How to open a Swiss bank account online for non-residents
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, USD or any other currency you might need.
Some Swiss banks do offer non-resident accounts, which you may be able to set up remotely, online. 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.
What are the requirements to open a Swiss bank account?
Each bank will set their own requirements which usually include an age limit of 18 or 20 years old for different account types. In addition you’ll need to provide some information and paperwork to get your account up and running. As some accounts from banks will ask you to deposit a fixed amount, you’ll also need to have the funds to cover your Swiss bank account minimum balance available when you open your account.
If you’re looking to open a bank account in Switzerland, the documentation you’ll normally need is:
- Government issued photo ID document
- Proof of address
- Opening deposit amount
- Proof of employment may also be required
Save the paperwork with alternative solutions like Wise or Revolut
If you can’t open a resident’s account in Switzerland, and you want to stick with banks, you’ll probably need to open a specific Swiss non-resident bank account. This is likely to mean higher monthly fees, and can also come with some pretty hefty minimum deposit requirements.
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 USD. It’s easy, and can cut your costs and give you a more flexible account for traveling, living and working overseas.
How to open a Swiss bank account Online as a Non-resident
We’ll look at some of the Swiss banks which allow you to open online non-resident accounts in more detail in just a moment. The good news is that there are some options from banks which let you get your new Swiss bank account set up online, without needing to visit a branch in person. However, it’s worth remembering that non-resident accounts can come with higher fees compared to standard CHF accounts, and may not offer extras like multi-currency functionality.
It’s also helpful to know what your Swiss bank account number should look like – as the format may be a little different to what you’re used to. Swiss IBANs (international bank account numbers) have 21 characters, starting with the country code (CH) and then digits representing the bank and specific account number.
How to set up a Swiss bank account for non-residents
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 US prior to your move – setting up a Swiss bank account for residents 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 US, to transact in USD, CHF and a whole range of other currencies, too.
Can I open a bank account in Switzerland online from the USA as a non-resident?
Theoretically, non-residents are free to open bank accounts in Switzerland. However, some banks still require that customers visit a branch to get their account fully up and running.
You may be able to start the process online, but if you don’t intend to travel to Switzerland any time soon, you’ll need to double check the details on any account you’re interested in before you get started with your application. It’s also 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).
Looking for an easier solution? Check out online multi-currency accounts from providers like Wise and Revolut, which let you manage your money in CHF, USD, EUR and more, with easy online and in-app onboarding you can set up from anywhere.
Picking a Swiss bank accounts for US citizens
If you’re from the US, it’s important to check the details and eligibility requirements for the accounts you look at especially carefully. That’s because overseas banks – including those in Switzerland – have additional responsibilities when offering accounts to US citizens, because of FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) legislation.
FATCA means that funds held overseas by US citizens must be reported by banks to the IRS to ensure full US tax compliance. The extra work involved in this can mean that some smaller international banks in particular are unwilling to take on new customers from the US. Check the small print carefully when you select your account.
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.
|Currencies covered||50+ currencies including CHF, EUR and USD||25+ currencies including CHF, EUR and USD||CHF or EUR||CHF or EUR|
|Non-resident accounts available||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Open an account online||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Maintenance fee||Free||Up to $16.99/month, Standart plan doesn’t have an opening fee or monthly fee||25 CHF/month||From CHF 5/month – final fee depends on the banking package you select|
|International transfers||Low and transparent fees, transfer fees may vary by currency||Fee varies by currency and payment value||Online payments – from 2 CHF depending on specific payment|
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
How to choose a Swiss bank account as a non-resident
There’s no legal reason why foreigners can’t open and operate a Swiss bank account, even as a non-resident. However, different banks have their own eligibility requirements, which means that in practise it may be a little trickier than you expect to get the perfect account for you. We’ll cover some popular choices for Swiss bank accounts for non-residents in just a moment – but first let’s run through a few things to think about when you select an account.
Before you choose your Swiss bank account you’ll want to consider how you intend to use it. Accounts are offered which have features to suit different types of customers – such as:
- People planning to move to Switzerland, or who visit regularly and are looking for a day to day account denominated in Swiss francs (CHF)
- Cross-border commuters who live outside of Switzerland and are paid in CHF, but usually spend in EUR
- People looking to manage CHF alongside a range of other currencies
- High wealth individuals who will trade and invest in CHF denominated funds
Accounts which are intended for trading and investing are likely to come with high minimum balance requirements and hefty fees. Accounts which are aimed at day to day spending will still come with some costs, but are likely to be more flexible in terms of minimum balance and fixed fees.
If you’re looking for a Swiss bank account for daily use check out our top picks below, and don’t forget to look at key features and fees before you choose – including:
- Monthly fees
- Transaction fees including ATM withdrawals and payments
- Costs for more complex transactions like international wires
- Exchange rates available if you need to manage between currencies
- Account closure and dormancy fees
Specialist online banks and account providers can be a solid option instead of choosing a Swiss bank. You’ll find options like Wise and Revolut which don’t have any minimum balance – Wise also has accounts with no monthly fee, while Revolut offers account plans with and without ongoing charges so you can pick the perfect fit for your needs.
How to open a Swiss bank account from the USA
Depending on your preferences and personal situation, you may be able to open an online account from the US with a Swiss bank, or with a Swiss neobank or provider like Wise or Revolut.
