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How To Open a Swiss Bank Account For Non-Residents

Byron Mühlberg, writer at Monito.com
Aug 3, 2021

World-renowned for their perceived stability, confidentiality, and safeguarding of assets, Swiss bank accounts have garnered something of a mythical status in the minds of many today.

While these stereotypes do indeed have their origins in past practices, Swiss banks today are significantly more transparent than they used to be, with their seizure-proof and anonymous epithets largely no longer holding true. In fact, most non-residents seeking to open a bank account in Switzerland today are cross-border commuters simply interested in receiving a salary from their Swiss employer rather than shady foreign tycoons.

In this article, we'll start by dispelling the common misconceptions many people have about Swiss banking. Next, we'll introduce you to your options when it comes to opening a bank account in Switzerland, regardless of whether or not you've got a residence permit.

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Monito's Recommendation

For relocating before finding residence in Switzerland, we recommend opening a Wise Multi-Currency Account when moving. With Wise, you take advantage of a flexible multi-currency online account to hold Swiss francs, Euros, US dollars, and many other currencies at low cost, all on a dedicated debit MasterCard. When it comes to opening a traditional Swiss bank account, on the other hand, then we recommend you explore your options below.

How To Open a Bank Account in Switzerland

Despite no longer allowing you to stash away your fortunes anonymously, Swiss banks offer many distinct advantages for non-residents in the country.

For wealthier individuals, for example, Swiss bank accounts are often perceived as attractive because they are credited in Swiss francs (CHF), a "safe haven" currency that has historically proven to be comparatively stable during times of global economic distress.

For the hundreds of thousands of EU citizens working in Switzerland while living just across the border, Swiss bank accounts are also an attractive deal. Because all salaries in Switzerland are paid in Swiss francs, and because Swiss employers practically only pay their workers into Swiss bank accounts, opening an account in the country is often easy for cross-border workers. Not only is it easy, but it's also useful, as the workers can avoid high currency conversion fees when being paid while also largely dodging exchange rate risk.

For more context, take a look at the real-time EUR/CHF exchange rate here.

If you're a non-resident looking to move to Switzerland permanently, then we recommend that you take a look at our in-depth insider's guide. Depending on what you'd like to achieve by opening a Swiss bank account, you'll likely have various options available to you. Take a look at the main categories below:

How To Open a Bank Account in Switzerland for Everyday Use

Ordinary Swiss bank accounts are usually associated with high fees for non-residents in Switzerland. However, the process tends to be very simple for residents, although non-residents may face more limitations.

As a non-resident, you'll have the option of opening a standard bank account at PostFinance and several other Swiss banks relatively easily, with the required documents, account management fees, and minimum deposits varying from bank to bank. To open a Swiss bank account for everyday use, you'll generally need the following:

  • A valid EU/EFTA passport or government-issued ID;
  • To be at least 18 years of age;
  • A proof of residence inside or outside of Switzerland;
  • Often, a G permit for cross-border workers and proof of employment is required.

If you're moving to Switzerland and are interested in digital solutions and low fees, we recommend Neon (a free Swiss bank account) as the ideal solution. While Neon is not currently available to all foreign nationalities living in Switzerland, it does provide an extensive and easy option, as once you've got your Swiss residence permit, you'll be able to open a Neon account online in only a few minutes.

How To Open a Bank Account in Switzerland for Investments and Wealth Management

If you're interested in Swiss bank accounts for asset protection, your chief option should be to consider opening a foreign currency account in Swiss francs, either with a foreign bank or with a Swiss bank.

Major global banks such as HSBC, Barclays, and NCA offer currency accounts in Swiss francs to clients in their respective countries. Big-name Swiss banks such as UBS and Credit Suisse offer wealth management and investment accounts in Swiss francs to international clients too, as well as smaller private banks aimed at investment services. In general, you'll require the following:

  • A valid passport or government-issued ID;
  • To be at least 18 years of age;
  • A minimum initial deposit of US$250,000 to US$1 million.

How To Open a Bank Account in Switzerland for in Spending Swiss Francs

If you're not looking to hedge as an investment but simply looking to hold Swiss francs for purposes of spending, a Wise Multi-Currency Account will probably give you all the versatility you're looking for.

