How to open a bank account in Switzerland

Planning a move to Switzerland? Or maybe you’re a freelancer or cross border commuter being paid in CHF? In either case you probably need a way to manage your money in francs, and switch from CHF to EUR, GBP or any other currency you might need. 

The Swiss banking industry is very developed - so it’s no surprise that you’ll be able to find an account from a traditional bank there if you choose. However, if you’re looking for an option with low fees and multi-currency flexibility, you might find you’re better off with an alternative like Revolut or Wise. Specialist online and mobile accounts usually offer more currencies, and lower transaction costs, often with no monthly fee or minimum balance. More on that coming right up.  

Go to Wise
Go to Revolut

What documents do I need?

Swiss banks offer accounts which suit a whole range of different customer types. That means you’ll find resident accounts for spending or saving, and a good range of non-resident accounts. It’s worth knowing though that non-resident accounts may be aimed at cross border commuters looking to cut costs, or at high wealth individuals looking for a safe haven for their funds in CHF which is considered a very stable currency. Unsurprisingly, the features, fees and eligibility requirements for these very different account types vary significantly.

While banks in Switzerland used to be famed for protecting the anonymity of clients, that’s no longer generally the case - so you can expect to be asked to provide a set of documents to open your account here, like everywhere else around the world. The exact details might vary, but typically, you’ll need:

  • Government issued proof of ID

  • Proof of address - either in Switzerland or abroad

  • A recent payslip or bank statement to show the source of your funds

  • If the account is specifically for residents, proof of legal residence status in Switzerland will also be required

Proof of address must usually be from within the last 3 months, and may be a utility bill in your name, a bank statement or some official government correspondence.  Your preferred bank will guide you through their process and let you know what to prepare.

Save the paperwork with alternative solutions like Wise or Revolut

If you don’t have all the paperwork yet to open a resident’s account in Switzerland, you might find you need to open an account as a non-resident. This is likely to mean higher monthly fees until you can provide a Swiss proof of address.

An alternative which can help cut costs - and often means no ongoing charges or minimum balance requirements - is to use a provider like Revolut or Wise. Get an account online or in the provider app, using your UK proof of address before you even leave for Switzerland. You’ll instantly get access to an account which can hold and handle dozens of currencies, including CHF, EUR and GBP. It’s easy, and can cut your costs and give you a more flexible account for travelling, living and working overseas.

Read more about Wise in this review and about Revolut here.

How to open a bank account in Switzerland

Most big Swiss banks let you open an account online - and may even have application forms available in English. However, it’s not always the case - and it’s worth remembering that there are 4 official languages of Switzerland, so if you’re opening your account in a branch you’ll need to ask to speak to someone in English, if you can’t get by with the local language in your area (French, Italian, German or Romansh).

All that said, once you’ve managed any language barriers the basic steps to open a bank account in Switzerland are pretty much the same as anywhere else in the world - typically:

  • Research banks and pick the right account for you

  • Check eligibility and gather all the required paperwork

  • Apply online or in branch

  • Pay your minimum opening deposit

  • Show your documents to complete the verification process

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Go to Revolut

Can I open a bank account in Switzerland before arrival?

There are many non-resident accounts available from Swiss banks, which will allow you to get an account up and running before you move. However, these may come with higher fees, or be more restricted compared to a resident account. If you’re moving to Switzerland you may find it makes more sense to open a multi-currency account in the UK prior to your move - and then add in a CHF resident account once you’re settled in. 

Choose a multi-currency account with an online specialist like Revolut or Wise, which will let you apply online from the UK, to transact in GBP, CHF and a whole range of other currencies, too.

Which account is best in Switzerland for foreigners? 

Let’s look at a review of the best bank accounts in Switzerland for foreigners, featuring accounts available to non-residents from 2 of the biggest banks in Switzerland and a couple of online providers for comparison.

Service

Wise

Revolut

PostFinance

UBS

Currencies covered54 currencies including CHF, EUR and GBP

30+ currencies including CHF, EUR and GBP

CHF or EUR CHF or EUR
Non-resident accounts available YesYesYesYes
Open onlineYesYesYesYes
Maintenance feeFreeUp to £12.99/month25 CHF/month

From CHF 5/month - final fee depends on the banking package you select

International transfersLow fee, varies by currencyFee varies by currency and payment value

Online payments - 2 CHF to 20 CHF depending on specific payment; in branch payments 12 CHF to 22 CHF depending on situation




Exchange rate markup applies

SEPA transfers from 0.3 CHF


Other payments from 5 CHF +  third party charges


Exchange rate markup applies

*Profiled accounts are PostFinance Private Account (CHF/EUR) and UBS Personal Account (CHF/EUR) - other account options are available from these providers, which have their own fees and features 

Wise

Wise accounts offer a whopping 54 currencies, and give customers their own bank details to get paid like a local from 30+ countries. This can make it far easier to manage your money across borders if you’re moving, or simply if you live an international lifestyle.

Accounts are available for personal and business customers, with no monthly fee, no minimum deposit and no hidden charges. You’ll get a linked debit card - and every time you need to switch from one currency to the other you’ll get the mid-market exchange rate with no markup.

