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First-Years Struggle With Opening DBS Bank Accounts

All PostsNewsFirst-Years Struggle With Opening DBS Bank Accounts

story | Raphael Romasanta, Contributing Reporter

photo | Darren Ang

Many international students in the Class of 2023 have experienced trouble with their Development Bank of Singapore (DBS) bank accounts. These students have run into problems including poor communication with DBS and trouble with DBS’ online bank services.

Setting up a bank account is one of the most crucial tasks to be done in the first few weeks of classes. Students need to pay for books, materials, the occasional snack, and countless other necessities. This year, Yale-NUS College partnered with DBS to help students create bank accounts through DBS’ online portal.

Some international students, however, have faced problems with this option, some waiting weeks to have their accounts approved by DBS. Dikshant Dulal ’23, has been waiting for a month for his bank account. He has applied for an account four times, and has been rejected three. “They always say that my residential address is wrong, but I put the address on my proof of residence letter. I’ve applied again, but I haven’t heard back from them in ten days,” he says. 

Other problems include the activation of the bank account itself. Ivy Liao ’23, says that the set up process is confusing. “Upon getting my card, I tried to activate it online but my temporary PIN did not work. I called DBS three times, but their instructions were unclear.” 

Not having a local bank account is difficult for international students. Dulal has not been able to get his debit card, so he is relying on cash. “I’ve just been using the money that my parents left me,” he says, as without a bank account he cannot receive money from home. Liao faces the same issue as Dulal. “My parents are overseas, and they can’t transfer money to me since my bank account is not set up,” she said. This has led to issues when buying materials for classes, especially textbooks, which are often costly.

Each year, in order to help the incoming students, Yale-NUS partners with a bank to streamline the account creation process and allow students to apply online. Despite the partnership this year, however, the Dean of Students Office notes that Yale-NUS does not endorse DBS. “We reached out to multiple banks, and of those, only DBS was willing and able to have representatives on campus during move-in day of Orientation. DBS was also the one to recommend the type of account,” said Juanda Kasenda, an Executive from Student Services, Dean of Students Office. 

He explained that “DBS sent in documents and a presentation on how to open a bank account, which were then sent out to the students. DBS also hosted a booth during orientation for students to ask questions.” The College also provided the proof of residency letter and other critical documents to the students.

Mr. Kasenda and Carol Pillai, the Associate Director of Student Services, Dean of Students Office explained that prolonged wait times are a result of the bank’s adherence to new regulations from the Monetary Authority of Singapore regarding money laundering that were issued in May 2019. Student bank accounts typically receive large deposits once per semester, which means that these bank accounts are more heavily scrutinized by DBS in order to ensure that these accounts are legitimate.

Additionally, there are smaller issues that can lead to longer waiting times; some international students do not have a Singaporean phone number, are underage, or do not have a student pass. Although it is impossible to speed up the process, students can call DBS to inquire about their account status or to check the requirements for opening an account.

Dulal ended up opening an account with OCBC after being rejected by DBS. Ivy opened her account one week ago after around a month of waiting. Both students did not know that Student Services could have assisted them. The Dean of Students office says that Yale-NUS Student Services is open for students with these kinds of issues. Although Student Services cannot speed up the process, they can help put students in touch with DBS or inform them about the proper procedures and guidelines when creating a bank account. They also plan to put out a list of Frequently Asked Questions in order to respond to the general problems that students are facing with regards to bank accounts.

Student Services also notes that anyone still struggling with their bank account is encouraged to go to them for help, and they will do what they can to assist.

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