How To Invest

How to open a brokerage account in Singapore and choose the right broker (updated 2021)

We get emails time to time from readers who are new to investing about how to open a brokerage account in Singapore. Most of time, we simply point them to our stockbroker (who basically sets everything up for them).

But we realised there are other people who may also be interested in knowing how to open a brokerage account — and the things that go into choosing the right brokerage — but just haven’t gotten around to asking how it’s done. So we decided to do a quick, simple guide on how to open a brokerage account for those who need a little bit of advice.

But first things first — before you open a brokerage account, you need to choose a brokerage firm. Singapore brokerage firms are very nearly similar in the fees they charge (S$25) and the facilities they provide. But there are still some minor differences (e.g. ease of using trading platform, level of support, etc.) that may tip the scales in favour toward one particular brokerage for you.

So before we go into the steps of setting up a brokerage account, here are some things to consider:

7 things to know when opening a brokerage account

1. CDP vs. nominee account

Before you open a brokerage account with a brokerage firm in Singapore, you first need to open a central depository (CDP) account. What is the difference?

A brokerage account allows you to trade shares through your brokerage firm. The CDP account is where all the shares you purchase from the local stock market (i.e. the SGX) are placed. The CDP account is held directly by the investor (you) which means you are the direct owner of the shares. Being the direct owner also gives you certain advantages — voting rights, the right to attend AGMs, etc. Do note you can have multiple brokerage accounts with different brokerages but you only need one CDP account.

The other option is to have your shares held in a nominee (custodian) account by your brokerage. This means the shares are bought under your brokerage’s name on your behalf and then placed in a nominee account assigned to you. Currently, these brokerage firms hold your stocks in nominee accounts — Citibank Brokerage, Standard Chartered, Interactive Brokers, Saxo Markets, FSMOne, Moomoo, and Tiger Brokers.

You can read more about the pros and cons between using a CDP and nominee account.

2. Brokerage fees

When you compare fees among Singapore brokerages, you notice that all of them charge more or less the same commission fees:

BrokerageMin. Fees (S$)Trading Commissions
< S$50K> S$50K-100K> S$100K
CGS-CIMB Securities250.275%0.22%0.18%
Citibank Brokerage280.25%0.20%0.18%
DBS Vickers250.28%0.22%0.18%
FSMOne100.08%0.08%0.08%
Interactive Brokers2.500.08%0.08%0.08%
KGI Securities250.275%0.22%0.18%
Lim & Tan Securities250.28%0.22%0.18%
Maybank Kim Eng Securities250.275%0.22%0.18%
Moomoo0.990.03%0.03%0.03%
OCBC Securities250.275%0.22%0.18%
Phillip Securities250.28%0.22%0.18%
Saxo Markets50.08%0.08%0.08%
Standard Chartered100.20%0.20%0.20%
Tiger Brokers2.880.08%0.08%0.08%
UOB Kay Hian250.275%0.22%0.20%

Fees shown are for SGX Singapore dollar stocks only. Fees may vary for foreign-listed stocks and foreign currency-denominated stocks. Updated as of 15 March 2021.

You’ll notice a few exceptions — Interactive Brokers, Saxo Markets, Standard Chartered, FSMOne, and Tiger Brokers all charge lower commission fees. The reason for their lower prices is because these brokerages hold your stocks in a nominee account instead of your CDP account, which is less popular with local investors.

Interactive Brokers, Saxo Markets, Tiger Brokers, and Moomoo both stand out here as the cheapest — with S$2.50, S$5, S$2.88, and S$0.99 minimums respectively. (Saxo is currently running a promotion until 16 February 2022 where you stand a chance to win cash prizes and a Polestar 2 electric car.)

3. Market access

I’ll assume you plan on trading in the local stock market since you’re to looking to open a brokerage account in Singapore. But besides the SGX, you may also be interested in stocks listed in foreign markets like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong, the U.S., etc. If that is the case, you probably want to check if a brokerage offers you access to the markets you want.

