How do I open an account in Switzerland?

How do I open an account in Switzerland?
Essential banking for expats

Switzerland is home to a wide range of banks:

  • Universal banks can be found throughout Switzerland
  • Cantonal banks are local banks serving their canton
  • Raiffeisen cooperative bank
  • Private banks are oriented towards wealth management

The advantage of a universal bank is that it offers the full range of banking services: accounts, cards, home loans, pensions and investments. Almost all banks now allow you to open an account in a branch or online.

Learn more about opening a bank account online

How to open a Swiss bank account?

Current account, cards and e-banking

Current account

Current account, private account and salary account, are different names for the same account:

picto iban

Have an IBAN number

This should be given to the Human Resources department.

picto salary

Receiving a salary

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Spending

Bill payments, cash withdrawals, money transfers, etc.

It is practically mandatory to have a current account in Switzerland, because it will be attached to a debit card, perhaps a credit card and access to the bank’s secure online banking area or mobile app.

A current account incurs maintenance fees, which can be avoided or reduced with the ‘Pack’ packages offered by most banks.

monopoly salary box
Ask for your IBAN number when you open your account, so that the human resources department can make future salary payments into your account.

Maestro card: the Swiss debit card

Unlike some European countries, in Switzerland it is customary to use a direct debit card, called a Maestro card, for day-to-day spending.

A Maestro card is used to withdraw money, pay in stores and allows you to keep an eye on your spending.

With a Maestro card:

  • Cash withdrawals at Bancomats (Swiss name for ATMs) in CHF and often also possible in EUR within Switzerland. Please note that most banks charge for withdrawals made at third-party ATMs.
  • Withdrawal of foreign currencies abroad
  • Payments in stores in Switzerland and abroad. In Switzerland, contactless payment is possible for amounts of less than CHF 40 if your card has this feature.
  • Autonomous management of authorised areas of use via geoblocking.

You cannot pay with a Maestro card online, you must have a second card, commonly called a credit card.

Credit card

An essential addition to the Maestro card, a credit card offers the following services:

picto atm

ATM withdrawals

ATM withdrawals in Switzerland and abroad (generally free in Switzerland, fees abroad)

picto store payments

Payments in stores

Payments in stores (free in Switzerland, fees abroad)

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Online payments

Online payments (free of charge in CHF, fees in foreign currencies)

Advantages:

  • A credit card can be used as a deferred debit card with expenses debited in CHF at the end of the month. You will not be charged any fees.
  • The card can be used to make online payments in any currency.
  • It is compatible with certain digital payment methods (Twint, etc).

Combining the two types of cards (debit cards for day-to-day spending and credit cards for major purchases or online shopping) is a great, cost-effective solution.

Compare bank cards

Online banking account and mobile banking apps

Online access to all your accounts. While accessing accounts from a computer is still common practice, increasing numbers of users are also downloading banking apps to track their accounts and card use.

The essential smartphone banking app

  • Check your account balance whenever you want
  • Account-to-account transfer to stretch your budget
  • Transfer to an external account
  • Validation of the payment of your invoices (e-bills)
  • Adjusting limits or blocking your cards
  • Secure contact with the bank
  • An aggregator for your Swiss bank accounts with your French accounts
  • There may be other features available depending on the bank

Unique to Switzerland: many banks outsource their credit card business to a partner. Specialised issuers like Viseca, Corner or Swissbankers also offer very dynamic banking apps to ensure secure transactions and card management.

This article contains links to third-party websites. They are provided solely as information and their purpose is not to promote subscription to the products offered by Crédit Agricole, which has no commercial links with the owners of these sites. This information should not be considered as advice – financial, fiscal, or otherwise.

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