Best International Banks in Malaysia [2023 Guide]
If you’re a Malaysian expat living overseas, a digital nomad moving around while working - or simply someone who loves to travel - an international bank account could be a smart way to manage your money.
Some international bank accounts offer ways to hold and exchange foreign currencies, and cut the costs of international transactions. However, international accounts aren’t always available from traditional US banks - and where they are offered, they can come with fairly high fees and restrictive features.
Join us as we walk through some of the best international banks in Malaysia, and also look at some alternatives which can be cheaper and more flexible, like Wise and BigPay.
5 Best Banks for International Travel for Malaysians
Before we get started, let’s look at the banks and providers we’ve picked as the top 5 banks for international travel and money management, for expats and digital nomads. We’ve looked at a cross section of options which may suit, depending on whether you want to spend easily when you travel, send payments, or even invest in a selection of currencies from the US.
Wise: great for anyone looking to hold 40+ currencies, spend with a linked debit card in 150+ countries, and receive payments like a local from 30+ countries
BigPay: offers 12 currencies and allows you to send money to over 45 countries. It also comes with its own linked international debit card and in-app budgeting tools.
HSBC: The Everyday Global account is the all-in-one account for your everyday needs in Malaysia and overseas where you can hold up to 11 currencies.
Hong Leong Bank: Foreign Currency account with a range of 10 currencies that’s ideal for those who are working, traveling, studying or have businesses abroad.
Maybank: Hold up to 16 different currencies with the Master Foreign Currency account for both business and personal customers and accrue interest on balances of 5000 USD or more.
What is an international bank account?
International bank accounts can have a pretty broad selection of features, from accounts for daily use which let you hold foreign currency balances and get international travel cards, to accounts aimed at international investors.
There are quite a few international account options for Malaysian customers, although it’s helpful to note that the accounts available from traditional banks can have fairly limited features compared to specialist providers.
We’ll look at some smart options in just a moment - for now, here’s a rundown of some of the features you may get from an international account:
Hold a select of foreign currencies and convert between them
Send payments overseas with low or no fees
Access preferential exchange rates
Spend internationally with a linked debit or credit card
Invest internationally in foreign currencies
Can you open an international bank account?
Some traditional Malaysian banks offer international bank accounts, although these do tend to have relatively limited features compared to international accounts from specialist services. Providers like Wise and BigPay offer flexible accounts which can hold multiple currencies and be used easily for everyday transactions.
We’ll look at all of this in more detail a little later.
What is the best international bank in Malaysia?
The best international bank account for you will depend on your specific preferences and needs. Here we’ll look at an overview on each provider - and then later we’ll explore more in detail so you can see if any may suit your needs.
Not sure how to pick? Don’t worry. We’ll also cover what to consider when choosing an international bank.
|Wise Account||BigPay Account||HSBC Everyday Global Account||Hong Leong Foreign Currency Account||Maybank Master Foreign Account|
|Account opening fee||No fee||No fee||No fee||No fee||No fee|
|Account maintenance fees||No fee||No fee||No fee||30.00 MYR service charge every half year in June and December. Waived for Dual Currency Investments (DCI)||No fee|
|Multi-currency Account||Hold and exchange 40+ currencies||Hold and exchange 12 currencies||Hold 11 currencies||Hold 10 currencies||Hold and exchange 16 currencies|
|Travel Card (debit or credit)||Get the Wise international debit card to spend in 150+ countries||The account comes with a linked card that can be used internationally||Linked multi currency debit card||Not applicable - there is no linked debit card||Not applicable - there is no linked debit card|
|Foreign Transaction fees||No fee to spend currencies you hold in your account - currency conversion from 0.43%||BigPay charges a fee when sending money abroad - Up to 0.5% + network charges.|
No fees for transactions that
are performed in
|10.00 MYR or its equivalent||Transaction charges are equivalent to 4 USD|
|Currency Conversion Rates||Wise exchange rate: Mid market exchange rate - the one you find on Google|
Up to 1% + network charges. Exchange rate might include a markup.