Account types: Both personal and business customers can open a Wise multi-currency account with no minimum balance or monthly fees to pay. 

Eligibility: Wise offers accounts to customers in the UK and a broad range of countries including Switzerland. Apply before you leave - or once you’re already settled overseas if you’d prefer.

Is it safe? Yes. Wise is registered with the FCA in the UK and a range of other global bodies in the other countries it trades in.

Go to Wise

Revolut

Revolut describes itself as a financial super app, and brings together a range of account services which you can access easily from your mobile or online. You’ll be able to hold and exchange 30+ currencies and spend using a linked debit card all around the world.

As well as multi-currency functionality, Revolut accounts offer some helpful features to let you manage your money better including budgeting, saving and investing tools. Open your account before you leave the UK to get everything set up before your move to Switzerland.

Account types: Standard account plans are free or you can upgrade to a paid plan for up to £12.99/month.

Eligibility: Available to customers with addresses in the UK, the EEA, Australia, Switzerland, the UK, Japan, and the US.

Is it safe? Revolut is registered with the FCA in the UK, and is a trustworthy provider to choose

Go to Revolut

PostFinance

If you’re looking for a CHF account to use while living in Switzerland, PostFinance can help with a CHF account that’s open to both residents and non-residents. It’s worth noting that non-residents will pay a 25 CHF/month fee, plus transaction fees which include international ATM fees and charges when you want to send money overseas.

PostFinance CHF accounts also come with a debit card, online and mobile banking and some domestic fee free withdrawal options.

Account types: Accounts available for both Swiss residents and non-residents

Eligibility: Non-residents can open the Private Account in CHF for an easy way to manage your money in Switzerland

Is it safe? Yes. PostFinance is a large and fully licensed bank

UBS

UBS has a broad range of accounts for all purposes, some of which are offered to non-residents. You may find you have a broader range of non-resident accounts available if you’re a cross border commuter and live in one of the countries neighbouring Switzerland. Many account packages are designed with this customer in mind, while other non-resident accounts may be more aimed at high wealth individuals, with a steep minimum balance requirement.

Account types: Range of accounts for both non-resident and residents in Switzerland

Eligibility: Different accounts available for Swiss residents, cross border commuters and non-residents - talk to UBS directly to find the right account for you

Is it safe? UBS is a safe bank - it’s globally regulated and trusted by huge numbers of customers around the world

What are the costs?

There’s a whole range of banking products available from Swiss banks. This means you have a good choice, but it also means you’ll need to read all the details carefully. Some accounts are low cost, and meant for everyday spending. But - in particular with non-resident accounts - there are some which are aimed at people looking to deposit large amounts of money (100,000 GBP and up for example), which have high minimum deposit requirements and may also have some restrictions on usage.

Read your account’s terms and conditions before you make any decisions. In particular look out for costs like these:

  • Minimum deposit requirement

  • Monthly maintenance fee

  • Out of network ATM fees

  • International transfer fees

  • Receiving fees for domestic and international payments

  • Foreign transaction fees

Tips for transferring money

International payments with a regular bank can be pricey. If you’re moving your money across borders check out these tips to save:

  • Compare the exchange rate you’re offered against the rate you find on Google to see if a markup has been added

  • International transfer fees can vary depending on whether or not you’re sending within the SEPA area

  • Review the terms and conditions of your specific account to check if it’s cheaper to send your payment online - this is usually the case

  • Don’t forget that third party fees may be deducted as the payment is processed, and can mean your recipient gets less than you expect

In many cases you’ll find that using a specialist international money transfer company will net you a better exchange rate and a lower overall fee compared to your normal bank. They may also get your money where it needs to be faster. Compare a few before you send your payment.

Conclusion

Opening a bank account in Switzerland isn’t likely to pose too many problems. However, you’ll want to look over the account features and fees carefully to make sure you’re not hit by high monthly fees or minimum balance requirements.

One key issue with most standard Swiss bank accounts is that you’ll only be able to hold one currency in them - usually either CHF or EUR. 

If you want a more flexible account which lets you hold more currencies, check out  an online and mobile specialist like Revolut or Wise.  These modern alternatives are designed to serve people with an international lifestyle, and often have better exchange rates than banks, and low transaction fees when you’re moving money across borders. 

Go to Wise
Go to Revolut

FAQ

Can a foreigner open an account in Switzerland?

Yes. There are Swiss bank accounts for residents and non-residents - however non-residents may pay extra monthly fees to get an account.

How much do I need to open a bank account in Switzerland?

Non-resident accounts from Swiss banks usually have a monthly fee, and a minimum opening deposit requirement. Accounts aimed at high wealth individuals have especially high minimum deposit requirements. Online specialists often offer accounts with no monthly fees, no minimum deposits, and low transaction charges.

Can I open a Swiss bank account online?

Yes - you can often open regular Swiss bank accounts online - or you can choose an online and mobile alternative account from a provider like Wise or Revolut.

Can I open a bank account in Switzerland before landing?

Non-resident accounts are available from Swiss banks, which you can often set up before you arrive. However, you’ll probably want to switch to a regular account once you’re settled in Switzerland, as non-resident accounts can be expensive and restricted.

By Ileana Ionescu
Updated 28 April 2022