How to open a bank account in Switzerland
Switzerland is known for being one of the wealthiest countries in the world—but if you want to share in that wealth, you’ll need your own Swiss bank account. Here’s how to get one.
6 min read
Swiss banks are as emblematic of the country as luxurious watches, delicious chocolates, and the world-famous Swiss Alps. This prestigious reputation might make opening a Swiss bank account seem intimidating—but don’t worry! Nowadays opening a bank account—yes, even in Switzerland—can be simple. In this easy-to-follow guide, we’ve lined up all the information you’ll need to open a bank account in Switzerland.
How to choose a Swiss bank account
With so many choices, deciding on a Swiss bank account can easily become overwhelming. Bearing that in mind, let’s try and focus on the essentials. Which factors you want to weigh more heavily are totally up to you, but you’ll want to consider are the following:
The costs—Like most things in Switzerland, banking costs can run quite high. Accounts will often have a fee for opening, as well as ongoing maintenance. Standard monthly fees can easily reach 25 Swiss francs (CHF) per month for a basic account. For a debit card, you generally have to pay another 30 CHF, while for a credit card you may be required to leave a deposit that is equivalent to the monthly credit limit of the card. If you’re considering a numbered bank account, be aware that the annual fees can run as high as 2,000 CHF per year at Swiss Banks. This fee may not include the charges to make bank transfers, withdraw cash, or currency exchange fees.
The speed and simplicity—This is one of the main struggles for traditional banks in Switzerland. They tend to be quite complicated and require long wait times. But don’t worry! We’ll present you some possible solutions later in the guide.
The language—Switzerland consists of 26 cantons and four official languages—Romansh, German, French, and Italian. The language spoken by your bank of choice depends on the canton of the area. Make sure to double check that the bank you are considering also offers services in English. Don’t feel too discouraged by language barriers, though—many residents don’t even speak all four languages!
What are the requirements to open a bank account in Switzerland?
Generally, Swiss banks welcome foreign residents with open arms. You can even open accounts for different currencies, not limited to Swiss francs. However, if you are not a Swiss resident, you’ll need to be at least 18 years old to open a bank account. Be advised that it is not unusual for banks in Switzerland to request an initial deposit for opening an account as well as require you to maintain a minimum balance. Each bank may have different requirements, so find one that matches your ability to pay.
What documents do you need to open a bank account in Switzerland?
The exact set of documents that you’ll need to open an account may vary from bank to bank, depending on the type of account. These are some of the documents you can expect to be asked to present:
Proof of identity—You will need an official document issued by the government (e.g., a national ID or passport)
Proof of address—In this case, you will need to bring utility bills (e.g., gas, electricity, internet, etc.), bank statements, or other official communications. These documents should not be older than 3 months.
Proof of employment, or legitimacy of funds—It is normal for Swiss banks to request documents proving the origin of the funds you are looking to deposit and/or a letter from your employer as proof of solvency.
What’s the typical process for opening a bank account in Switzerland?
The easiest way to open a bank account at a traditional Swiss bank is to go in person to a branch office. With this approach, you are assigned to a person that will be your point of contact. If you wish to be assisted by someone in a specific language, you should make this request before you’re assigned a specific bank employee.
Even if you choose to handle this process in person, chances are you’ll still have to wait a period of time before your account has been successfully created and is fully operational. The average time during this period usually ranges between one week and one month, plus the time needed to deliver your bank cards.
Can I open a Swiss bank account online?
In short, yes. Many Swiss banks do offer the option to open an account remotely or online, but keep in mind that without guidance from a real person, this can easily become a time consuming process. When opening an account online at a traditional Swiss bank, you’ll be expected to request an application pack via phone or through the bank’s website. Once you receive it, you must complete and sign all the documents and return them to the bank by post. You’ll also need to include the standard documents mentioned above—proof of identity, proof of address, and the source of the funds that you want to deposit. All of these documents must be officially authenticated (with a notarized copy or an Apostille stamp).
Traditional banks vs online banks
When it comes to comparing and choosing between traditional and online banks, it is important to know your priorities. Online banks present a broad range of advantages compared to more traditional banks: speed of set up, simplicity, flexibility, quality of the digital services, and price of fees are all areas where online banks tend to outperform their brick-and-mortar counterparts. If you’re concerned over the security of online banking, however, you should pay special attention to the type of license an online bank has.
Banking license vs e-money license
Not all companies that offer an online bank account have a banking license. It might be that they only have an e-money license (EMI). An EMI has lower requirements and is easier to get than a full banking license. What does that mean for you? The biggest difference is the level of security protecting your money. Without a banking license, the bank cannot guarantee your deposit, as they can with a full banking license. At N26 we operate with a full European banking license, which means that your money is protected, up to €100,000 by the German Deposit Protection Scheme.
How to open a bank account online with N26
With N26, you can open an account online in just 8 minutes and start using it in Switzerland even before you receive your debit card. All you need is your smartphone, a valid ID, and an internet connection. That's it! Once you’ve completed the registration process, you’re ready to go. Plus, if you’re not fluent in the language of your canton, no worries—the N26 support team is here for you in 5 different languages.
Your money at N26
At N26, we’re committed to transparency and innovation to make your life easier, wherever you decide to call home. Your N26 euro bank account is easy to set up and comes with perks and features such as Spaces sub-accounts to let you set aside money instantly, real-time push notifications so you can always stay on top of your balance, free international withdrawals, and much more. Or, if you’re a freelancer looking for a business bank account, we’ve got you covered. Freelancers with a N26 Business account can count on a broad range of services, including free money transfers and 0.1% Cashback on purchases made with your N26 Mastercard.
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