If you're relocating to Switzerland, the first step in getting your finances in order is to open a Swiss bank account, which allows you to make daily payments and set up invoices without incurring foreign exchange fees.
Swiss banks, like exquisite watches, delectable chocolates, and the world-famous Swiss Alps, are symbols of the country.
This illustrious reputation may make opening a Swiss bank account appear daunting—but fear not! Even in Switzerland, creating a bank account is now rather simple. We've gathered all the information you'll need to open a bank account in Switzerland in this complete guide.
Banking System in Switzerland
Switzerland is an affluent and economically advanced country, with one of the highest GDP per capita rates in the world. It is also the world's largest offshore financial center, with a reputation for asset protection, privacy, and stability.
National and cantonal banks provide daily banking services in Switzerland. UBS, Credit Suisse, Raiffeisen, and Swiss Post are examples of national banks.
Residents of a given canton have access to cantonal banks. The vast majority of cantons have their own banks; but, if you move to another canton, you will almost always need to transfer your account.
Private banks and investment banks provide additional banking services in Switzerland, however these are typically reserved for those with great wealth.
Banks in Switzerland are regulated by the Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA).
Do You Need a Bank Account in Switzerland?
Setting up a Swiss bank account is one of the most critical duties you'll need to complete when relocating to Switzerland.
It may be difficult to locate lodging, pay payments, or make purchases without a Swiss account.
If you don't have a bank account yet, most stores will accept your Visa or Mastercard bank cards as payment, but you may have to pay a foreign currency fee to your bank, which can rapidly add up.
This is also true while using ATMs to withdraw money.
It is possible to open a Swiss bank account before arriving in the country, but you will almost certainly be required to submit significant notarized papers.
Starting your application online and providing the appropriate papers to open the account in person after you are in Switzerland may be more convenient.
Types of Bank Accounts in Switzerland
Current Accounts and Joint Accounts
You can use a current account to receive your paycheck, pay bills, save money, and invest. You can also withdraw money in either Swiss francs or euros from some accounts.
In Switzerland, you'll almost always have to pay a fee for your current account. Standard accounts typically cost around CHF 5 per month, whereas premium accounts can cost up to CHF 15.
You will normally be charged an additional processing fee if you withdraw cash from ATMs run by other banks. If you keep a large amount in a linked savings account or have a mortgage with them, banks may offer you lower account fees.
Many banks offer all-inclusive banking services in addition to individual accounts. For a monthly cost of roughly CHF 15, these bundles can contain current accounts, savings accounts, and credit cards.
Most major Swiss banks also provide one-time or all-inclusive joint accounts. Both parties are normally given their own bank card and have full access to the funds in a joint account.
Check our guide on how to open a joint bank account in the UK and EEA.
Savings and Investment Account
Savings accounts allow you to save money on a one-time or recurring basis.
Opening a savings account is normally free, but if you want to withdraw money outside of the terms of the agreement, you may have to pay an administration fee (e.g., making extra withdrawals on a limited account, or withdrawing money during a fixed period).
Numbered Swiss bank accounts
Some Swiss banks offered numbered accounts, which aren't quite as secure as you may believe.
These accounts give an extra layer of privacy for the account holder, but they come with high costs of up to CHF 2,000 a year. International payments could be prohibited, and any significant payments could be monitored for money laundering.
How to Choose a Swiss Bank Account
Choosing a Swiss bank account might be difficult because there are so many options. With that in mind, let us try to concentrate on the essentials. It's entirely up to you which criteria you want to prioritize, but you should think about the following:
- The Costs: — Banking charges, like most everything in Switzerland, may be rather high. There is usually a charge to open an account, as well as a price for continuing upkeep. Standard monthly fees for a basic account might easily approach 25 Swiss francs (CHF) per month. You must usually pay extra 30 CHF for a debit card, and you may be required to put a deposit equal to the card's monthly credit limit for a credit card. If you're thinking about opening a numbered bank account, keep in mind that annual fees at Swiss banks can be as high as 2,000 CHF each year. This price may not include bank transfer fees, cash withdrawal fees, or currency exchange expenses.