- Swiss Banks: Major Swiss banks often offer non-resident accounts, some of which can be opened online from the US. Check the terms and conditions carefully before you get started as some have high minimum balance requirements
- Swiss neobanks: Some Swiss or European neobanks may be able to help you open a CHF account, although your residency details will determine whether or not you’re eligible to get an account. N26 – for example – no longer offers accounts to people in the US, but could be handy if you’re already in Europe
- Multi-currency Accounts: Multi-currency accounts from specialist providers can be free or cheap to open and operate, and have the bonus that you can use them for a range of currencies wherever you happen to be in the world
If you choose an account from a provider like Wise and Revolut, you can open a multi-currency account that allows you to hold and convert money in Swiss francs alongside dollars and a range of other currencies. That makes it easier to get paid, spend and send payments between the US and Switzerland.
- 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
Alternative online Swiss accounts for non-residents
Banks aren’t your only option to open a bank account in Switzerland from US. Here are some other providers to consider.
Wise accounts offer balances in 50+ currencies, and give customers local 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 abroad, or simply if you live an international lifestyle.
Accounts are available for personal and business customers, with no monthly fee, no minimum deposit or balance requirements and no hidden charges. Learn more on Wise Review.
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.
Use your account to receive payments, spend with your card, and whenever you need to send money overseas you can make safe and fast Wise international transfers with the midmarket exchange rate and low, transparent fees.
Multi-currency accounts: Both personal and business customers can open a Wise multi-currency account with no minimum balance or monthly fees to pay.
Debit card: Available for global spending, more information at Wise Card Review
Fees and rates: Midmarket exchange rate on all conversion, with low fees for services. For more info: Wise fees.
Eligibility: Wise offers accounts to customers in the US 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 and licensed by a range of global bodies which cover all the countries it trades in.
N26 is a German neo-bank which previously operated out of the US as well as their base across much of Europe. If you’re a US resident you can no longer get a N26 account – but if you’re already in Switzerland or elsewhere in Europe you can open a euro denominated N26 account to enjoy similar benefits and make it easier to manage your money across currencies. You won’t be able to hold a CHF balance, but the fact there’s no foreign exchange fee for spending in other currencies may still make this an option worth exploring.
Best features: Solid selection of different account plans which have varied features and fees
Multi-currency account types: Personal and business accounts are available in euros only
Debit card: All plans come with linked debit cards – card features vary by account plan
Eligibility: To open an account with N26 you need to be resident in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden or Switzerland.
Fees and rates: Free accounts available with a virtual card, with a selection of account plans up to 16.90 EUR/month
Is it safe? Yes. N26 is a registered and licensed neobank.
Read ur N26 alternatives guide to learn more.
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 25+ currencies and spend using a linked debit card around the world.
As well as multi-currency account 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 US to get everything set up before your move to Switzerland.
Multi-currency account types: Accounts for personal and business customers, which can hold 25+ currencies
Debit card: Available – different account plans have different card types
Fees and rates: Standard account plans don’t have an opening fee or monthly fee, or you can upgrade to a paid plan for up to $16.99/month, all plans have some no-fee currency exchange
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 and licensed, and is a trustworthy provider to choose
Best Swiss Bank Account For Foreigners from Swiss Banks
1. PostFinance account for non-residents
If you live in Switzerland you’ll be able to open your new PostFinance account online using just your smartphone. However, if you’re a non-resident you’ll need to start the account opening process digitally and then wait to receive hard copy documents in the post to complete your application.
Choose the account package that suits your needs. To give an idea, for the Smart Banking Package you’ll pay 5 CHF/month fees unless you hold a balance of 25,000 CHF. International ATM withdrawals are likely to cost around 5 CHF each depending on which package and card you select.
2. Migros Bank accounts for non-residents
Migros Bank has a range of different accounts on offer – and although their website is only available in German, Italian and French, accounts are available to foreigners as well. To open an account you’ll usually need to visit a branch, though – so you may need to take a local friend with you if you choose a Migros account.
3. UBS non-resident accounts
UBS has a few different account options which may suit foreigners depending on their individual situation. You’ll be able to check out the packages available online, then click to the account application stage to get an account package and proposal based on your personal circumstances including your income level.
Personal accounts are free to open and close – but there’s a monthly fee of up to 30 CHF a month, depending on the specific package you select, and your age. Card payments made abroad attract a 2% fee in addition to the UBS exchange rate which has a surcharge included. International ATM withdrawals cost up to 5 CHF each, in addition to the exchange rate surcharge.
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, 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: Open Swiss Bank Account Online as a non-resident
No matter why you want a Swiss bank account there’s probably a product out there that suits you. You’ll need to check the features and fees carefully – and also look at the eligibility requirements and account opening processes to make sure you find a Switzerland bank account fit for your needs.
One key issue with most 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 multiple currencies, check out an online and mobile specialist like Revolut or Wise, or take a look at a neobank like N26. You can open an account with Wise and Revolut online as a non-resident even when you are still in US. These alternatives are designed to serve people with an international lifestyle, and often have better exchange rates, and low transaction fees when you’re moving money across borders.
Opening a Bank Account in Switzerland 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.
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.
How much money do I need to open a Swiss bank account?
Different Swiss bank accounts have their own opening and eligibility rules, which may include a minimum deposit requirement. If you’re looking for an account which is free to open with no ongoing fees, check out providers like Wise and 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.
How hard is it to open a Swiss bank account for non residents?
There are quite a few options to open a Swiss bank account as a non-resident. However, it’s useful to know that specific non-resident accounts can often come with higher fees and more restrictive terms. Take a look at providers like Wise which can offer accounts to hold and exchange CHF, which are opened online with a US proof of ID and address.
Are Swiss bank accounts safe?
Switzerland has a well regulated banking industry, so as long as you stick with a reputable bank or service provider your Swiss bank account should be safe to use.
Do numbered Swiss bank accounts still exist?
Most Swiss banks have stopped offering old-style numbered bank accounts. In some cases, older numbered accounts are still operated by banks, but new customers can not usually access this type of account product.