Do note that foreign shares are not held in your CDP account, instead they’re held in a nominee account with your brokerage. Most local brokerages charge S$2 per month per counter for foreign stocks. This can add up to quite a bit if you invest quite a bit overseas (in which case you may prefer to go direct to a foreign brokerage firm to save on fees).

For U.S. markets, I personally prefer to use a U.S. brokerage as their commissions are much cheaper (Interactive Brokers goes as low as US$1 per trade). A few U.S. brokerages like TDAmeritrade have Singapore branches which can come in handy in case you need any support. Besides the U.S., Interactive Brokers and Saxo offer access to multiple exchanges around the world at competitive rates. So if you intend to invest outside of Singapore, these two might be more suitable for you.

Related: 5 reasons why you should invest in foreign stock markets

4. Types of investment products

Besides market access, you may also want to consider the types of investment products available to you. Besides stocks, brokerages may also offer access to ETFs, unit trusts, bonds, options, futures, CFDs, etc.

Some investors may want access to some of these products – for example, I may want to use put options while waiting to purchase a stock. But if you’re not familiar with them and new to investing, then it’s probably best to stay away and stick to investing in just stocks, bonds, and certain ETFs.

5. Trading platform

If you like to place your trades online or on your mobile often, then you may like having an online trading platform/app that is easy and intuitive to use — though this is subjective and comes down to personal preferences. If you’re heavy into technical analysis then features like price charts and technical indicators may be important to you as well.

If so, you may consider trying a demo of the brokerage’s trading platform to see if you like using it. The last thing you want is be confused by your brokerage’s trading platform and you end up keying in the wrong trades which could cost you a lot of money.

6. Reputation and track record

Probably the most important factor when it comes to choosing a brokerage is its reputation. We don’t want to be caught in a situation where a brokerage firm goes bust when you have thousands (or millions) of dollars of your hard-earned money kept with them. Even though your stocks are protected in a CDP or nominee account, things can get messy!

MF Global, one of the world’s largest derivatives brokerages, misused US$1.6 billion of its customers’ funds to cover its own trading losses before the brokerage firm ultimately filed for bankruptcy in 2011. Local investors of MF Global Singapore were hit and feared they might never get their investment funds back. It’s therefore important to check a brokerage’s history and look for any warning signs that might be cause for alarm. In MF Global’s case, the firm had a series of perceived liquidity problems and was hit with large fines and penalties starting in 2008 before it finally collapsed in 2011.

When it comes to SGX retail brokerages in Singapore, all of them are tightly regulated by the MAS and many have been around for decades. For example, Lim & Tan Securities and Phillip Securities were both established in the 1970s. Some brokerages are also owned by banks which are household names with Singaporeans.

7. Level of support

Find a dedicated stockbroker that is able to give you great service and timely support. Most of the time, my stockbroker is a quick WhatsApp text, email or phone call away. And even though I can log in to trade online, I usually contact my stockbroker directly and he gets the job done.

I understand that finding a good trading representative that suits your needs can be hit or miss at times, but if you manage to do so, that’s great! I can’t mention the number of times my stockbroker has been there to help me settle any administrative issues or answer any queries I’ve had regarding my trades. On the other side of the coin, great service also means being a good client. So don’t pester your stockbroker incessantly and only approach them if you really need their assistance.

Most importantly, you want a stockbroker that follows your investment objective. If he understands that you’re a medium/long-term investor, he shouldn’t be calling you to offer daily market commentary (unless you request it) or lure you into speculating on short-term trades.

Even though a stockbroker relies on your trading commissions to earn his living, an honest one will not put his interests over his clients’. So make sure you find a stockbroker you can trust and who is candid with you at all times.

Steps to open a brokerage account in Singapore

Step 1: Open a CDP account

To open a CDP account, you need to be at least 18 years of age and have a bank account with one of the following banks in Singapore – Citibank, DBS/POSB, HSBC, Maybank, OCBC, Standard Chartered Bank and UOB.

You can apply for your CDP account online via the SGX website. You can either use your SingPass login to automatically fill in the information required or complete their online form to register your CDP account. The online process is hassle-free and speeds things up.