- The speed and simplicity: — In Switzerland, traditional banks are facing a number of challenges. They're usually fairly complicated and take a long time to complete.
- The Language: — There are 26 cantons in Switzerland, and four official languages: Romansh, German, French, and Italian. The language spoken by your preferred bank is determined by the canton in which it is located. Double-check that the bank you're considering also offers English-language services. However, don't let language hurdles deter you—many locals don't even speak all four languages!
What Are the Requirements to Open a Bank Account in Switzerland?
Swiss banks, on the whole, welcome foreign citizens with open arms. You can also open accounts in a variety of currencies other than Swiss francs.
If you are a Swiss non-resident, however, you must be at least 18 years old in order to open a bank account. It's not uncommon for banks in Switzerland to require an initial deposit and a minimum balance when opening an account.
Each bank may have different requirements, so shop around until you find one that fits your budget.
What Documents Do You Need to Open a Bank Account in Switzerland?
Depending on the type of account, the exact set of documents required to open an account may differ from bank to bank. You can anticipate to be required to provide the following documents:
- Proof of identity: — You will need an official document issued by the government (e.g., a national ID or passport).
- Proof of address: — In this case, you will need to bring utility bills (e.g., gas, electricity, internet, etc.), bank statements, or other official communications. These documents should not be older than 3 months.
- Proof of employment, or legitimacy of funds: — It is normal for Swiss banks to request documents proving the origin of the funds you are looking to deposit and/or a letter from your employer as proof of solvency.
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How to Open a Swiss Bank Account
Going to a branch office of a typical Swiss bank is the simplest way to open an account. This method assigns you to a contact person who will be your point of contact. If you need assistance in a specific language, you should request it before being allocated to a specific bank employee.
Even if you want to complete this process in person, you'll most likely have to wait a while until your account is successfully created and fully functional. The average time during this period usually ranges between one week and one month, plus the time needed to deliver your bank cards.
How to Open a Swiss Bank Account Online
Many Swiss banks allow you to open an account remotely or online, but keep in mind that without assistance from a live person, this can be a lengthy procedure.
When you open an account with a typical Swiss bank online, you'll be asked to request an application pack over the phone or via the bank's website.
Once you've received it, you'll need to fill out all of the paperwork, sign it, and mail it back to the bank.
You'll also need the normal paperwork listed above, such as proof of identity, proof of address, and verification of the source of the monies you want to deposit.
All of these documents must be authenticated by a third party (with a notarized copy or an Apostille stamp).
How to Open a Bank account in Switzerland as an Expat
The simplest approach to open a Swiss bank account is by visiting a bank in person. Accounts can take anywhere from a week to a month to become active.
To open a bank account, you normally don't need to book an appointment. It'll take a week to ten days for any requested credit or debit cards to arrive.
Opening a Swiss Bank Account from Abroad
It is possible to open a bank account before moving to Switzerland, but it is time-consuming and labor-intensive. Most national banks have English-language websites, making it simple to explore your alternatives and request an application bundle.
If you're determined to create an account from afar, consider a bank that either has a branch in your native country or has a link with one of your local providers.
Banks will require more detailed proof from international applicants. You must provide proof of identity, including a passport and, if necessary, a residency card, as well as your address. You will also be requested to supply information about your personal and professional background.
Any documents you submit must be authenticated, either by providing a notarized copy or an Apostille stamp, or by physically visiting a bank branch.
How to Open a Swiss Bank Account from the US
There is no longer any hiding money from the Internal Revenue Service(IRS), thanks to recent changes in European law and the enforcement of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FACTA).
However, US citizens can still open tax-compliant bank accounts in Switzerland that follow the rules of the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which can help them protect money invested in the country from legal action in the US.
