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Opening a Swiss bank account for cross-border workers

Welcome to the land of banks!

Banking is Switzerland's specialit. However, it's quite complicated (and sometimes costly) to open a bank account if you live abroad. Many workers from France, Germany, and Italy face these kinds of problems as they cross the border every day to work in Switzerland.

Between special conditions and different rates, the choice of a Swiss bank account has to be made carefully so you can benefit from the best possible deal and avoid unnecessary costs.

If you live abroad and work in Switzerland, this guide will help you to compare the different opportunities so you can manage at best your money from both sides of the border.

What is required?

For the vast majority of cross-border workers, the basic needs in terms of money comes down to two things:

  1. To obtain a Swiss IBAN that you can give to your employer so that they can pay your salary in Swiss francs.
  2. To convert this salary in Euros and to retrieve the converted sum on your French, German, Italian, or other bank account.

1. Obtaining a Swiss IBAN

In order to collect your salary from your employer, you must give them a Swiss IBAN (starting with CH), or in other terms Swiss banking coordinate. Most Swiss companies will not accept to pay your salary directly to a bank account abroad, because they obviously don't want to take in charge the exchange and transfer fees.

To obtain a Swiss IBAN, French cross-borders have 3 options:

1.1 The cheapest option: skip Swiss banks

This can seem counterintuitive, but it's possible!

If you already have a bank account where you live, and all that matters to you is to receive you Swiss salary converted in euros, why bother getting another bank account and pay the costs that come with it?

Sometimes you can also be refused the opening of a Swiss bank account, particularly in cases with temporary workers coming to Switzerland for contracts of too short duration for the liking of a bank.

To receive a dedicated Swiss IBAN (which is specific to you) without opening a Swiss bank account, you can simply go through ibani (that’s right, that’s us!). This service will let you generate transit IBANs, on which the money received is directly converted and sent to the bank account with the indicated destination.

The advantage of this setup is to be able to automatize the collection and the exchange of your salary and to save money in the process on all the expenses that come with a bank account.

Another advantage is that a transit IBAN isn’t a bank account, so you don't have to declare it for your taxes!

You can obtain your Swiss IBAN for free, by using the ibani mobile app.

1.2 What about Neo-banks?

Revolut, Transferwise, N26 and others have seen immense success these last few years thanks to better experience and service offers than traditional banks.

Even though their offers are probably unbeatable as a main bank account to deposit money, they aren't adapted to perceive a salary upon.

Contrary to what you might believe, these companies are usually not banks but payment institutions. One of these differences is that they do not propose unique IBANs or banking coordinates to their clients, as would a standard bank. Without these unique coordinates, it’s quite complicated (but possible) to make arrangements with your employer to receive your salary directly on a neo-bank account.

Even if these companies aren’t banks, it’s important to note that one must report these accounts in your tax filling. Beware the oversights and bad surprises that may come with them!

1.3 Open an account in Switzerland

For people who want to preserve a part of their salary in Swiss francs for their daily spending, a bank account is necessary and choosing a Swiss bank account could be the best solution for your needs.

This chart compares the best offers from the banks of Swiss Romande for a bank account that a cross-border worker can open:

