currency you hold, and if you don’t have the currency you need, all Wise currency exchange uses the midmarket rate, with conversion fees from 0.43% - which can mean you save significantly compared to your bank.
Account types: Multi currency accounts available for personal customers
Eligibility: Open from Malaysia or using your normal ID and proof of address from your home country - broad range of countries supported
Wise Fees: No fee to open a personal account, currency exchange from 0.43%, some fee free ATM withdrawals every month
Safety: Globally regulated in all regions of operation
|Advantages of Wise||Disadvantages of Wise|
Download the BigPay app to open a free account, to hold MYR and spend locally and internationally with your BigPay card. You’ll get budgeting tools and ways to analyse your spending which can be helpful when managing a budget, plus options for local and domestic transfers.
Account types: Accounts available for personal customers only
Eligibility: Open from Malaysia or Singapore, with proof of legal residence
Fees: No fee to open a personal account, currency exchange fee of 1% when spending with the BigPay card, ATM fees of 6 MYR - 10 MYR
Safety: Regulated by Bank Negara Malaysia
|Advantages of BigPay||Disadvantages of BigPay|
HSBC Everyday Global
Consider an HSBC Everyday Global account if you’re thinking of a digital account with a traditional bank. You’ll be able to hold 11 currencies and it’s free to spend any of the currencies you hold. Currency exchange within the account will use the HSBC exchange rate which may include a markup, though - and there’s a 1% fee to spend currencies you don’t already have in your balance.
Account types: Accounts available for personal customers only - other HSBC accounts available for businesses
Eligibility: Open from Malaysia with proof of ID and legal residence
Fees: No fee to open a personal account, 1% fee for foreign currency spend, ATM fees - 5 MYR
Safety: Regulated by Bank Negara Malaysia
|Advantages of HSBC||Disadvantages of HSBC|
What are the advantages of digital accounts?
As we get more and more used to using our phones and smart devices to organise life, it’s no surprise that an increasing amount of people opt for a digital bank instead of traditional banks. With a digital bank you’ll be able to manage your money on the move with just your phone, including checking balances and transactions, sending payments, and even switching between currencies if you have a digital bank with multi-currency features.
Here are some of the key advantages of a digital account, to help you decide if one is right for you:
Open an account online or in an app - with less paperwork compared to a normal bank, and automated verification processes
You can manage your account and make transactions online or via an app, so you’re never out of touch with your money
Some digital banks and providers offer faster international transfers with better exchange rates and lower fees compared to normal bank wires
Specialist providers allow you to manage multiple currencies within one account, to switch between them and receive payments from overseas
You can find international digital account providers which use the mid-market exchange rate, to cut the costs of transfers, payments, and other international services
With a digital bank you’ll never need to stand in line in a bank branch again
How to choose the right digital account for your needs
There’s no single best digital account - each bank and provider has its own account types which are aimed at different customer needs. That means you’re sure to find one that suits you - but you may need to do a bit of research to make sure you’re picking the perfect option. Here are some things to consider:
Currencies available: Some specialist digital account providers let you hold and exchange multiple currencies, which can cut the costs of travel and overseas spending
- Fees and charges: Many accounts have no monthly fee to pay, but transaction fees will still apply in some circumstances - check out the fee schedule carefully to make sure you know what to expect
- Debit or credit card available: For convenience, pick a bank or provider which offers a card for easy spending and withdrawals
- Security: Choose a reputable provider which is properly regulated for the services it offers, to be on the safe side
Check our How to open a fee-free bank account in Malaysia guide.
How to open a digital account
That the process to open a digital account varies by provider - here’s how to open a digital account with HSBC as an example:
Visit the HSBC desktop site
Find the Everyday Global Account page and select Instant Apply
Enter your personal details
Visit a branch to get verified
Add money to your account and activate your card
Download the HSBC app to bank on the move
If you pick a global provider like Wise you’ll need to take the following steps to open a Wise account:
Download the Wise app or open the desktop site
Click Sign up and create an account using your Facebook, Google or Apple ID
Upload images of your ID and address document
Verification may be done automatically, or may take a day or two
To open a digital account you’ll usually need the following documents:
Proof of identity - like a passport or driving licence
Proof of address - for traditional banks this must usually be in Malaysia
Proof of legal right of residence if you’re a foreigner
What you need to know before opening a digital account
Let’s look at a few things to think about before choosing a digital bank.