To open a Swiss bank account from the US, you will need to choose a Swiss bank that lets non-residents open a bank account with them online. Don't worry, we will mention foreign Swiss banks that you can open an account with later in this guide.
Opening a corporate account in Switzerland
It's crucial to open a Swiss corporate account if you're starting a business in Switzerland.
A corporate account is a little more difficult to set up than a personal account. Before your account may be opened, you may need to attend a branch meeting or have a video meeting.
You'll also need to give a variety of documents, such as personal identification documents and information on your business registration.
The entire process could take many weeks. To entice consumers, some of the largest banks waive business account fees for the first year.
While it is feasible to open an account while overseas in specific circumstances, the vast majority of banks will need you to attend a consultation in Switzerland.
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Best Banks in Switzerland for Foreigners
UBS is the world's largest Swiss bank. When it comes to Swiss banking, small boutique banks are what many are looking for. Boutique banks are more likely to provide superior service than large global banks.
However, UBS's global reach and access to highly specialized financial products are undeniably appealing to some clients. UBS provides outstanding service to clients who already own a private aircraft, but their private banking product for smaller clients is quite "mass market."
It's worth noting that UBS has a subsidiary bank in Switzerland that caters solely to American customers. It operates under the UBS name, but with separate people based in different locations. This niche subsidiary bank has generated excellent feedback from American clients (US citizens and green card holders) wanting Swiss bank accounts.
Pictet is also a large bank with global interests. It is distinct from UBS in that it does not engage in investment banking and instead concentrates solely on wealth management.
Those in the know who prefer a large bank will most likely find it to be a better alternative to UBS. Pictet is thus our preferred brand for the average client who values a well-known international brand.
Dreyfus is one of the oldest Swiss banks, with the sixth generation of the founding family in charge. It is a modernized version of true Swiss tradition.
Dreyfus may be the best option for people searching for a real Swiss bank rather than a worldwide business with a Swiss headquarters.
It is only active in Switzerland (which is a good thing), but it does have a representative office in Israel.
Reichmuth is the ideal, boutique, exclusive bank. It's for those who value exclusivity, high-end personal service, and a feeling of tradition. It was founded in 1988 and is based in a castle in Lausanne. Reichmuth is one of only a few dozen private banks operating in Switzerland in the traditional sense.
To clarify, under Swiss law, none of the other institutions named in this article are permitted to call themselves Private Banks.
The phrase "private banker" in Switzerland refers to banks having individual ownership, registered partnership, limited partnership, or limited partnership with shares as their legal status.
Unlike other Swiss banks that provide private banking services through limited liability corporations, the partners are personally liable for all of the bank's obligations and assets.
That says a lot about their dedication to their business. This isn't your ordinary bank with a large turnover of employees!
BNP Paribas is a French bank, and it is the largest commercial bank in France. However, BNP Paribas has a long history in Switzerland, having supported the excavations for the Gotthard and Simplon tunnels, as well as several railway projects and the Swiss national exhibition in 1896.
BNP Paribas has a respectable and fairly standard wealth management offering in Switzerland, but the ability for its clients to use the platform for global investing is why it made our top ten list.
BNP Paribas controls Europe's largest real estate company, and private banking clients in Swiss offices might use their Swiss accounts to fund real estate in areas like London, Madrid, Paris, or the French Riviera, which would be impossible to accomplish with smaller Swiss banks.
They have some interesting commercial real estate investment opportunities in Europe right now.
The bank is also one of Europe's major commercial banks (it has a dedicated fintech section, for example), with a strong presence in Africa and Asia.
They do not accept offshore corporations as a group policy, however they do enable consumers to blend private and commercial banking.
J. SAFRA SARASIN
J. SAFRA SARASIN is a Swiss bank with a unique non-Swiss background. In the 1800s, a Jewish family in Aleppo, Syria, was recognized for a long heritage of actual gold finance, earning the family the Arabic word for the precious metal's color: Safra.
