Anyone who moves to Switzerland and works here needs a bank account. As Switzerland is undisputedly the country of banks, there is a wide choice of institutions. But since the banking sector has been hit by the phenomenon of the negative interest rate, it is very important to compare the costs of the various banks.
Switzerland offers a very diverse banking scene
The 24 cantonal banks are all independent of each other, so that they are legally independent banks operating without a common purpose. They focus primarily on retail banking in their respective cantons. The great advantage of the cantonal banks is the state guarantee. Of the 24 Swiss cantonal banks, 21 institutions have an unlimited state guarantee. This means that in the event of insolvency, the respective canton is liable for the liabilities of its bank and ensures that creditors do not incur a loss. The state guarantee allows customers to invest their money securely.
The disadvantage of the cantonal banks is their cantonal activity. If, for example, you open an account with the Zürcher Kantonalbank and move into the Canton of Lucerne, you must change the Cantonal Bank. www.kantonalbank.ch
The two major banks UBS and Credit Suisse form the foundation of the Swiss banking scene, as they set key interest rates or other key values. They are also the pillar of the Swiss economy and one of the country’s most important employers.
UBS is the world’s largest wealth manager. The bank has 280 branches in Switzerland. The bank serves private, corporate and investment clients and offers both wealth and asset management services. www.ubs.com/ch
An “internationally active bank with Swiss roots”, popular with foreign clients and expats. Credit Suisse is one of the world’s leading banks, with more than 45,000 employees, offices in 50 countries and expertise in virtually every aspect of banking, investment and finance. www.credit-suisse.com/ch
The Raiffeisen banks are organised as cooperatives, currently there are 246 institutions. These are organised under the umbrella organisation Raiffeisen Switzerland. Even though the individual banks are independent, they still have a common infrastructure in terms of IT and refinancing. www.raiffeisen.ch
There are a total of 63 different regional banks, 36 of which are organised in the Association of Swiss Regional Banks. However, the institutions did not give up their independence as a result of their merger. The association merely organizes common foundations, but the respective banks and savings banks act on their own account and are therefore not subject to a central control body that monitors their activities.
Postfinance is a subsidiary of Swiss Post. Its main area of activity is national and international payment transactions. It also offers products and services in the areas of savings, investment, retirement planning and financing. PostFinance has held a banking licence since the end of June 2013. The former state guarantee was abolished by the Confederation in 2017. www.postfinance.ch
Requirements for opening an account
Any adult can open a bank account. However, it is not possible to open an account via the Internet. You have to visit the branch personally. Let the bank know in advance what your language is so that they can assign you an advisor who understands you.
You must take the following documents with you to the appointment with your client advisor:
- Official ID: The bank must verify the identity of the client.
- Proof of the origin of your assets: Due to the fight against money laundering, every bank is obliged to clarify the origin of the applicant’s funds. In the event of doubtful origin, each bank reserves the right to refuse a client.
- Proof of Residence Status – Visa, Residence Permit or Work Permit
- Proof of residence – current service charge statement or an official letter
As a result of the Swiss National Bank’s persistent negative interest rates, interest rates for private accounts are becoming lower and lower, and are now at 0% for almost all banks. It is therefore all the more important to compare the fees charged by individual banks and accounts.
The Verivox platform has compared various bank accounts and made the following assumptions: Annual fees and interest were calculated for a customer who has 10´000 francs on his private account and 50´000 francs on his savings account. He uses e-banking for his payments and has a bank card (debit card) with which he can withdraw cash and make cashless payments. The best offer per bank was taken into account.
In the best case scenario, there is an interest rate of between 0.01% and 0.1% for balances on the savings account. With assets from 50´000 Franken, that’s just 50 francs interest. The situation is even worse with the big banks UBS and CS. They pay just five franc a year. There is no interest at all with the ZAK online account of Bank Cler, which does not offer a separate savings account at all.
|Bank||Product||Fees / year||Interest / year||Saldo / year|
|Migros Bank||Personal account & Investment savings account||0||40||40|
|Banque Cantonale Vaudoise||Banking Pack Direct||0||12.50||12.50|
|Raiffeisen||Member-personal account /-savings account||40||50||10|
|Neon (Hypothekarbank Lenzburg)||only personal account (App)||0||0||0|
|ZAK (Bank Cler)||Option Cashless||0||0||0|
|Bank Cler (ehemals Bank Coop)||Personal account & savings account Plus||52||50||-2|
|Zürcher Kantonalbank||Personal account & savings account Plus||52||25||-27|
|St. Galler Kantonalbank||Personal account & savings account||40||12.50||-27.50|
|Postfinance||Personal account o Plus & E-savings account||60||25||-35|
|Valiant Bank||Trend Set||48||12.50||-35.50|
|UBS||Personal account & savings account||100||5||-95|
|Credit Suisse||Personal account & savings account||110||5||-105|
Customers have to pay for the costs
The National Bank’s negative interest rates are a problem for the Swiss banks. With money in private and savings accounts, they lose money every day. These costs are passed on to customers in the form of rising fees. Most recently, Postfinance came under fire for its increased fees. Only Migros Bank and the Cantonal Bank of Vaud do not charge any fees for private accounts. And this, too, only on condition that at least 7´500 or 10´000 francs are in the account.
Online accounts are becoming more popular
Bank Cler (with ZAK) and Hypothekarbank Lenzburg (with Neon) offer pure online accounts. They offer 0% interest, but also 0 francs fees. The free fees are made possible by slimming down to the bare essentials. There are no bank branches, the account is opened via mobile phone. The two banks are thus targeting a younger audience in particular. Cashless payments can be made at both banks.
Do not forget inflation
One aspect he often forgets is inflation. If the savings account no longer yields a return because of the zero interest rates, then inflation is all the more significant. Inflation eats a little of our money every year. In 2018 the average inflation was 0.95%. Since inflation is higher than interest rates, we are losing purchasing power. So leaving the money in your account is definitely a loss-making business.