Foreigners can freely set up bank accounts in Malaysia if they fulfill certain requirements. In order to open a bank account in Malaysia, without holding a residency permit, you need a reference from either a Malaysian contact or your company. Generally, you are required to hold a work permit or to be in Malaysia under the MM2H program to be able to open a bank account. However, as regulations are not that firmly set, some banks will also accept your application without such a visa.
Documentation includes your passport and, if applicable, a statement from your employer. It might make things easier if your Malaysian contact has an account at the bank you are applying at. It is also possible to open foreign currency accounts at most Malaysian commercial banks.
Along with your Malaysian bank account you can also apply for a credit card which will be billed in the local currency, the ringgit. Some banks, however, are very unwilling to issue them to expatriates. So shop around and try your luck at different banks. To obtain a credit card, you will have to provide documents like your passport and work permit, your payslips and returned income tax payments. AmBank, CIMB, Alliance Bank, Citibank, HSBC and Maybank are some of the banks that issue credit cards.
Nearly all banks have ATM facilities, some of which accept foreign credit and debit cards. Look for a respective label at the cash point machine. Several ATMs do not only permit withdrawals but they also provide premium banking facilities and the option to transfer or deposit money.
Offshore accounts are also popular with expatriates as it offers a tax-effective way of managing finances while you’re not resident in your home country. Not all countries treat offshore investments in the same way, so make sure you take advice from someone who is familiar with the regulations in your home country. Labuan Island has become the center for offshore company formation in Malaysia.
Offshore accounts operate in the same manner as regular accounts. You can have a savings or current (checking) account, fixed-term deposit, and a debit card and credit card with your offshore bank. Some expatriates use these accounts as their main account and others just use them for savings. HSBC and Standard Chartered are popular choices with expatriates because of their worldwide presence.
Having an offshore account with an international bank can be an advantage when you move to a new country as they may be able to set up a local bank account for you before you arrive. Minimum balance requirements vary; so shop around for an account that suits you. The island of Labuan, just off the coast of Sabah, has quite a few offshore banks.