Beirut, Istanbul, and Alexandria were the next cities to open branches. Beirut was chosen as the headquarters of the newly created Bank Jacob Safra in the early 1900s.
Jacob Safra expanded his new banking interests after WWII, first to Europe, then to Latin America and the United States.
J. Safra Sarasin, the Swiss arm, is now the sixth largest Swiss bank, with 26 offices in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America.
Safra National Bank of New York, a separate US entity, has branches in and around New York, as well as representative offices in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. Finally, Banco Safra S.A., Brazil's sixth largest commercial bank, is part of the group.
Hyposwiss is a medium-sized Swiss bank that specializes in professional help and independent asset management.
Hyposwiss is an accommodating, friendly, and easy to work with when it comes to onboarding overseas clientele.
They have a good knowledge and experience in the field of international trade operations, for clients dealing with shipments of goods within their areas of competence, which include both CIS and Latin America, in addition to typical private banking.
Overall, a good and steady medium-sized bank for private banking with a business bent. In addition, they have a stake in a Monaco-based asset management firm.
Gonet is a traditional, family-oriented Swiss bank with a strong presence in the French-speaking region of the country, having only recently moved into Zurich in 2020.
They brag about their "openness and especially our pragmatism for challenging preconceptions and trends" — which includes a readiness to engage in certain commercial operations for their larger clientele.
They also operate a booking center in the Bahamas, where they have remained since several foreign banks left the Bahamas financial center.
CIM Bank is a small Swiss bank with only three offices that specializes in private banking for individuals and small businesses. They are the only Swiss bank that has attempted and succeeded in combining traditional private banking with parts of the fintech or challenger bank model.
Despite the fact that they allow accounts to be opened with as little as CHF5,000, their fees are fairly costly, thus it is definitely only worthwhile for people who want a VIP private banking experience and have at least 6 or low 7 figures to invest.
They have a large team dedicated to the Russian and Latin American markets, and they offer a comprehensive variety of credit and debit cards, as well as full banking services such as safe deposit boxes. Citizens of the United States are not accepted.
CIM Bank is an excellent option if you are a high net worth individual without the 'ultra' prefix who wants what is essentially an online, tech-driven bank but also appreciate being able to fly in for meetings in a nice meeting room, make the occasional cash transaction, and access your safe deposit box.
Dukascopy is a trading-focused fintech bank that operates entirely online. You may start an account for as little as $100 and they accept cryptocurrency.
Third-party wires can be sent and received, however there are some limitations. They offer conventional and virtual credit cards in four currencies, and you can handle up to 23 currencies in your account.
They certainly have better and cheaper access to most global markets than the other banks on this website, but there is no advisory role, and at the end of the day, you're dealing with a call center, not a private banker, when dealing with Dukascopy.
There is also no way to open an international corporation account. Still, for those looking for a Swiss-style online bank, this option is the har-to-beat option.
How Much Money Do You Need to Open a Swiss Bank Account
Swiss banking is not always the most cost-effective alternative. It's a top-of-the-line solution. Switzerland's reputation precedes it.
Minimum Deposit to Open an Offshore Swiss Bank Account
A million dollars or euros is usually required to open a Swiss bank account, but there is something for everyone among the 246 banks that operate in Switzerland today.
You can open accounts with less if you are either an exceptionally low-risk client or a client who may be high-risk but high-reward for the bank.
If they can demonstrate the ability to build assets fast, younger people can create private banking accounts with less money. Smaller investors will find that internet banks such as Swissquote and Dukascopy still permit cross-border transactions.
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Swiss banks, like exquisite watches, delectable chocolates, and the world-famous Swiss Alps, are symbols of the country.
This illustrious reputation may make opening a Swiss bank account appear daunting—but fear not! Even in Switzerland, opening a bank account is now relatively simple if you follow the steps outlined in this guide.