With this flexible and extensive multi-currency account, you'll be able to manage and hold Swiss francs — as well as 40 other currencies — for spending all across the world. What's more, you'll all the while be able to take advantage of exchange rates that are significantly better than those offered by banks! Another option to consider would be Revolut. Similarly to a Wise Multi-Currency Account, with Revolut, you'll be able to exchange and hold Swiss francs free of charge while living abroad. This option is usually much more accessible, requiring only the following:

  • A valid passport or government-issued ID;
  • Proof of residence outside of Switzerland.

Anonymous and Seizure-Proof: Swiss Banking Myths

Underpinning Switzerland's reputation as a haven for questionable banking practices is the fact that, up until only a few years ago, "numbered accounts" were available to individual clients from major Swiss banks. In essence, this meant that a client could own a bank account almost completely anonymously, as only a number would be used to identify a bank account holder.

Ever since 2014, however, Switzerland has been part of the Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI), an international agreement that requires local banks to hand the data of all foreign bank account holders over to relevant tax authorities abroad. (This being said, the AEOI doesn't apply to Swiss nationals, and numbered accounts are still offered to Swiss clients by a number of banks).

In addition to being no longer anonymous, Swiss bank accounts are also no longer seizure-proof, meaning that criminal activity can be much more easily apprehended in these accounts.

All in all, the changes made in recent years to the Swiss banking system are good news for most non-residents looking to open a bank account in the country. This is because Swiss banks are today much more accessible to non-residents, with the notable exception of US citizens.

Swiss Bank Accounts For US Citizens

If you're a US citizen, you'll face some additional hurdles when opening a bank account in Switzerland, regardless of whether or not you have a residence permit in the country.

Following the adoption of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FACTA), US citizens in Switzerland are subject to more rigorous regulation in the way of the Internal Revenue Service than they had been previously. As a result, many Swiss banks — while still theoretically offering bank accounts to American customers — will require US citizens to fill out extra paperwork and onerous financial disclosures in order to get the job done.

As a result, if you're a US citizen looking to open a bank account in Switzerland, we'd recommend that you stick to the major Swiss banks operating from large Swiss cities, such as Zurich, Geneva, and Basel when opening an account, as these organisations will likely be better suited to accommodate you.

Which Swiss Banks Offer Accounts To Non-Residents?

In principle, every major Swiss bank offers bank accounts to non-residents in Switzerland and cross-border commuters. However, some banks obscure their services in practice to the point where the process and the relevant pricing for non-residents are complicated and unclear.

It should also be noted that to open a standard bank account in Switzerland as a non-resident, you will, in most cases, need to travel to Switzerland to make your scheduled appointment with your chosen bank.

Take a look at the list of Swiss banks below that we've found offer clear pricing information for non-residents in Switzerland:

PostFinance

With PostFinance, customers residing abroad can open a bank account relatively easily, with only a valid identification document, permanent address, and tax details being required. Bank accounts can be held in either Euro or Swiss francs.

To open an account with PostFinance, you'll need to do the following:

  1. Register on the PostFinance website, where you'll be asked for your nationality and address;
  2. Wait for the bank to contact you either by telephone or by post. (If you live in Switzerland, you can identify yourself via video chat and skip the following step);
  3. Visit a Swiss post office or a PostFinance branch and complete the account application. During the interview, you'll likely have to explain your interest in opening a Swiss bank account. However, if you have a valid reason, an account can usually be opened very quickly.

Don't forget to bring your identification documents, tax details, and proof of address!

How Much Will PostFinance Charge You?

PostFinance offers various accounts. The standard “Private account in CHF” will cost CHF 5 per month for deposits of CHF 25,000 or less. Be aware that ATM withdrawals cost CHF 2 in Switzerland and at least CHF 5 when abroad. To withdraw money free of charge, you have to apply for the "Private Account Plus", which is linked to account management fees of CHF 12 per month.

In addition, there is a special fee for people residing abroad of CHF 25 per month. In this way, a simple account with PostFinance will cost you between CHF 30 and CHF 37 per month, with the annual fees coming to between CHF 360 and CHF 444.

Migros Bank

Migros Bank (available in German, French, and Italian) is the banking arm of the Swiss retail giant Migros. Non-residents in Switzerland have the option of opening a bank account at Migros Bank, where, in principle, there is no minimum deposit required for EU citizens. (People from non-EU countries can expect to pay a minimum deposit in the six-digit range).

To open an account with Migros Bank, you'll need to do the following:

  • Contact the Migros Bank customer service by phone on +41 848 845 452 (Mon-Fri 8:00 AM - 6:00 PM Swiss time) to make an appointment to open an account at a bank branch;
  • Visit a Migros Bank branch with your ID, proof of residence, and tax details. (If you already have a residence permit in Switzerland, you can apply for an account here).

