How to open a bank account in Switzerland

How to open a bank account in Switzerland

Having a bank account in Switzerland is something that has evolved beyond fact thanks - largely - to Hollywood: think spy flicks. It is of course not without merit, as Switzerland is one of the few countries in the world that legally prohibits banking information to be made public and thus creating a haven for those seeking privacy.

There is a difference in real life - thankfully - and those that seek to make Switzerland their home as students, workers, investors or those that visit it regularly may require a level of familiarity with the matter that goes beyond the big screen.

If you are one of these people, here is our guide on how to open a bank account in Switzerland.

Documents necessary to open a bank account in Switzerland

It is not the simplest of matters to open a bank account in Switzerland given the country's reputation as a safe haven for those seeking financial privacy, which means that banks are ultimately held responsible if accounts granted by them are used for purposes outside the legal framework.

You will be required to provide notarised copies of your documents in person, however because many Swiss banks have what is known as a correspondent relationship with other banks (since they are so popular all over the world) you may be able to start the process with your home bank.

Here is the documentation required:

  • Passport
  • Proof of residence (residence permit, work visa, etc)
  • Proof of address such as a recent utility bill

You may be able to open an account while still outside the country, but you will be required to send documentation via post. Some banks may also work with an official representative of your estate or business.

The smartest thing you can do - when it comes to opening a bank account in Switzerland - is to start the process before you arrive since it would allow you to say to your prospective landlord (for example) that you have the process in place which could avoid a situation where you cannot get a place to call home without a bank account and vice-versa, you won't be able to open an account without an address.

Can I open a bank account in Switzerland as a non-resident?

It is technically possible, but you will be required to provide additional documentation. For example, you may be required to prove that you are financially solvent. In other words, you may need to prove that you are capable of pay your bills via documents that prove your income such as a letter from your work and/or salary slips. There will be a minimum initial deposit required in order to activate the account which will vary but generally speaking will be a substantial amount of money.

You may also be required to sign documentation that is acknowledges that you give permission to the bank to notify your home country's tax authorities of all your banking activities in Switzerland.

Best banks in Switzerland

As a new resident, it is probably best that you stick to the national retail banking chains as this would guarantee that you stay away from private investment banks and the regional banks, the latter likely not suitable because if you plan to go back home or if you move a lot (within Switzerland)  you will be required to move the account to the regional bank of your new residence.

  • Post Finance: This is the bank which is run by the post office and they have all the normal services including accounts in 10 different currencies including the Euro. Their rates are very good and they even have free student accounts.
  • UBS: this is a large national bank and they are present everywhere in the country with a large network of ATMs too. They have several banking products that are packaged with available customisation from a menu of individual extras.
  • Credit Suisse: This is a bank that has plenty of experience working with expats since it has a global presence. The process of opening an account is personalised and you are taken through a process that makes sure you are getting something that works for you. They have a good ATM network of their own and through their partners.

Expect to pay normal fees for everyday banking operations in Switzerland, even if it is a rather pricey place to have a life in. If you want to take advantage of the anonymous accounts which are known as numbered accounts, expect to pay over 2000 swiss francs in annual charges. Otherwise expect to pay between 2 and 30 francs for accounts which will come all the normal perks you are accustomed to such as cards and online banking.

It is important to ask for a list of fees beforehand as this can prove pivotal when opening your account. Some will have hefty fees for overseas operations for example and if you travel a lot it is important to take this into consideration. Best to talk to your manager.

The virtual bank account alternative

It is expensive to do international money transfers from Switzerland/h4>

As an expat you are likely to move money outside of Switzerland regularly and you are also likely to request your bank to perform the operation. This could be costing you thousands of francs in fees and currency conversion charges every year and you may not even know about it.

This happens because banks use the mid market rate to convert currencies with each other but they charge a large fee over it in order to cover their costs and to have a profit. The trouble is that there is a better alternative that will save you 80% and be faster too.

For example, if you transfer 10 thousand euros from Switzerland to India, you actually may only get 9000 euros worth of rupees back home, thanks to these outrageous fees. We reckon B2B Pay is a better alternative.

With a virtual bank account you have your own IBAN that you can receive and make payments to 32 countries in 212 currencies while saving up to 85% in currency conversion fees. So, in the India example, you would be getting 9900 euros worth of rupees back home in 24 hours instead of a week… or two.

How to open a bank account in Europe

We have a few guides to guide you through the process of opening a bank account in multiple European countries and explaining why a virtual bank account with B2B Pay may be a better alternative if you are transferring money outside of Europe and taking advantage of a better rate.



How to open a bank account overseas

We have a few guides to guide you through the process of opening a bank account in multiple countries all over the world and explaining why a virtual bank account with B2B Pay may be a better alternative if you are transferring money outside of Europe and taking advantage of a better rate.


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