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If you’re planning to move to Switzerland, the first step to getting your finances in order is to open a Swiss bank account, which allows you to make daily payments and open an account without incurring foreign exchange fees.
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Switzerland is a prosperous and economically developed country with one of the highest per capita gross domestic products (GDP) in the world. It is also the world’s largest offshore financial center with a reputation for privacy, stability and asset protection.
In Switzerland, everyday banking services 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; however, if you move to another canton, you will usually need to transfer your account. In Switzerland, additional banking services are offered by private banks and investment banks, but they are usually reserved for high net worth individuals.
Opening a Swiss bank account is one of the most urgent things to do when moving to Switzerland. Without a Swiss account, you may find it difficult to arrange housing, pay bills and shop.
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If you haven’t opened a bank account yet, you’ll find that most stores accept your Visa or Mastercard as a form of payment, but you may have to pay an interchange fee to your bank, which can quickly can be added. . The same applies to withdrawing money from ATMs.
It is possible to open a Swiss bank account before arriving in the country, but you will need extensive notarized documents. Once you are in Switzerland, it may be easier to start your application online and submit the necessary documents to open a personal account.
Checking accounts allow you to receive wages, pay bills, save and invest. Some accounts also allow withdrawals in Swiss francs or euros.
You will usually have to pay a fee for your current account in Switzerland. National banks usually charge around CHF 5 per month for standard accounts and up to CHF 15 for premium accounts.
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If you withdraw cash from ATMs operated by other banks, you will usually have to pay an additional transaction fee. Banks can offer you lower fees if you keep a large amount in a linked savings account or have a mortgage loan with them.
In addition to personal accounts, many banks offer comprehensive banking services. These packages can include checking accounts, savings accounts and credit cards for around CHF 15 per month.
Most major Swiss banks offer joint accounts on a one-off or comprehensive basis. With a joint account, both parties usually have full access to their bank cards and all funds.
Opening a savings account is usually free, but if you want to withdraw money outside of the terms of the contract (for example, to withdraw additional funds from a limited account or withdraw money within a certain period), you will have to pay an administrative fee. can be.
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Some Swiss banks offer high-security accounts known as numbered accounts, but they’re not as private as you might think.
These accounts offer an additional level of privacy for the account holder, but come with significant fees of up to CHF 2,000 per year. International payments may be prohibited and all large payments are monitored for money laundering.
The easiest way to open a Swiss bank account is to visit the bank in person. It usually takes a week to a month to activate accounts.
An appointment is usually not required to open a bank account. All requested credit or debit cards are 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 can be difficult and time-consuming. Most national banks allow you to browse their websites in English, making it easy to explore their options and search for software packages.
If you decide to open an account abroad, it may be easier to choose a bank that has a branch in your country or is affiliated with one of your local service providers.
Banks require more extensive documentation from foreign applicants. You must verify your identity by providing your passport and residence card (if applicable) and your address. You will be asked to provide information about your personal and work history.
All documents submitted by you must be verified by providing a notarized or Apostille certified copy or by personally visiting a bank branch.
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Mobile banking has become a common method of financial management for millions of people around the world, and Swiss banks provide excellent online banking services.
Swiss national and cantonal banks offer app-based and internet-based banking services, while in recent years several competing banks have emerged that offer accounts managed only via smartphones; most of these mobile banks offer services to Swiss customers.
A 2020 Capco report found that Swiss banking apps sometimes offer a less-than-perfect user experience, but outperform other European banks in terms of payment functionality and notifications. Challenger banks were the best in terms of high convenience, but traditional banks offered a wider range of features.
Creating a business account is a bit more complicated than a personal account. You must attend a branch meeting or video conference before opening your account.
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You will also need to provide a number of documents, including proof of identity and company registration details. In general, the whole process can take several weeks. Some large banks waive business account fees for 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 save for their children’s future and earn interest.
Youth accounts are in the child’s name, but can only be managed by parents until they reach the legal age. These accounts pay different amounts of interest, and the best rates are only available up to a certain limit (e.g. CHF 20,000). Gift trusts can also be established by other family members, such as grandparents.
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Gift investment accounts are also available with some providers. This involves investing your savings in a fund. If the fund performs well, you can get a high return on your money, but if it performs poorly, you can lose money. You will also have to pay mutual fund fees.
The right bank account for you depends on your circumstances, so take some time to compare your options before choosing a provider. One option is to use an online comparison tool such as moneyland.ch to evaluate financial products from different banks.
Consider which bank offers the best combination of services; for example, do you need to make regular cross-border payments, get a cash advance or apply for a loan soon, and do comprehensive accounts justify their costs?
Many Swiss banks offer relatively cheap services for expats, so weigh the costs and benefits to find the one that’s right for you.
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Swiss banks usually charge around CHF 5-20 for sending a payment (this is not always included in the recipient’s bank fees), but usually do not charge a commission for receiving funds.
As banks charge a fixed rate, it is usually cheaper than Money Union 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 banking solutions 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 option for international money transfers.
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Many Swiss banks offer credit options such as mortgages, loans and credit cards. If you bank daily with the service provider in question, there may be preferential rates for mortgages and loans.
Credit cards incur an annual fee of up to CHF 30. As a new customer, you may need to deposit an amount or two of your monthly credit limit into your checking 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 good way to manage their finances.
Offshore accounts are located outside the owner’s country of residence and typically offer various advantages, such as more cross-border services and lower taxes on funds.
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