|HSBC rate will apply, which may include a markup||Exchange rate might include a markup||Exchange rate might include a markup|
|Foreign ATM Transaction Fees||Up to 2 withdrawals, to the value of 1000 MYR fee free, then 5 MYR + 1.75% fee||MYR 10 for international withdrawals||Cash withdrawals in local currencies without any fees||Not applicable||Not applicable|
|International Business Accounts||This account is for personal customers only||For personal customers only|
This account is for personal customers only
Other HSBC accounts are offered to business customers
For personal customers who already have an account with HLB
Available for personal and business customers
International accounts can come from bank brands you’ll know well, or online and digital specialists which have been built with a great range of international functions, such as Wise and BigPay. Accounts from traditional banks are familiar and reliable but may have rather more restrictive functionality compared to specialist providers.
Here’s a quick reminder of the accounts we’ve looked at:
Wise Account: Hold and exchange 40+ currencies and get paid with local bank details from 30+ countries, plus a linked card for everyday spending
BigPay Account: Free money app with a linked international card that you can use anywhere across the globe.
HSBC Everyday Global Account: Everyday account with multi currency convenience. Hold and exchange 11 currencies.
Hong Leong Foreign Currency Account: Savings account that safeguards against exchange rate fluctuations.
Maybank Master Foreign Account: Save in multiple currencies of your choice while enjoying reduced costs on transfers.
Let’s look at each provider in more detail now.
Personal customers can open a Wise account for free, to hold and exchange 40+ currencies and spend with the Wise debit card in 150+ countries.
You’ll also get local bank details for up to 10 currencies which makes it easy to get paid, with no Wise fee, from 30+ countries.
Wise currency exchange used the mid-market rate - the one you find on Google. You’ll only pay a low conversion fee which is from 0.43%, with no fees to spend any currency you hold in your account.
Wise account is best for: People traveling or shopping online internationally, looking for flexible and low cost currency conversion
- Wise travel card: Order a card for a one time low fee, spend around the world - and if you don’t have the currency you need the card can convert for you using the lowest possible fee. Spend in 150+ countries
- Wise foreign transaction fees: Currency conversion from 0.43%, no fee to spend currencies you hold in your account
- International ATM withdrawals: Free to make 2 withdrawals up to 1000/MYR per month, with low fees after that
BigPay Malaysia is a digital account and e-wallet managed via their free app and linked international card that can be used worldwide. BigPay also offers fully digital personal loans, providing quick access to funds within minutes. You can enjoy competitive exchange rates, gain control over your finances with budgeting and management tools that automatically track and categorize your spending and benefit from a range of features that include:
BigPay account is best for: Convenient international spending and travel with competitive exchange rates, expense tracking, and global card usability.
BigPay Travel card: BigPay offers a linked international card that can be used anywhere abroad. It’s good to note that there is a 20 MYR fee for those wanting a physical plastic prepaid card.
Foreign transaction fees: Up to 1% + network charges for purchases made in currencies other than Malaysian Ringgit.
International ATM withdrawals: Domestic withdrawals cost 6 MYR per transaction while overseas withdrawals cost 10 MYR.
Learn more: BigPay review
HSBC Everyday Global Account
The HSBC Everyday Global Account provides personal customers with an everyday banking solution that simplifies international transactions and everyday financial management. With access to 11 currencies in one account, it offers the convenience of fee-free shopping, global ATM access and competitive currency exchange rates.
HSBC account is best for: Those seeking an everyday multi currency account for their everyday financial needs.
HSBC travel card: Receive a linked multi currency debit card for fee-free shopping in local currencies worldwide and for accessing cash at worldwide ATM’s.
Foreign transaction fees: Minimal fees with no charges for transactions carried out in supported currencies, plus competitive currency conversion rates based on the HSBC rate, which may include a markup.