BankProductAccount CostForeign Resident FeesCHF AccountEUR AccountSEPA TransfersATM WithdrawalsMaestro CardVisa/Mastercard
UBSIndividual EURCHF 10 / month (free for the first 6 months)CHF 0YesYesCHF 0.30-5 / paymentFree at UBS, CHF 2 in Switzerland, CHF 5 abroadFreeFree
Banque du LémanPoint Frontalis IndividuelCHF 12 / monthCHF 0YesYesFreeFree, CHF 2 in Switzerland, CHF 5 abroadFreeCHF 50+ / an
Crédit Agricole next bankEssenCielCHF 15 / monthCHF 0YesNoFreeFree in SwitzerlandFreeMastercard free the first year
Crédit Agricole next bankEUROmobilityCHF 29 / monthCHF 0YesYesFree5 free withdrawals / month in SwitzerlandFreeMastercard free the first year
BCGEBCGE PrivéCHF 3 / monthCHF 6 / monthYesYesFree in Switzerland, CHF 1 / payment SEPA abroadFree in cantonal banks, CHF 2 in Switzerland, CHF 5 abroadCHF 30CHF 100+ / year
BCJCompte RevenuCHF 2 / monthCHF 10 / monthYesNoCHF 1 / paymentFree in cantonal banks, CHF 2 in Switzerland, CHF 5 abroadCHF 40CHF 100+ / year
PostFinanceCompte privé plusCHF 5 / monthCHF 25 / monthYesYesFreeUnlimited in Switzerland and abroadFreeCHF 50+ / year
BCVDirecteCHF 3.50 / month (free the first 6 months)CHF 20 / monthYesNoFreeFree in cantonal banks, CHF 5 in Switzerland, CHF 5 + 0.5% abroadFreeCHF 50+ / year
BCNPACKBCNSOLOCHF 17 / monthCHF 10 / monthYesNoCHF 0.50 / paymentFree in cantonal banks, CHF 2 in Switzerland, CHF 5 abroadFreeFree
Banque ClerPack ClassicCHF 11 / monthCHF 20 / monthYesYesFreeFree at the banque Cler, CHF 2 in SwitzerlandFreeFree
Banque ClerCompte privéCHF 2-5 / monthCHF 20 / monthYesNoFreeFree at the banque Cler, CHF 2 in SwitzerlandCHF 40 / yearCHF 100+ / year
RaiffeisenCompte privé sociétaireCHF 0 / monthCHF 25 / monthYesNoCHF 1 / paymentFree at Raiffeisen, CHF 2 in Switzerland, CHF 4.5 abroadFreeCHF 50+ / year
Banque MigrosCompte privéCHF 3 / monthCHF 25 / monthYesNoCHF 0.30 / paymentFree in Migros banks, CHF 2 in Switzerland, CHF 5 abroadFreeFree
Credit SuisseCompte privéCHF 5 / monthCHF 40 / monthYesNoFreeCHF 2 in Switzerland, CHF 4.75 + 0.25% abroadCHF 50 / yearCHF 15+ / mois
ValiantSet tendanceCHF 6 / monthCHF 40 / monthYesNoFreeFree at Valiant and Entris, CHF 2 in Switzerland, CHF 5 abroadFreeCHF 50+ / year
Banque Cler ZakDo not accept foreign residents.
NeonDo not accept foreign residents.

Note: The information presented above is for guidance only. They come from the publicly available information of each company listed above and presented from the point of view of a person residing outside of Switzerland. The information contained may be incomplete, contain errors, or be outdated.

It should be noted that practically all the banks offer free accounts starting from a certain amount deposited, which can vary significantly from one bank to another. If you have a 5 digit or more amount to deposit, make sure to ask about it!

Most banks will ask for an employment contract in Switzerland in order to open an account and some cantonal banks require that the place of employment is located in their canton.

1.4 Opening a CHF account in a French Bank

Some French banks offer solutions for cross-border including a swiss and french bank account allowing you to manage your currencies between both countries. These all-in-one offers can be attractive, but information may be harder to get and often can only be made available on request. In any case, pay attention to the exchange rates that are often higher and lack transparency since they are directly integrated into the cash-flow between the accounts within a same bank.

BankProductAccount CostCHF AccountEUR AccountSEPA TransfersATM WithdrawalsMaestro CardsVisa/Mastercard
Crédit MutuelEurocompte Tranquillité€ 6.30 / monthUpon requestYesFree, € 3.50 if not denominated in EURFree at Crédit Mutuel and CIC, € 1 in the eurozone, no withdrawals in SwitzerlandFree€ 42+ / year
Crédit MutuelEurocompte Confort€ 11.95 / monthUpon requestYesFree, € 3.50 if not denominated in EURFree at Crédit Mutuel and CIC, € 1 in the eurozone, free in Switzerland€ 21.20 / yearFree
CIC-€ 2 / monthUpon requestYesFreeGrFree at Crédit Mutuel and CIC, € 1 in the eurozone, 2.9% in Switzerland€ 0+ / year€ 21+ / year

Note: The information presented above is for guidance only. They come from the publicly available information of each company listed above and presented from the point of view of a person residing outside of Switzerland. The information contained may be incomplete, contain errors, or be outdated.

2. Exchanging your salary from CHF to EUR

Congratulations, you now have a great solution to collect your Swiss salary!

What's next?

Changing CHF to EUR is a step where many hidden fees can be charged. By paying attention, you can easily save a significant amount of money each month.

To find the best currency exchange service for your needs, have a loot at our CHF-EUR currency exchange guide:

3. Conclusion

If you work in Switzerland but live abroad, opening a Swiss bank account isn't a trivial choice. And finding the best deal possible can take a lot of time and efforts.

That is why avoiding altogether a Swiss bank account is an increasingly popular option. With services providing Swiss transit IBAN numbers like ibani, it becomes possible to easily collect your salary from your employer straight on your French, German or Italian bank account. All while getting a much better currency exchange deal that your usual bank.

Money flows are clearly getting from the historical monopoly of banks in the benefit of consumers, so... why not start saving today?

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