Some banks offer premier banking (a bit like business class vs economy class) for good customers – usually those with a minimum account balance. Such banking is preferable, as mainstream banking can be extremely slow. To avoid all forms of queuing, many banks offer Internet and telephone banking services. This includes bill payment. Either form of service is highly recommended as it saves sending cheques through the post or standing in long queues to pay bills.
In order to open an account you will need to be referred by someone. This can be done by a Malaysian contact or your company can assist with this.
The Malaysian Ringgit is not freely convertible, and if you take the currency overseas with you it will be difficult to exchange it for foreign currencies. However you can buy foreign currency Travellers Cheques with Ringgit. Sending more than RM10,000 overseas in one transaction or taking a similar amount out of the country in cash requires the National Bank’s (Bank Negara) approval. This is normally more a requirement than a problem.
Most major banks have automatic teller machine (ATM) systems where deposits, passbook updating, and bill payments can be done besides the usual cash withdrawals. Many ATMs are shut down by midnight for customer safety purposes, though some may extend to 2am and beyond.
Cheques are widely accepted, though companies will probably need to know you before starting to accept them. According to the latest banking rules, full names are required for cheques (initials are not allowed).
Credit cards and charge cards are widely used in Malaysia, though the former is much preferred due to convenience and wider acceptance. It is possible to apply for a local credit card, billed in Malaysian Ringgit but some issuers are reluctant to give them to expatriates. To apply, you’ll usually need supporting documents such as photocopies of your passport and work permit, pay slips, and returned income tax statements. Required documents differ by issuer and the class of credit card applied for.
Credit card classes are:
* regular credit card, with pre-approved credit limits
* charge cards, with an unlimited line of credit that must be paid in full every month
Credit card issuers in Malaysia include Affinbank (www.affinbank.com.my), Alliance Bank (www.alliancebank.com.my), AMBank (www.ambg.com.my), CIMB (www.cimbbank.com.my), Citibank (www.citibank.com), EON Bank Group (www.eonbank.com.my), Hong Leong (www.hlb.com.my), HSBC (www.hsbc.com.my), Maybank (www.maybank2u.com.my), MBF (www.mbfcards.com), RHB (www.rhbbank.com.my), Standard Chartered (www.standardchartered.com.my), and UOB (www.uob.com.my).
If you already have a credit card from your home country, you might consider keeping it as long as you are in a position to make the payments in the foreign currency. Nearly all major shopping outlets, hotels and high end restaurants accept Visa, Mastercard and American Express.