How to Open a Bank Account in Malaysia

If you’re a new arrival in Malaysia, a frequent visitor, or planning a move there, you might be wondering how to open a bank account to hold and handle MYR payments for day to day use. Opening a bank account with a traditional bank in Malaysia can be a complex process, depending on your situation and residency. This guide can help. 

We’ll look at the options available, the documents you need, and compare them to less complicated solutions, such as Wise or Revolut. More on that later, read on. 

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What documents do I need?

To open an account with a traditional bank in Malaysia you’ll usually need to visit in person, taking along your identification documents for verification. You may also need to have your minimum account opening deposit. While the exact requirements vary by bank and account product, here are some commonly requests:

  • Proof of identity for Malaysian citizens and PRs - NRIC/MyKad/MyPR, Police or Armed Forces ID card or Malaysian birth certificate

  • Proof of identity for foreigners - valid passport and visa or residence documents

  • Proof of address - local utility bill or phone bill

  • Proof of income - employer letter or payslips  

  • Minimum opening deposit amount

Save the paperwork with alternative solutions like Wise or Revolut

Traditional banks in Malaysia don’t make it easy to open an account if you’re new to the country or still planning a move. Many new arrivals won’t have a local proof of address in Malaysia, which may be a requirement - and of course you’ll also often have to appear in person at a bank, making it near impossible for non-residents.

Modern alternative providers like Wise or Revolut can usually offer an easier and more flexible online account opening experience. You’ll be able to choose a range of different ways to get verified, and use your proof of your address from your home country, to open your account before you even arrive. 

Pick a provider which offers MYR account details and you’ll be able to manage your money easily in MYR, as well as a broad range of other currencies - often with lower fees compared to a normal bank.  

It’s worth noting upfront that Revolut accounts aren’t available for people resident in Malaysia, so you’ll need to open your account before you travel. 

Wise on the other hand can offer accounts to Malaysian residents, as well as serving a range of other countries. More on both providers coming up later.

How to open a bank account in Malaysia

It’s pretty much impossible to open a bank account in Malaysia without personally attending a branch, even though Malaysian banks do commonly state they offer online account opening.

To give an example, HSBC Malaysia advertises online account opening. However, in reality you can apply online quite easily for an account - but still need to visit a branch to verify your identity at a self service machine or regular branch counter. CIMB works similarly.

Standard Chartered Malaysia does genuinely offer online account opening - but to be eligible you must already have an account in your name with another Malaysian bank - ruling this option out if you’re new to the country.

Unfortunately, for most foreign new arrivals in Malaysia you’ll have no option but to visit a branch in person and take along the documents listed above, if you want to open an account with a traditional bank.

Can I open a bank account in Malaysia before arrival?

It’s pretty tricky to open a Malaysian bank account before arriving there. One option is to check if your own bank has a presence in Malaysia - in which case they may be able to support you switching your account to the Malaysian part of the company. If not, online alternative providers, such as Wise and Revolut, which can offer a more flexible account opening process, are probably your best bet.

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Which account is best in Malaysia for foreigners? 

ServiceWiseRevolutMaybankCIMB
EligibilityAvailable to customers in many different regionsLegal residents of the EEA, Australia, Singapore, Switzerland, Japan, the UK and USLegal residents of MalaysiaLegal residents of Malaysia
GBP and USD account optionsYesYesOnly for limited purposes such as trade and investmentOnly for limited purposes such as trade and investment
Open before you arrive in MalaysiaYesYesNoNo
Open onlineYesYesNoNo
Opening feeNo feeNo fee

Minimum opening deposits vary by account - usually 500 to 1,000 MYR

Minimum opening deposits vary by account - usually 500 to 1,000 MYR
Fall below feeNo feeNo feeVaries by account -  some accounts have no minimum balanceVaries by account
Maintenance feeNo feeVaries by account tier

Varies by account - often 10 MYR every 6 months

Varies by account - often 10 MYR every 6 months
Online international money transfersLow, transparent fees and the mid-market exchange rate

Costs vary by region - some account plans offer free international transfers and currency exchange 

Online - 10 MYR 

In branch - 10 MYR - 30 MYR based on currency and send location


Exchange rate markup + third party charges also apply

Online - 10 MYR 

In branch - 10 MYR - 30 MYR based on currency 


Exchange rate markup + third party charges also apply

Close account fee No feeNo fee20 MYR

10 - 20 MYR

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Wise

Wise is a specialist in currency exchange and multi-currency accounts, which are available to residents of Malaysia and a broad range of other countries. Accounts can 

hold and exchange 50+ currencies, with a linked debit card for easy spending. You’ll also be able to send payments to 80+ countries, and get local bank details for up to 10 foreign currencies including MYR. 

Best of all, Wise currency exchange always uses the real mid-market exchange rate and low, transparent fees making it up to 6x cheaper than a regular bank.

Account types: Depending on where you are in the world, you’ll be able to open personal and business accounts with no minimum balance or monthly fees 

Eligibility: Wise accounts are available to customers in a broad range of countries - although the exact account services available may vary based on your location. Simply use your home proof of address to get your account open and access a MYR balance. 

