Your account in Switzerland

Why open a Swiss bank account?

The remarkable political and economic stability of Switzerland is a guarantee of security when opening a bank account, deposit funds and invest. Switzerland has been able to have an international focus throughout the twentieth century and has become a leading financial center.

With regards to the Swiss banking system, it has a number of safeguards:

  • Banking secrecy prevents to disclose information about account holders to third countries.
  • With Switzerland not being part of the Euro-zone, transferring a part of your funds to this country can be a precaution against future problems with the European currency.
  • In the event of bankruptcy by the bank, all deposits are guaranteed up to 100.000 CHF. If the deposit exceeds this amount, account holders will be reimbursed by dividend payments of bankruptcy.
  • Unlike the case of France, holders of shares, collective investment schemes and other securities are the real owners of their values, the bank acting only as an intermediary. In case of bankruptcy of the latter, all the values go back to their owner.

Furthermore, Swiss banks have the following advantages:

  • A wide range of banking services internationally oriented.
  • Excellent investment and savings opportunities.
  • Personalized account management.
  • Opportunity to open your account remotely.

What types of bank accounts are offered by Swiss banks?

As well as its European counterparts, Swiss banks offer a range of bank accounts: current accounts, savings accounts and business accounts. These are accompanied by regular payment methods and Internet banking.

To close the account, there are no restrictions; the account holders have the flexibility to do so. However, in the case of term deposits, penalties will be deducted from the total capital.

How to open a Swiss bank account?

First and foremost the banking staff wants to establish a business relationship, that is to say, a long-term relationship.

It is possible to open a bank account in Switzerland in person or remotely. The requested documents are generally: ID card and proof of residence such as a recent household bill. For accounts opened remotely, a procedure called “Due Diligence” is followed, aimed at authenticating the identity of the account holder.

In addition, it is necessary to justify the origin of the funds. If, for example, they come from the sale of a building, you will need to provide all documents relating to the transaction.

How much does it cost? What is the initial deposit?

Except Postfinance bank (see below), Swiss banks offer accounts for customers who want to save or invest. For this reason it is necessary to maintain a minimum balance in the account at all times, otherwise it will be classified as unprofitable and subsequently closed. The initial deposit amount varies depending on banks: typically from €10,000 to €500,000 and even €1 million in some cases.

There are also companies which mediate and offer services of “banking introduction.” It is recommended to inquire about the reputation of the provider before committing to anything.

How to fund the account?

Cashing cheques is possible but it is not recommended because of the high fees typically charged by the Banks and the long delays in the availability of funds. The best way is by bank transfer or cash deposit.

In which “canton” (county) should I open my account?

Switzerland has 26 cantons. 17 are strictly German speaking, 4 are French-speaking and there is an Italian-speaking one. 3 of them are German and French speaking and there is one in which German and Italian are spoken. However, English is spoken in mostly all banks.

Canton Abbreviation Official languages Capital
Zurich ZH German Zurich
Bern BE German, French Bern
Lucerne LU German Lucerne
Uri UR German Altdorf
Schwyz SZ German Schwyz
Obwalden OW German Sarnen
Nidwalden NW German Stans
Glarus GL German Glarus
Zug ZG German Zug
Fribourg FR French,German Fribourg
Solothurn SO German Solothurn
Basel-Stadt BS German Basel
Basel-Landschaft BL German Liestal
Schaffhausen SH German Schaffhausen
Appenzell Ausserrhoden AR German Herisau
Appenzell Innerrhoden AI German Appenzell
St. Gallen SG German St. Gallen
Graubünden GR German, Romansh, Italian Chur
Aargau AG German Aarau
Thurgau TG German Frauenfeld
Ticino TI Italian Bellinzona
Vaud VD French Lausanne
Valais VS French, German Sion
Neuchâtel NE French Neuchâtel
Geneva GE French Geneva
Jura JU French Delémont

What is the best bank to open an account with?

This is where things get complicated, given the large number of types of banks. For simplicity, banks are categorized according to their field of activity, geographical radius in which they operate and their legal form. Different categories of banks are defined by the Swiss National Bank and are as follows:

  • Universal banks (or Large Banks), who offer all banking services traditionally supplied by a bank. E.g. Credit Suisse and UBS.
  • Cantonal banks who are similar to universal banks but with the difference that their activity is limited to the county (locally). They therefore offer local services.
  • Private banks offering wealth and asset management.
  • The Raiffeisen banks focused on savings and credit. As cooperative banks, customers can become members. It is a network of 330 banks with over 1100 branches.
  • Regional banks and savings banks.
  • Business and management banks.
  • PostFinance, the equivalent of the Post Office in the UK or Banque Postale in France. Although it is not strictly speaking a bank, PostFinance offers bank services.

That being said, here are our recommendations for opening a Swiss bank account:

If you are not a millionaire, cantonal banks are interesting because of their low account fee policy, find the list here. You may also look at Raiffeisen banks (listed here, Website in french, german and italian). Finally, if your goal is to get a simple current account, you may be interested in PostFinance that allows you to open your account in Euros remotely. (Opening a bank account with Postfinance).

In terms of Big Banks, the ones to be avoided are Credit Suisse and UBS which because of their high-end positioning, charge important bank fees for non-residents (40 € / month for CS). Also, they are not interested in minor deposits because they have a policy of unprofitable “customer cleansing”.