International ATM withdrawals: Benefit from waived fees for cash withdrawals in local currencies at ATMs around the world for easy access to your funds when you’re abroad.
Hong Leong Foreign Currency Account
The Hong Leong Bank Foreign Currency Account provides versatile banking to a wide range of financial needs, and offers a secure way to manage funds in multiple currencies. This savings account safeguards against exchange rate fluctuations and eliminates the need for double currency conversions for foreign remittances. However this is a 30 MYR service charge every half a year in June and December.
Hong Leong account is best for: Individuals working abroad, parents supporting children studying overseas, frequent travelers and those making frequent international business transactions.
Hong Leong travel card: Hong Leong’s Foreign Currency account doesn’t offer a linked debit card.
Foreign transaction fees: Transaction fees apply, with 10.00 MYR or the equivalent charged depending on the transaction type. Additional costs, such as commissions or cable charges, may also apply.
International ATM withdrawals: The account doesn’t specify fee details as it doesn’t come with a linked debit card.
Maybank Master Foreign Account
Maybank’s Master Foreign Currency account allows customers to invest and save in multiple currencies, making it an ideal option for anyone who wants to manage their international finances efficiently. With access to 16 different currencies, the account charges a minimum 0.01 MYR and a maximum or 50k MYR per transaction and transaction charges are equivalent to 4 USD.
Maybank account is best for: those wanting to invest or save in foreign currencies of their choice.
Maybank travel card: The Master Foreign Account doesn’t come with a dedicated travel card.
Foreign transaction fees: Transaction charges apply and vary depending on the currency involved.
International ATM withdrawals: The account doesn’t specify fee details as it doesn’t come with a linked debit card.
What are the advantages of international banks?
So why bother with an international bank account at all? Here are some key advantages to know about:
Hold and exchange multiple currencies so you don’t need to switch back to MYR unnecessarily
Spend overseas with a linked card - which can mean lower costs and no foreign transaction fees
Manage your money on your phone with transaction alerts and an instant overview of all your currency balances
Open local receiving accounts to get paid easily and with no or low fees, in a selection of currencies
How to choose the best international bank account for your needs
There’s no single best international account, so you’ll need to review a few, looking at features and fees, to pick the one that suits you best.
Here are a few key points to consider when choosing the right account for you:
Availability of Foreign Currencies: Check that currencies you use frequently are supported for holding, exchange and spending
Monthly charges: Accounts are available with no monthly fees - although you may also choose to upgrade to an account with a maintenance charge to get more features
International fees: Check for foreign transaction and foreign cash fees, and ATM charges when you travel - these can mount up steeply depending on the account you select
Currency conversion rates: Ideally look for an account which uses the Google exchange rate with no hidden charges. This is transparent and makes it easier to assess what you’re actually paying for overseas transactions
International travel cards: If you’ll be traveling it’s worth checking you’ll have a linked debit or credit card, issued on a major global network
Overseas transfers: See how much you’ll pay to send money overseas, and how many countries are available for transfers - handy for sending payments to friends and family or covering overseas bills
Ease of use: Choose an account with easy mobile and online access, so you can use your account wherever you are
Extra features: Different accounts have their own features, like investment options and local bank details to get paid for free from overseas
Safety: Finally, pick a reputable provider which is licensed and regulated in Malaysia and internationally
How to open an international account
The process can vary widely for opening a digital bank account offered by a traditional bank, and a multi-currency account like Wise. Some banks may ask you to visit a branch to get started, or you may also need a linked account with the same bank in order to apply for an international account.
In either case you’ll normally need the following documents to open an international account:
Proof of ID, such as a passport
Proof of address - which may need to be in Malaysia if you choose a traditional bank
How to open international bank account online
While some traditional banks offer online options for account opening, you may still need to visit a branch or make a phone call to complete the process. With Wise and BigPay the whole process takes place online including verification.
