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If you are moving to Switzerland, the first step to take control of your finances is to open a Swiss bank account that allows you to make daily payments and create accounts without paying fees in foreign exchange.
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Switzerland is a prosperous and economically developed country with one of the highest per capita gross domestic product (GDP) in the world. It is also the largest offshore financial center in the world with a reputation for privacy, stability and asset protection.
Everyday banking services in Switzerland are provided by national and cantonal banks. National banks include UBS, Credit Suisse, Raiffeisen and Swiss Post.
Cantonal banks are available to residents of a specific canton. Most cantons have their own banks; but if you move to another canton, you usually need to transfer your account. In Switzerland, additional banking services are offered by private banks and investment banks, although these are usually reserved for high-net-worth individuals.
If you are moving to Switzerland, opening a Swiss bank account is one of the most urgent tasks you need to complete. Without a Swiss account, it can be difficult to arrange accommodation, pay bills and make purchases.
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If you haven’t opened a bank account yet, you’ll find that most stores accept Visa or Mastercard bank cards as payment, but you may have to pay a foreign currency fee to your bank, which can quickly add up. . This also happens when withdrawing money from an ATM.
You can open a Swiss bank account before you arrive, but you may be asked for a lot of notary documentation. While in Switzerland, it may be easier to start your application online and submit the necessary documents to open an account.
Checking accounts allow you to receive your paycheck, pay bills, save money, and invest. Some accounts allow withdrawals in Swiss francs or euros.
You usually have to pay your current account in Switzerland. National banks usually charge around 5 CHF per month for standard accounts and up to 15 CHF for premium accounts.
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When you withdraw money from ATMs operated by other banks, you usually have to pay an additional processing fee. Banks may offer you lower account fees if you have a large amount in a linked savings account or have a mortgage on it.
In addition to individual accounts, many banks offer all banking services. These packages can include current accounts, savings accounts and credit cards, all for a monthly fee of around CHF 15.
Most major Swiss banks offer joint accounts on a one-off or all-inclusive basis. With a joint account, both parties usually get their own bank card and have full access to any funds.
Opening a savings account is usually free, but you may pay an administration fee if you want to withdraw money outside of the terms of the agreement (for example, withdrawing additional funds from the limited account or withdraw money within a period).
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Some Swiss banks offer high-security accounts called numbered accounts, but they’re not as secret as you might think.
These accounts offer an additional level of privacy for the account holder, but they come with high fees of up to CHF 2,000 per year. International payments may be prohibited and large payments are monitored for money laundering.
The easiest way to open a Swiss bank account is to visit the bank in person. Generally, it takes a week to a month for accounts to become active.
You usually don’t need to make an appointment to open a bank account. Any requested credit or debit cards can be expected to arrive within a week to 10 days.
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It is possible to open a bank account before moving to Switzerland, but it takes a lot of work and a lot of time. Many national banks allow you to view their websites in English, making it easier to explore your options and request an application package.
If you want to open your account abroad, it may be easier to choose a bank with a branch in your country or with one of the local providers.
Banks are asking for more documents from overseas applicants. You must confirm your identity by providing your passport and residence card (if applicable) and your address. You will also be asked to provide details about your personal and work history.
All the documents you submit must be verified by presenting a notarized copy or an apostille stamp or by personally visiting a bank branch.
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Mobile banking has become a great way for millions of people around the world to manage their finances, and Swiss banks offer excellent online banking services.
Swiss national and cantonal banks offer app and web-based banking, and in recent years some competing banks have emerged that offer accounts managed only by smartphones; Most of these mobile banks serve customers in Switzerland.
A 2020 report by Capco found that while Swiss banking apps sometimes offer a subpar user experience, they outperform other European banks in terms of payment functionality and notifications. Challenger benches come out on top for ease of use, but traditional benches offer a wider range of features.
Creating a business account is a bit more complicated than a personal account. You may need to attend a meeting or video conference at a branch to open your account.
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You will also need to provide a variety of documentation, including identification documents and business registration information. In general, the whole process can take several weeks. Some large banks waive business account fees in the first year to attract customers.
In some cases it may be possible to open an account abroad, but most banks require you to obtain advice in Switzerland.
Swiss banks offer savings accounts for children, where parents can deposit for their child’s future and earn interest on it.
Youth accounts are in the child’s name, but can only be managed by the child’s parents until they reach legal age. These accounts pay different interest rates and the best rates are only available up to a certain limit (e.g. CHF 20,000). Gift savings accounts can be opened by other family members, such as grandparents.
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Gift investment accounts are also available from some providers. This involves investing your savings in a mutual fund. If the fund is good, you can get a higher return on your money, but if it is bad, you can lose money. You also have to pay mutual fund charges.
The right bank account for you depends on your individual circumstances, so take the time to compare your options before choosing a provider. One option is to use an online comparison tool like moneyland.ch to check financial products from different banks.
Consider which bank offers the best mix of services; For example, do you need to make regular cross-border payments, withdraw cash or apply for a loan soon, and do all accounts include justifying their costs?
Many banks in Switzerland offer relatively cheap, expat-friendly services, so weigh the costs and benefits to find the one that’s right for you.
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Swiss banks usually charge around 5-20 CHF for sending payments (this does not always include the receiving bank’s commission), but usually do not charge for withdrawals.
Because banks charge a fixed interest rate, they are often cheaper than credit unions for large amounts and more expensive than online payment systems for small amounts. Some banks may not send money to certain countries, such as Somalia.
There are alternative solutions to banks that can be cheaper and more convenient for international money transfers, such as:
You can use Monito’s online comparison tool to save on fees, get the best exchange rates and find the cheapest options for international money transfers.
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Many banks in Switzerland offer credit options such as mortgages, loans and credit cards. If you do your daily banking with this provider, mortgages and loans can be obtained at interest discounts.
Credit cards have an annual fee of up to CHF 30 per year. As a new customer, you will need to deposit one or two times your monthly credit limit into your current account to qualify for a credit card. This money is invested and you earn interest.
Expats living in Switzerland may find that opening an international offshore account is a great way to manage their finances.
Offshore accounts are located outside the owner’s country of residence and often offer special benefits such as a wide range of cross-border services and low taxes on funds.
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