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Updated 3 months ago

When it comes to banking, Switzerland has an age-old tradition as one of the most important players globally. There is a perception that having an account at a Swiss bank comes with a certain prestige, but in fact, the process of opening a bank account in Switzerland is easier than what you might expect. Just make sure to hold on to some cash, as the Swiss are still not that overly fond of credit and debit cards.

Procedures for opening a bank account

It is relatively easy to open a bank account in Switzerland as an expat. In fact, Swiss banks take pride in the ease with which a new customer can open a bank account. Also, in Switzerland it is illegal for a bank to divulge the names of its account holders – so if you need discretion, here you’re guaranteed it. Of course, you have to bring proof of identity, like your Swiss residence permit and proof of employment. There is generally no minimum deposit amount required to open a bank account in Switzerland, whether you do so in person or from abroad.

 Good to know:

If you’re not a Swiss resident yet, it is still possible to open an account from abroad. You will have to send certified copies of your identity verification documents via post, but just be aware that this process will take longer. Some banks even offer personal identification via a video service and online account opening services where you can sign digitally. Just bear in mind that if you’re a U.S. citizen, you may need to fill-in additional paperwork, due to tax evasion issues that led the US Department of Justice to fine many Swiss banks.

Bank services in Switzerland

Because of the quality of services offered and the many different competing providers, you are advised to compare prices and services before committing to sign with a bank. If you’d like to be serviced in English, then you should look towards Credit Suisse and UBS – otherwise Cantonal banks also offer good services. Also, some banks are more open than others towards customers who don’t have a B or C permit yet and some offer special packages for people working across the border. Finally, the bank of Switzerland’s postal service, Post Finance, provides banking services to residents. Services like Moneyland, a bank & insurance comparison platform, can help you navigate the offerings and find the best fit for you.

In general, bank accounts are denominated in Swiss francs but it is also possible to open a bank account denominated in foreign currencies. Swiss banks deliver debit cards (Maestro card) without much difficulty, whereas checks are seldom used in the country.

 Good to know:

If you apply for a credit card in Switzerland, note that a security deposit is required. In general, people are still sceptical about credit cards as a payment method and cash still plays the main role in day-to-day purchases.

 Useful links:

Moneyland
Credit Suisse
Post Finance
UBS
Banque Cantonale de Genève
Banque Cantonale Vaudoise
Banque Cantonale du Valais

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