However, if you prefer the traditional offline route, you can download and fill up the CDP application form, include your supporting documents, and mail it to:

The Central Depository (Pte) Limited
11 North Buona Vista Drive #06-07
The Metropolis Tower 2
Singapore 138589

Step 2: Choose a brokerage and open a brokerage account

There are basically two ways to open a brokerage account:

a) Open an account online

Simply download and fill up the application form, include your supporting documents, and mail it to the brokerage’s mailing address. You can also open an account directly online if the brokerage offers that feature.

To make things easier, we’ve included the relevant sign-up links for all Singapore brokerages below:

BrokerageOpen accountFull price list
CGS-CIMB SecuritiesViewView
Citibank BrokerageViewView
DBS VickersViewView
FSMOneViewView
Interactive BrokersViewView
KGI SecuritiesViewView
Lim & Tan SecuritiesViewView
Maybank Kim Eng SecuritiesViewView
MoomooViewView
OCBC SecuritiesViewView
Phillip SecuritiesViewView
Saxo MarketsViewView
Standard CharteredViewView
Tiger BrokersViewView
UOB Kay HianViewView

b) Head to the office

If you absolutely hate dealing with paperwork or you’re not sure how to fill up the forms, then you can head down to the office of the brokerage of your choice and have a representative help you complete the entire process on the spot. (Check first if your preferred broker is currently accepting walk-ins due to COVID restrictions.)

Another advantage when you head down to the office is that they can also assist you to open a CDP account if you haven’t already done so, which means you can skip Step 1. Sweet.

The fifth perspective

Opening a brokerage account is the first step you need to take to start investing and buy stocks in Singapore; you literally can’t trade without one! So I hope this simple guide gives you some clear directions and helps you open a brokerage account in Singapore.

If you have any questions that you think we could help with, simply ask in the comments below and we’ll be glad to share what we know. Happy investing! 😊

Adam Wong

Adam Wong is the editor-in-chief of The Fifth Person and author of the national bestseller Lucky Bastard! which made the Sunday Times Top 10 Bestseller's List in 2009 and Value Investing Made Easy which made the Kinokuniya Business Bestseller's List in 2013. In 2010, he appeared on U.S. national television on the morning show The Balancing Act. An avid investor himself, Adam shares his personal thoughts and opinions as he journals his investing journey online.

134 Comments

  1. Hi, I do understand that a monthly fee of $2 is needed per counter if I am trading US or Hong Kong Stocks (when I am residing in Singapore).

    1) However, won’t there be a transfer fee if I was to use a US or Hong Kong based broker and wire money to them from Singapore? If I am not wrong, the wire out fee for OptionsXpress is $15.

    2) In addition for some brokers like Interactive Brokers, there is a min. monthly activity requirement. You need to trade a min. no. of times per month or be subjected to some fee eg. (USD 10 – commission).

    Am I right?

    1. Hi T,

      1) As far as I know, OptionsXpress doesn’t charge a fee to wire transfer funds into your OX account. The bank, however, may do so. Do note you can only wire USD to your OX account.

      As an alternative, OX Singapore also accepts USD or SGD cheques to fund your account. You may lose a little on forex conversion though if you use an SGD cheque.

      http://www.optionsxpress.com/about_us/faq.aspx#wire-transfer

      2) Yes, IB charges a minimum fee of US$10 per month unless you generate at least US$10 in commissions (about 10 trades) OR you have US$100,000 in equity in your account.

      https://www.interactivebrokers.com/en/index.php?f=4969

    2. I do not understand monthly fee per counter. Lets say I am Invest in NADAQ US and buy three stock Apple , Amazon and Google in Jan 2021. So I need to pay extra 2$ per for NADAQ per month or I need to keep paying 6$ per month.

  2. Hi Adam,

    I’m holding 30 lots of China New Town stocks which were delisted in SGX months ago. As I did not sell at the losing offered price, they transferred the shares to Hong Kong stock market. I received my shares ( scripts ) through the brokerage firm m/s Tricor ( may be spelt wrongly ).

    Can you advise how shall I sell and how to monitor the price of this stock. Do I need to open a new brokerage account when I want to sell the shares? Do I have to mail back the scripts when the shares are sold?

