If you’re setting up a business in Singapore, getting a local bank account will be one of the key steps and challenges. As I was researching all of the banking and incorporation options, I came across Aspire, a digital-only neobank. Aspire’s advertising promotes it as “one account for all your business financial needs”. They also offered a program, Aspire Kickstart, focused on launching startups, that would cover incorporation, a local bank account, an Employment Pass, thousands of dollars worth of software discounts, and I could do it entirely online. Comparing all of the options for incorporation and banking in Singapore, Aspire sounded like the ideal option. I signed up… But four months later, I’ve closed my account with Aspire. Below is my honest review of Aspire’s digital business account. May it make your journey easier.
How seamless was Aspire's sign-up process?
Aspire’s Kickstart program to get companies registered is outsourced to a corporate services firm, Osome. The first time I tried to get setup with Aspire using their online portal, it didn’t work. It kept looping over questions I’d already answered. I had to contact them and send documents by email. They also needed documents from Osome that hadn’t been generated, even though Aspire was outsourcing the incorporation process to Osome. They didn’t tell their contractor the documents necessary for opening an account?
So with all of the looping and back-and-forth, it took 5 days to go through the document submission process. When I later got a real bank account, it was 7 days from application to account launch.
Using Aspire's digital business account for international transfers.
Funding the account (and key: getting money out of it), was not as seamless as I would’ve liked.
I received several emails from Aspire to fund my account, but when I tried to do that, it had no SWIFT details for international transfers. I had to request those and wait. When I signed up for a real bank later, those details came automatically with the account.
After getting the details, the instructions Aspire sent me by email to connect Wise to Aspire didn’t work. They also have the same instructions in their online documentation. I contacted support and they immediately sent me a different set of instructions which did work. That disconnect between the emailed instructions from Aspire and what actually works on the site was a source of frequent frustration and time wasted.
Similar issues arose when I went to cancel my account and discovered Aspire couldn’t send a transfer to Wise Singapore. They have a pre-set list of banks you can transfer to. Wise isn’t listed. Aspire support told me I should contact Wise support about it. I ended up paying the fees to do an international transfer to get my money out of Aspire.
Can you use Aspire's digital business account with Google AdSense?
No. The Aspire account number is 17 digits long. The maximum the AdSense form allows is 12 digits, so it doesn’t fit even if you move the first 3 digits into the Sort Code field (learn more about why you need to do that in this article on Google AdSense verification for Singapore bank accounts).
Aspire digital business accounts are just DBS virtual accounts. But they’re not a regular DBS account (which would be no problem connecting to AdSense).
The problems connecting Aspire to AdSense have been known since at least 2020, as you can see in this AdSense Community post where the OP includes the message they received from Aspire about it.
When I contacted Aspire support to see if they had developed a workaround, they indicated it was a known issue. Their only proposed solution, however, was a bit surprising…
Aspire support told me to get a real bank account
Aspire suggested I get a bank account. In order to use the one-stop, all-in-one solution for business banking to do business with a small company like Google, I would have to get a bank account at a different bank…
Many Singaporean banks only serve individuals that have legal status in Singapore. That’s the reason I needed that Employment Pass that Aspire promised as part of its Kickstart package. I explained that to the customer support rep at Aspire and asked about the status of my Employment Pass.
They ignored my question about the Employment Pass and just sent me links to banks in Singapore. The first bank in the list stated in the first sentence of the linked page that they only opened accounts for individuals with legal status in Singapore.
The Moral of the Story
My clever plan to save time by going with a neobank instead of a traditional bank in Singapore, didn’t pan out as hoped. I had this assumption that registration with a normal bank would be more onerous or require me to be in Singapore, but that wasn’t the case. Listening to the brain’s assumptions always creates problems!
Now that I have a regular bank, everything works smoothly. I’ve also discovered that credit card payment processors in Singapore are even more strict than banks when it comes to taking on new clients. Having a bank account with a real bank may have helped that process because I had to show documentation from the bank.
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