Is it safe? Wise is registered with a broad range of global regulatory bodies, including the Central Bank of Malaysia, the FCA in the UK and more. Read Is Wise Safe? to learn more.

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Revolut

It’s helpful to note straight up that Revolut accounts are not currently offered to customers resident in Malaysia. However, you may still choose to open an account before you go, if you’re looking for a broad multi-currency account with linked payment card.

Revolut accounts include a personal account for free or you can choose to upgrade to a paid plan to unlock more features. All accounts can hold and handle 28 currencies, and some with options to budget, invest, save and exchange, plus Junior accounts for  family members.

Account types: Standard account plans are free or you can upgrade to a paid plan - fees vary based on your region

Eligibility: Available to customers with addresses in the UK, the EEA, Australia, Singapore, Switzerland, Japan, and the US.

Is it safe? Revolut is registered with regulatory bodies wherever it trades, and is a trustworthy provider to choose

Maybank

Maybank is the largest bank in Malaysia, making it a good pick if you’re looking for an account from a traditional brick and mortar provider. There are plenty of account types on offer, including Islamic accounts, business accounts and products for saving and investing. However, most products require customers to be resident in Malaysia and attend a bank in person to sign up.

Account types: Current accounts, saving accounts, options for investing, loans and foreign currency trading.

Eligibility: Typically only available to customers aged over 18, with addresses in Malaysia.

Is it safe? Yes. Maybank is regulated by the Central Bank of Malaysia and is a safe option for your money.

Read our Maybank International Transfers article to learn more about overseas transfers with Maybank.

CIMB

As the second biggest bank in Malaysia, CIMB is another solid pick with a full suite of financial service solutions for customers. Accounts include business and Islamic account products, as well as conventional accounts for spending, saving, trading currencies and earning cash back and rewards. As with most traditional banks in Malaysia you’ll normally need a local proof of address, and a visit to the bank to get your account set up.

Account types: Broad range of conventional, Islamic and business accounts for all customer needs.

Eligibility: Available to customers aged over 18, with addresses in Malaysia.

Is it safe? CIMB is registered and regulated by the Central Bank of Malaysia making it a safe pick.

What are the costs?

Typically when you open an account with a Malaysian bank you won’t need to pay a fee as such, but you’ll almost always have to make a minimum opening deposit. Standard accounts can require around 500 MYR - 1,000 MYR but premium products may require much higher deposits, or ask you to invest or take insurance with the bank to become eligible for the account.

On top of these fees, there are quite a few more common costs to look out for. Read the account terms and conditions and look in particular for fees like these:

  • Maintenance fees - often waived if you maintain a minimum balance

  • Out of network ATM fees

  • International transfer fees

  • Receiving fees for domestic and international payments

  • Foreign transaction fees

  • Statement fees if you require regular statements

  • Cheque fees 

  • Early closure fees

Malaysian bank fees tend to be quite complex to read and digest. For a simpler payment structure which is transparent - and often cheaper than a regular bank - have a look at alternative providers like Wise and Revolut.

Read our detailed guide on Wise fees to learn more.

Tips for transferring money

Transacting internationally with traditional banks can be an expensive affair. Spending overseas or with international retailers can come with foreign transaction fees, and sending payments abroad can have a few extra costs which are not always obvious. 

  • Bank international transfer fees can vary based on whether you arrange the payment online or in person - they may even vary based on the branch you choose

  • Bank foreign payments can use a marked up exchange rate - check for extra fees added into the exchange rate you’re offered

  • Banks usually use the SWIFT payment network which can mean third party costs creep in, pushing up the overall costs and meaning your recipient gets less than you expect

Compare the overall costs, including exchange rate markups and third party costs, of sending money with your normal bank, against using a specialist online service. You may find you can get a better deal elsewhere.

Conclusion

Malaysia has plenty of traditional banks to choose from - but getting an account up and running as a non-resident or before you arrive may be tricky. It’s normal to need to visit a branch in person and provide a local proof of address, which is hard if you’re new to the country.

Instead, for an easier onboarding process, and lower overall fees, take a look at online specialist services available in your region. Companies like Wise and Revolut can often offer a more flexible approach to managing your money across borders, with lower costs to match.

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FAQ

Can a foreigner open an account in Malaysia?

Foreigners resident in Malaysia will be able to open accounts with traditional banks, as long as they have legal residency and a proof of address. Otherwise you may be better off with an online alternative.

How much do I need to open a bank account in Malaysia?

You’ll normally need to place a minimum opening deposit to open your account - 500 MYR to 1,000 MYR is common for standard accounts.

Can I open a Malaysia bank account online?

Traditional banks don’t normally offer online opening processes. Instead, have a look at specialist services available in your region, like Wise or Revolut, which can offer a fully online onboarding and verification.

Can I open a bank account in Malaysia before landing?

To open an account before you arrive in Malaysia you’ll probably have to use a specialist service - Malaysian banks usually need you to show your paperwork in person at a local branch before you can use your account.

By Seyma Mektepli
Updated 12 August 2022