    Thank you.

    Regards
    Jenny

    1. Hi Jenny,

      You can monitor the price of the stock anytime online: https://www.bloomberg.com/quote/1278:HK

      If you want to sell your physical scrip shares on the stock exchange, you need to “dematerialize” it first.

      Contact your brokerage and ask them for their procedure on how to convert physical scrip shares into digital scripless shares. Once your brokerage accepts your scrip shares, it will be placed in your brokerage account which you can sell thereafter.

      Yes, you need to give up your scrip shares when they’re transferred to your broker.

  3. Hi, Would like to know which brokerage are you guys using? Mind to share? I have an account with OCBC and going to open an trading account with their ocbc securities but as you said the support is important. Would like to hear more thought before making final decision on which to open.

    Thanks

    1. Hi Maxx,

      I personally use CIMB and OptionsXpress.

      My local broker has given me good support over the years and I see no reason to change at the moment.

      OX because they were one of the first few US brokerages with a local presence and I just stuck with them since. Trading platform is very easy to use as well.

      1. Thank for sharing. I’m trying to open with OX but have to wait untill October due to they are merging with Charles and temp not accepting new account. I did hear many positive about them.

  4. I intend to trade US stocks but not actively. Anybody knows which of these online brokerage – Saxo, Standard Chartered and Option Express will be the cheapest taking into account the currency exchange rate too?

    1. Hi Jessie,

      If you click on the price lists above, you’ll note that both SAXO and Standard Chartered charge a minimum fee of US$10/- for US trades.

      OptionsXpress charges a minimum of US$4.95 per trade.

      I believe their exchange rates will be similar, based on the prevailing market rate. Or you can always convert currencies on your own first before funding your account.

  5. Just to let everyone know that OptionsXpress has integrated with Charles Schwab after its takeover. Fees and commissions remain the same.

  6. Hi Adam,

    I understand that US has a estate duty tax for assets that are USD60K and above.

    For a Singapore citizen that holds US equities through local broker in a nominee account, will the US estate duty be applicable?

    1. Hi Wei,

      Great question. This is a bit of a grey area from what I’ve read online. Technically, the broker as the nominee holds the shares and is not subject to estate tax (since it can’t die).

      But the tax authorities may still view that the individual is the ultimate beneficial owner and is still subject to estate tax — if they know he has passed on.

      You can read more here: https://www.citadel.co.za/insights/articles/death-and-global-taxes/

      To be sure, you can ask your broker or, failing that, a legal adviser familiar with U.S. estate law.

    1. Hi Thomas,

      As far as I know, I see no reason why you can’t keep your account when you leave the country 🙂

  7. Hi Adam,

    I am a Malaysian currently residing in KL and would like to buy some ETFs from the UK market. Are Malaysians allowed to open an account with Standard Chartered Singapore as I can see it offers one of the lowest trading fees when it comes to min amount.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Chris,

      Yes, as far as I know, you can open a bank/trading account with them as a foreigner. But you may need to check if you need to be a local (Singapore) resident.

  8. Not sure if anyone asked this already, so I’m sorry if I’m repeating the question. Is it possible to trade in Singapore markets if you are European and if so, are there any additional costs/fees?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Marin,

      No worries!

      Yes, you can either trade directly with your home brokerage firm if they offer access to the SGX or you can open a brokerage account in Singapore.

      Your brokerage firm may charge you extra fees for trading in a foreign market, but there should be no extra charges for a Singapore brokerage account trading Singapore shares.

  9. Hi Adam,

    Articles were super easy to understand and much appreciated.

    May I know was there any related article describing stock types (Stock, EFT, MFT,Bonds etc….) to invest for a beginner ? Also, stating its basic features.

    1. Hi Janice,

      Do you mean like a paper trading account? Most brokerages should allow you to test their demo account for as long as you like 🙂

  10. Hello!

    I am a Canadian living in Japan right now. It seems from your previous responses I can open a brokerage account and trade in Singapore, even if I am a foreigner *not* living there. So to open a CDP, I need a bank account at one of Citi, HSBC etc in Singapore right? Do you know if I can open a bank account in those banks without being physically present in Singapore?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi fram,

      Sorry for the confusion. You can open a Singapore bank account as a foreigner but you need to be a local resident (i.e. you’re either a citizen/permanent resident or have an employment/study pass.)