How Much Will Migros Bank Charge You?

Migros Bank offers private individuals three different account models: a foreign currency account, a premium account, and a basic account. The premium account has a minimum deposit of CHF 250,000 and is managed free of charge. The basic account has no minimum deposit and costs 3 CHF per month.

Be mindful that there may also be additional fees for foreign residents, which Migros Bank does not make transparent on its website. However, we have learned from various sources that the account management fee for people from the EU/EFTA is between CHF 5 and CHF 10 per month.

UBS

With UBS Switzerland, non-Swiss residents living in neighbouring countries can open a private account relatively easily. Here, too, you'll be able to keep all accounts in either Euros or Swiss francs, with UBS offering foreign currency accounts in several foreign currencies.

What's more, cross-border commuters and customers from Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, France and Italy, also have access to a personal account model denominated in both CHF and EUR.

To open an account with UBS, you'll need to do the following:

  • Schedule an appointment online at a nearby UBS branch;
  • Visit the branch for your appointment, along with all of the necessary documentation, including your residence permit, tax details, and a valid ID. (If you already have a Swiss residence permit, you can also submit your account application online here).

How Much Will UBS Charge You?

The costs of the bank account at UBS differ depending on the requirements. We'd recommend the aforementioned banking package for cross-border commuters if you live in a neighbouring country, as this option will only cost you around CHF 10 per month. A UBS credit card in Euro and an optional UBS credit card are also included in Swiss francs.

Combined, the banking package for cross-border commuters will come to around CHF 120 per year.

Valiant

Valiant (available in German and French) is a somewhat smaller local bank that makes opening an account relatively straightforward for non-residents living outside of Switzerland. To open an account with Valiant, you'll need to do the following:

  • Locate a local Valiant branch online;
  • Schedule an appointment by explaining to the bank advisor that you live abroad and wish to open a Swiss bank account. Be sure to request which documents you'd be required to bring along to the appointment;
  • Attend your appointment in Switzerland to open a bank account. If you're still in Switzerland a few days after the appointment, you could consider collecting the access documents at the local branch before returning home. Alternatively, Valiant will send them to you at your home in the mail.

How Much Will Valiant Charge You?

Valiant imposes a relatively high surcharge for those residing outside Switzerland, currently as much as CHF 40 per month (CHF 480 per year). In addition to these costs, there are also account management fees of around CHF 4 per month on the basic account. If you'd like to apply for a credit card in addition to your account, this will cost you at least CHF 100 (for a World MasterCard Silver/Visa Classic) per year, with a debit card coming in at around 50 CHF per year.

The total costs for the basic account at Valiant with a debit card come to around 48.20 CHF per month (578 CHF per year)!

Aargau Cantonal Bank (AKB)

Another option for non-Swiss residents when it comes to opening a bank account in Switzerland is the Aargau Cantonal Bank (available in German), a bank run by the cantonal government of Aargau.

When opening a bank account with AKB, non-residents will not have to deposit a minimum amount, with the bank fees being graded on a country-by-country basis according to risk. People who live in a country that has a high score in the Corruption Perception Index, for example, will tend to have to pay more in fees than people who live in one of Switzerland's neighbouring countries.

To open an account with AKB, you'll need to do the following:

  • Schedule an appointment at a local branch on the AKB website or call them at +41 62 835 7777. You could also consider spontaneously visiting an AKB branch;
  • Attend your scheduled appointment in the Canton of Aargau to open an account. Be sure to bring along a valid passport, tax details, and proof of residence abroad.

Before your appointment, make sure you know which type of bank account you'd like to open and that you can provide a clear reason for why you are interested in a Swiss bank account. Following this, your account will then be opened within a few days, for which you can expect to receive the account details by post.

How Much Will AKB Charge You?

Similarly to Valiant, non-residents in Switzerland who are domiciled abroad will have to pay significantly higher fees than Swiss residents at the Aargau Cantonal Bank. Fees range between CHF 15 and CHF 60 per month, depending on the level of risk. As a cross-border commuter, you should expect your monthly fee between CHF 15 and CHF 20.

If you'd like to have a CHF debit card in addition to your account, you will have to pay an additional CHF 50 per year.

What’s the Best Swiss Bank Account For Foreigners? The Traditional Banks

Simply put, if you're a resident of a country bordering Switzerland and looking for the best Swiss bank account for foreigners, our recommendation would be UBS's “package for cross-border commuters”. We believe this banking package is very attractive, as it combines a moderate fee of CHF 10 per month with relatively good conditions, a free debit card, and other benefits.