Here’s how to open an international account with a specialist provider:
Download the provider app or head to their desktop site
Register an account using your email address and add your personal information
Get verified by uploading images of your documents
You’ll receive a physical card in the mail, and can often access a virtual card as soon as your account is verified
What are the best international banks with no fees?
It costs to offer international services. That means that while some banks may look like they have no fees, the chances are that they’ll have transaction and service fees, and exchange rate markups which can be tricky to spot.
Here is fee the structure of the providers we’ve explored in this article:
Wise fees: Accounts are free to open, there is no maintenance fee, there are low transaction fees.
BigPay fees: Accounts are free to open and there are also no maintenance fees
HSBC fees: No fee for the Everyday Global account, no foreign transaction fees for transactions in supported currencies and no fees for ATM cash withdrawals in local currencies.
Hong Leong fees: 10 MYR transaction fee (or its equivalent) and a 30 MYR service charge every half year in June and December.
Maybank fees: 4 USD (or its equivalent) transaction charge.
What is the safest international bank?
All of the providers we feature on Exiap are regulated and licensed providers, with industry level security measures.
Here’s a look at how the providers we have featured which offer international spending keep you safe when you spend:
Wise Safety: Get transaction alerts in the app, freeze and unfreeze the card easily when you travel
BigPay Safety: Only you can access your account via Touch ID and it is protected by PIN and OTP. You can also freeze your card and order a new one if you lose it.
HSBC: Access online and mobile banking 25/7 to keep on top of your account when you’re away.
Best ways to withdraw money when traveling abroad
Sometimes you can’t manage with digital payments and need to get some cash. Here are some ways to cut the costs of cash withdrawals overseas:
Always check your banks foreign transaction fees so you know if you’ll pay a premium when abroad
Check which ATMs you can use for no extra fee when you travel - providers like Wise offer some fee free international withdrawals every month
Always withdraw in the local currency wherever you are, to avoid dynamic currency conversion
Avoid withdrawals with a credit card as these have extra fees
How to avoid foreign transaction fees
But what about when you spend with your card overseas? Here are some ideas to keep down costs:
Check your bank’s foreign transaction fees and exchange rates - you may be better off with a specialist like Wise or BigPay.
- Pay in the local currency to avoid dynamic currency conversion
Look at multi-currency accounts from Wise to keep your money in local currencies to avoid paying high conversion fees with bad exchange rates
Conclusion: Best international bank for expats
There are a few different options for international accounts for expats - either from traditional banks or specialist online services.
Traditional bank options can be somewhat limited, with a focus on payments and investing rather than day to day spending. As an alternative, look at specialists like Wise, which can be handy for easy everyday use, and to hold a broad range of currencies all in the same place.
FAQs on Best Banks for International Travel
Can you open an international bank account online?
Some traditional banks offer online international accounts - but you’ll normally already need to be a customer to apply. Alternatively, look at specialists like Wise for online onboarding and verification.
What are the best international banks with no fees?
All banks and financial service providers have some fees - it’s just that these may not be easy to spot with some account options. Look for an account with a provider which is transparent about charging, so there are no surprises.
Which bank account is best for international travel?
There’s no single best account for international travel, but an account which lets you hold multiple currencies and spend with a linked debit card can help you cut the costs of currency conversion and international spending. Check out Wise for some great international account options.
How can you avoid bank charges when traveling internationally?
Double check your own account’s terms and conditions carefully before you head overseas, looking for foreign transaction fees and international ATM costs. You may find you’re better off with a specialist international account for when you’re abroad.
What bank does not charge international ATM fees?
Your own bank may have some fee free international ATM options with partner banks - or you can check out options like Wise which offers an account with some fee free overseas ATM withdrawals every month.
Should you have a separate bank account for travel?
It’s not entirely necessary to have a separate account for travel, but it can help you manage your budget, and add an extra layer of security. Pick a provider like Wise and you may also get more transparent fees and a better exchange rate compared to your bank.