      However, if you want to open an offshore Singapore bank account like in your case, then the bank will consider other factors (e.g. your nationality, your source of funds, whether you’re a HNWI and willing to deposit a significant amount, etc.)

      You may find this article useful: http://echeck.org/how-to-open-offshore-bank-account-singapore/

    2. Hi Fram,

      Just to follow up on this. You can open a Singapore trading account through Saxo Markets as they accept non-resident foreigners. But this will be through their nominee account instead of the CDP.

  11. Hi Adam, I would like to open a brokerage account and I would like to go to the bank physically to open it. May I know if I can open the account at any bank or is it just the selected few? Thanks for your time:)

    1. Hi Giselle,

      No worries! To open a CDP account that’s linked to your brokerage account, you need to have a bank account with one of the following banks in Singapore – Citibank, DBS/POSB, HSBC, Maybank, OCBC, Standard Chartered Bank and UOB.

  12. Hello Adam,

    Hope you are doing good. I’ve just started working and am exploring the idea of investing but however, I do not see myself constantly monitoring on stocks at the present moment.

    Which type of investment would you recommend that I should go for?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi YJ,

      I can’t really give you any direct advice as your financial situation, risk profile and investment goals all are unique and individual to you. That’s one of the reasons we why never make recommendations to buy or sell any stock on this site — what makes sense as an investment for someone, may not be the same for someone else.

      But to help answer your question, you can read this article to give you more direction — https://fifthperson.com/here-are-the-top-5-stock-investment-styles-find-out-which-one-works-best-for-you/

    1. Hi Minh,

      Yes, you can open a Singapore brokerage and bank account as a foreigner but you need to be a local resident (i.e. you’re either a citizen/permanent resident or have an employment/study pass.)

    2. Hi Minh,

      I checked with Saxo Markets and they allow non-resident foreigners to open a Singapore trading account with them. You may want to check them out.

  13. Hello Adam,

    I’ve opened two days ago a DBS Vickers trading account. I will tomorrow apply for a CDP account.
    If I understood well, this should be enough to deal with the SGX. But what about others stock exchanges ? Do I need an other brokerage to invest on US market ? Is it necessary, or more interesting ?

    1. Hi Chris,

      If you’re considering the U.S. markets, I’d suggest opening a U.S. brokerage account. Interactive Brokers, Vanguard, Charles Schwab are all good options. (Note that IB has a monthly fee if you have less than a US$100,000 balance.)

      Their fees are much lower — around US$5 per trade and as low as US$1 on IB — and their platform UI/UX is frankly better than our local platforms.

    2. Hi Adam, did you pay tax when you sell US stocks? May I know how much is their tax? Thank you.

      1. Hi Caroline,

        I don’t pay any capital gains tax, but there’s a 30% withholding tax on dividends. For this reason, it makes more sense for me to invest for growth in the U.S. than dividends.

  14. Went to a number of brokers, all who said they have regulatory restrictions barring them from opening an account for US citizens, even if hold Singapore PR status. I received SGX-listed shares as part of employment for an SGX-listed company, which have been deposited in CDP. Are there brokers who will set up an account for US citizens, or is there another way that I can dispose of the shares without a broker when the time comes to sell?

    1. Hi Hunter,

      I believe this may have to do with U.S. tax laws and that local brokerages rather not deal with the IRS if they come calling. Which ones have you approached? Some may accept U.S. persons as long as they don’t trade in U.S. stocks using their account.

      I believe you need a brokerage to sell your shares in the CDP as it is simply an account to hold your stocks and doesn’t have any trading facilities.

  15. Hi Adam,

    Thanks for your article. I’m a Singaporean who is currently studying in the US and will be studying there for the next 2 years, and then perhaps doing my Master’s in Europe. I have not opened a brokerage account before and I am thinking of doing so now (as I am back in Singapore for my summer vacation), but there are many complications and questions that I can’t seem find answers to on the internet. I sincerely hope you can help me!

