Expat Talk

Banking For Foreign Expatriates In Penang

If you’re looking to explore the opportunities of making Penang your next home, you’ve probably heard about the amazing reasons why a foreign expatriate should consider Living in Penang. However, you will definitely want to know more and compare the various personal banking products and services that are available to you.

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So whether you’re looking for a bank with a global reach, to have easy access to ATMs, or looking for personal financing options to help you explore the sights and sounds of Penang, we’ve compiled some of the best choices for you in this quick guide to banking for foreign expatriates in Penang.

First up, we’ll take a look at the foreign and multinational banks, followed by our choice of the best local banks to help you get your personal finances in order when you first arrive in Penang.


The Foreign and Multinational Banks

Citibank Malaysia

Citibank is part of the Citigroup and offers global banking services for foreign expatriates in more than 160 countries worldwide. There are over 11 Citibank branches in Malaysia, and Citibank is the only foreign bank to be rated AAA for 15 years in a row. In Penang itself, Citibank’s main branch is located on Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah, Penang and they also have another branch which is located in Bukit Tengah, Seberang Prai.

HSBC Malaysia

HSBC bank is one of the largest banking groups in the world, and HSBC Malaysia is also the largest foreign bank in Malaysia with over 40 branches nationwide. HSBC also has a network of over 6,100 offices in 72 countries across the world. If you are looking for Sharia-compliant banking services, HSBC also offers Islamic banking services via HSBC Amanah.

In Penang, HSBC has three branches with its main branch located on Downing Street being one of the oldest bank branches in the country.

Standard Chartered Bank

Standard Chartered is also one of the oldest foreign banks in Malaysia and its first branch opened its doors in 1875 in Penang, on Beach Street. Today, Standard Chartered has three branches in Penang with over 40 branches located nationwide in Malaysia. For Islamic banking services, you can also choose to open an account with their subsidiary, Standard Chartered Saadiq Berhad.

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The Local and Regional Banks


Maybank is Malaysia’s largest financial services group and is the fourth largest bank in Southeast Asia. It has a global network of 2,200 offices in over 20 countries and in Malaysia; Maybank has over 400 branches with 2,600 ATMs and self-service terminals across the country. In Penang, Maybank has over 32 branches and over 90 ATMs across the island and Butterworth.


CIMB Bank is one of the largest banking groups in Southeast Asia and has over 1,080 offices across the ASEAN region with more than 290 branches, plus over 2,200 ATMs and self-service terminals in Malaysia. CIMB also operates in 17 global markets and there are over 30 branches and 59 ATMs for CIMB Bank in Penang.

Public Bank

Public Bank is one of the largest banks in Malaysia, with over 180 branches and 1,800 ATMs and self-service terminals. Public Bank’s presence in Penang is spread out over 21 branches and more than 50 ATMs across the state.

There also other banks that offer their services in Penang, such as UOB, OCBC, Scotiabank, Kuwait Finance House and the Bank of China that you may want to consider during your time here in Penang.


Online and Mobile Banking

If you’re not keen on having to brave the seemingly endless queues at the bank, online or mobile banking is a great alternative that gives you the option of hassle-free banking at your convenience.

In Malaysia, there are over 18.8 million online banking (31 banks) and 6.6 mobile banking (13 banks) subscribers* who enjoy the convenience of banking on the go or from the privacy of their homes via the Internet.

The number of online banking subscribers in Malaysia has grown over 90% in the last five years and the banks in Malaysia have made it even easier for you to settle your bills, transfer funds and apply for credit cards and personal loans online.

*Source: Bank Negara Malaysia: “Malaysia’s Payment Statistics – Internet Banking and Mobile Banking Subscribers”

Whatever your final choice might be, we’re confident that you’ll come to enjoy the amazing lifestyle that only Penang can offer you in Southeast Asia. Selamat datang and enjoy your stay!

This guest post by Michael Vincent Mislos.  Find him on twitter @mmichaels_21

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Daniel - November 16, 2015 at 6:45 AM

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I’m a guest on the Expat Chat Podcast

I was lucky enough to be asked to talk about Living in Penang on the latest episode of The Expat Chat Podcast.   Hosts Tony and Leanne find expats around the world and asks them about their experiences living overseas.  I’ve subscribed to the podcast and have a lot fun listening to the stories from around the world.  I really enjoyed getting to know them over coffee and hope to see them again in Penang.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Daniel - November 12, 2015 at 10:39 AM

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Expat talk: Why Penang part 2: balance

This is the second part of a series about why an expat would choose to live in Penang.  The first post was more geared towards short-termers and tourists.  Today I’d like to address the folks that are coming to stay for longer than 3 months.  That is to say, longer than the duration a single tourist visa.  Why Penang?  I think I would sum it up with the word balance.

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3 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Daniel - August 14, 2014 at 6:09 AM

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Expat talk: Why Penang part 1 – short-term and tourists

I was recently asked to write up a quick summary of what it’s like to live in Penang, or in short “Why Penang?”  I’m surprised that I hadn’t written anything like that before.  So here’s the first installment of Expat Talk.  A sort of Penang 101.  This is the time of year to post it, for incoming teachers at Dalat, Uplands and the other international schools.  Part 2 of the Why Penang series is now available.

Penang Wikivoyage Map

Penang is one of 13 states in Malaysia. Most of the state is the Island of Penang, that rests just west of the Malay Peninsula in the Strait of Malacca; the rest is the mainland.

Why Penang: History

Penang is a place to see history. The city of George Town, the state capital, was declared a World Heritage Site in 2008. You can walk along streets in Little India and Chinatown and see spices and goods still being sold along the sidewalk. The old buildings from the colonial era and earlier are being restored and preserved for people to enjoy. If you look carefully you can see lampposts with shrapnel scars from when the Japanese bombed during WWII.

Visit historic sites.  St. George’s Church, oldest Anglican church in Southeast Asia. has a free tour in the mornings.  Tour guides are available for the historic areas of George Town.  Visit the Kek Lok Si Temple or another of the many Taoist Chinese Temples.  Or be adventurous and see the unique Snake Temple in Bayan Lepas.

Why Penang: Culture

Penang is a place to see cultures. Every major religion seems to celebrate or observe their festivals in Penang. This past month (July 2014) we saw the Muslim month of fasting, Ramadan, end with the big holiday, Aidul Fitri. We started the Hungry Ghost Festival for the Chinese Buddhists. The Anglicans put on a huge Festival for St. Anne, that will go on into August. October will host the Deepavali Hindu festival of lights. And that barely scratches the surface of all the holidays and festivals you can experience in Penang. As a foreigner. you are more than welcome to come and photograph and even participate. In fact, good luck staying dry during the Thai Songkran Water Festival!

Why Penang: Food

Penang is a place to eat! CNN Travel, Lonely Planet and a host of other travel sites all agree, Penang has the number one street food in Asia, if not the world. Start your day with a Roti Canai and a Teh Tarik at an Indian stand. Lunch of Dim Sum or a bowl of noodles at a food court or a hawker stall. If you want adventure and spice, try out Tom Yam Fried Rice, not found in Thailand, a uniquely Malaysian dish. Lavish upscale restaurants are all over Penang, for those who want haute cuisine.

There’s much to see, experience and eat in Penang. We’ve found kids activities like visiting a goat farm, and painting traditional batik cloth.  There are plenty of traditional beach activities along the north resort areas of Batu Ferringhi and Tanjung Bungah.  It’s got to be on your bucket list to visit.

Tune in for another list for long-term expats.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Daniel - August 6, 2014 at 7:56 AM

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