Do digital banks apply taxes?
Tax is a complex area, and exactly how your digital bank may work will vary depending on your location, the account type and your personal situation. Reach out to your own bank directly to get all the details you need.
How to withdraw money from a digital bank?
Many digital banks offer linked debit cards you can use to spend and make cash withdrawals, and also the option to make online transfers to your own accounts, or another account held at a different institution.
How to deposit money in a digital account?
Deposit money in your digital account by bank transfer or wire, or have someone send you a payment. Some banks and providers also let you deposit cash.
What is the eligibility for a digital account?
Eligibility varies based on the provider you select. For traditional banks and local providers you’ll usually need to be a Malaysian citizen or legal resident, aged over 18, with a local phone number.
International providers like Wise can often offer accounts to people from a broad range of countries, for a more flexible experience.
Best Multi-currency Accounts in Malaysia
Some digital banks and account providers have great multi-currency functionality, including the options to hold and exchange dozens of global currencies all in one place. Other providers hold all funds in MYR, but offer easy ways to spend and send in foreign currencies. Read more on our Best Multi-currency Accounts in Malaysia guide.
Here’s a reminder of the multi-currency functionality of the providers we’ve looked at so far:
Wise Account Review: Hold and exchange 50+ currencies, spend around the world with the Wise card, send payments to 70+ countries and get local account details for 10 currencies
BigPay Account Review: Hold your money in MYR, and pay a 1% fee when you transact internationally. International payments are available to a select range of countries
HSBC Everyday Global: Hold and exchange 11 currencies, with no fee to spend currencies you hold. There’s a 1% fee when you spend currencies you don’t have in your account. International payments are available to most countries around the world
Digital bank vs traditional bank
Digital banks may not have as long a history as some traditional banks - but they’re usually regulated in just the same way as a brick and mortar bank, which means they’re just as safe.
With no branch network to maintain, digital banks can often offer lower service fees, too. As digital banks are new providers, many have come up with innovative ways to offer value added services to customers, like multi-currency functionality and low cost international payments.
|Traditional banks||Digital banks|
Conclusion: What is the best digital bank in Malaysia?
Opening an account in a digital bank has big advantages, including flexible services you can access on the move, and low fees. While there aren’t huge numbers of providers to pick in Malaysia, there are a few local and global options to consider.
Use this guide to kickstart your hunt - and don’t forget to look at a good selection of options including digital accounts from local banks, and specialist non-bank alternatives. A provider like Wise could be a great fit if you want convenient ways to manage your money, with low fees - and extras like multi-currency functionality and low cost, fast, international payments.
FAQs Best Online Banks in Malaysia
There’s no single best digital bank in Malaysia - or indeed anywhere. All of the providers we’ve looked at here are safe to use, and offer interesting account features which could suit different customer types. Start with our top picks, and see which suits your needs.
Digital banks often don’t have any branch network or face to face service options. This can mean they also offer lower fees compared to a traditional bank.
Digital banking can be more convenient than visiting a branch, plus the costs are often lower. However, not all banks offer all their services online or through an app, and some services can’t be used digitally - like depositing cash for example. Whether digital or in person banking is best for you will depend on your preferences and the type of transactions you need to make often.
The best online banking option in Malaysia depends on your individual preferences and needs. Those who are frequent travelers or make regular international transactions might be better off with an international digital bank like Wise, which lets you hold and exchange 40+ currencies using the mid-market rate and send money to 70+ countries. Likewise, Malaysia’s very own digital bank, BigPay, also provides cards for global use alongside tools and spend analytics to help with budgeting. If you prefer a more traditional banking option, then HSBC’s Everyday Global account might be perfect. You can hold 11 currencies and spend with a linked debit card. Plus, it’s free to spend any of the currencies you have in the account.
Fortunately, digital banking is generally very safe, though some accounts may have more robust security systems in place than others. It's always best to look for providers that are regulated by local authorities to keep your deposits safe and always be wary about potential scams.
Yes, fully digital providers such as Wise and BigPay allow you to open a bank account online without going to the bank in Malaysia physically. Read our full guide on how to open a bank account online for more information.
The main difference between an online and a digital bank is that digital banks refer to the new digital advances in the banking industry. Digital banks only offer services online and don't have any physical branches for in-person banking. Online banking, on the other hand, refers to using a specific bank's online services.