    1) As per what you said in your article, to open a CDP account, you need to have a bank account with one of the following banks in Singapore – Citibank, DBS/POSB, HSBC, Maybank, OCBC, Standard Chartered Bank and UOB. I have a Maybank account, but I DO NOT INTEND TO TRADE with it at all, because I have insufficient funds in there. I will be trading only with my US Bank of America account. Is it still possible for me to open a brokerage account? Or is there some way I can open a brokerage account with Maybank, but invest with my money in my US BOA account? 

    2) Furthermore, I intend to trade in the US stock market. This means I need to open a custodial account. Do I need to connect a Singaporean bank account to my custodial account, like a CDP account? Or is there a way I can directly connect my US account to my custodial account?

    3) Say I decide to open a CDP account with my Maybank account. What happens when I decide to close my Maybank account in the future – will I lose my brokerage account, or can I connect another local bank account to it without losing my brokerage account?

    4) Can you own both a CDP and a custodial account at the same time?

    Thank you so much for your help! I haven’t been able to find any answers to these questions, and I’ve even tried calling up several brokerage customer hotlines to no avail. Hope to hear from you!

    1. Hi Victoria,

      You’re welcome!

      1) A CDP account is a holding account that holds your SGX stocks under your personal name. We require a bank account to open a CDP account because the bank account handles the payment and receipt of money when you trade local shares. Your CDP account is separate from your brokerage account. Once you have a CDP account, you can open a trading account with any local brokerage who will link the trading account you open with them to your personal CDP account.

      2) If you plan on trading the U.S. markets, I suggest you skip the local brokerages and use a U.S. brokerage like Charles Schwab or Vanguard instead. They offer lower fees at only US$5 per trade.

      3) Your CDP account always stays with you. You can always use another Singapore brokerage account to transact your SGX stocks in your CDP account.

      4) Yes.

      Hope this helps!

  16. I am indian and trading in NSE of india I origin of india can i trading in singapore stock exchange in indices of option or future….
    How can i open account from india and its

  17. Hi Adam,

    I’m a Singapore Citizen, I want to open a trading account, to invest in Singapore stock. Kindly guide me the best way, thank you

    1. Hi Afzal,

      The next step is to pick a brokerage from the list above and sign up for an account online. If you prefer, you can also head down to their office if you need help with opening an account.

  18. Hi Adam,

    I an a Malaysian presently residing in Malaysia,.

    If I have an account with Interactive Brokers, will it be possible for me to purchase SGX shares and S-REITs as a foreigner? Are all SGX shares and S-REITS kept in IB’s Nominee Accounts?

    Also, when it’s time for dividend payout, will the dividends be paid out directly into my IB account instead of receiving a physical dividend cheque sent to my Malaysian address?

    Appreciate if you can shed some light in this matter.

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Sean,

      Yes, IB provides access to SGX stocks and REITs for non-Singaporean residents. All shares will be kept in IB’s nominee account and dividends will be credited there as well.

  19. hi mr adam

    how with indonesian people like me to trade sgx market and open account in singapore securities?is it same as the method that you have explained above? or there are others ways

    Thanks,
    Teddy

      1. Hi Adam,

        Just a follow-up question on this,

        UOB Kay Hian, RHB and Philips are operating in Indonesia with their online trading platforms. As I checked they provide access to SEA markets and Europe as well.

        Is that correct or did I missed anything on my findings please ?

  20. Hi Adam,

    Now that Charles Schwab is closing down their office in Singapore, do you have any other recommendations on brokerage account for local investors who are looking to open up an account to trade US stocks?

    1. Hi Daniel,

      Yeah, I got the news as well.

      I’m actually considering Saxo Markets myself which would also give me access to the European, Hong Kong and other Asian markets.

  21. Hi Adam,
    I am a Malaysian and would like to open a trading account for US market. Are TDAmeritrade or Interactive Brokers a good to choice to use? What is the requirement to open an account with them?