If you wish to open a Swiss bank account from a country that doesn't border Switzerland, we'd recommend Valiant if you value an extensive range of service and don't mind paying a bit more for it. On the other hand, if you're simply looking to keep costs down while managing a Swiss account, we'd recommend you explore your options with PostFinance and UBS, the latter of which might also be worth considering if you wish to open a Swiss bank account strictly for investment purposes.

In the final analysis, however, almost all Swiss bank accounts for foreigners are associated with high fees, and there is no way one can get around it.

Take a look at the graph below to get a better sense of how the banks listed above stack up in terms of their fees:

Management Fee (per year)

Where To Open An Account

Management Fee Waivered From

PostFinance

360 CHF - 444 CHF

Branch, post office

N/A

Migros Bank

CHF 60-120

Branch

CHF 250,000.00

UBS

CHF 120

Branch

CHF 50,000.00

Valiant

578 CHF

Branch

N/A

AKB

CHF 195-735

Branch

CHF 50,000.00

Last updated: 01/06/2021

What’s the Best Swiss Bank Account For Foreigners? The Alternatives

As a non-Swiss resident, the conditions for opening a bank account are often stringent, with a six- to seven-digit minimum deposit often being required.

Since almost all bank accounts in Switzerland are otherwise associated with high fees for non-residents, neobanks offer the best Swiss bank account for foreigners looking to keep the costs down. For example, with a Wise Multi-Currency Account, you'll obtain EU banking details that can be used for direct transfers from Switzerland. Additionally, you'll also be able to convert your Swiss francs into Euros or other currencies at the mid-market exchange rate at any time and use a debit card that's easily accepted in many countries across the world.

Another challenger bank, Revolut, also offers the option of using Swiss francs as an account currency and making payments in Switzerland without forking out for additional fees. Unlike a Wise Multi-Currency Account, you won't get local bank details; however, there'll still be a high probability that Revolut will meet a majority of your banking needs.

To top things off, both Wise and Revolut are completely free to use every month. However, neither can be used to receive a salary in Switzerland, making them not ideal if you'd like to live and work in the country.

If you'd like to open a fully-fledged free Swiss bank account, Neon offers the best Swiss bank account for foreigners looking to keep the fees low while still receiving their salary. Similarly to Revolut, Neon runs entirely out of a mobile app and has no branches or online banking. This allows the bank (yes — Neon is a regulated and legitimate bank) to offer practically no fees on its standard account, making it an ideal service for those who only need to make use of the standard banking services such as deposit processing, withdrawals, direct debits, and card payments. Neon will, however, require proof of residence in Switzerland to open an account.

Comparing Swiss Bank Alternatives

To get a better picture of how high-street Swiss banks compare to challenger banks and online-only bank-like products, take a look at how Wise's Multi-Currency Account, Revolut, and Neon compare to Valiant, one of the traditional Swiss banks listed above:

Neon

Revolut

Wise

Valiant

CHF Details

Currencies

CHF

CHF and 27 other currencies

CHF and 50+ other currencies

CHF, EUR, other currencies on request

Platforms

Mobile app

Mobile app

Mobile app, Online

Mobile app, Online, In-person

Opening Fee

CHF 0.00

CHF 0.00

CHF 0.00

CHF 0.00

Management Fee

CHF 0.00

CHF 0.00

CHF 0.00

CHF 578.00 per year (incl. debit card)

Card Type

Mastercard

Mastercard

Mastercard

Various

Top-up Fee

0.00%

0.00%

0.00%

1.00% for debit Mastercard

Payment Fee

CHF 0.00

Up to €1,000.00 p.m., 0.50% thereafter

CHF 0.00

Free of charge in Switzerland, 1.75% abroad

Withdrawal Fee

0.00% for the first 2 CHF withdrawals p.m., 2.00% therafter

Up to €200.00 p.m., 2.00% therafter

Up to €250.00 p.m., 2.00% thereafter

4.00% withdrawal fee (min. CHF/€10.00)

Closing Fee

CHF 0.00

CHF 0.00

CHF 0.00

CHF 15.00

Go To NeonGo To RevolutGo To WiseGo To Valiant*

* Valiant is available in German, French, and Italian
Last updated: 03/08/2021

Frequently Asked Questions About Opening a Bank Account in Switzerland

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