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10 Steps to Settling in Switzerland: Opening a Swiss Bank Account (#3)

What makes opening a Swiss bank account interesting is that you actually need a work contract first! So, do not waste your precious time and wait until you have a signed contract... Present it when applying for a bank account and you will be good to go in less than 15 minutes!

However, unless you belong to any - let's say - "special" organizations, opening a Swiss bank account is not as fancy as it looks in the movies. As long as you are at least 18 years old and have legal proof of your money sources, there should be no hassles. It goes without saying that large deposits from unknown sources may trigger an investigation...

Regarding the need for a permanent address, some expats have reported that even a temporary hotel address or international address will be accepted in most cases.

Now, if privacy is important to you, find a bank that does not have branches in your home country (see our advice below). This is easier said than done, because Switzerland lives and breathes from banking and you will probably be overwhelmed by the sheer number of banks out there... If you are not the online kind, it may help to pick 3 or 4 banks and visit their local branches. It is always easier having a live person answer any questions.

If you live near Zurich, why not check out the new Raiffeisen flagship bank at Kreuzplatz? This bank is meant to resemble a high-end boutique, and the interior design is surely something to write home about! So, not only will you experience the future of banking, but you will also be able to benefit from this credit union's membership perks...

We quite like Post Finance, the banking branch of the Swiss post. The benefits are obvious, as you can find a post office or ATM in even the most remote village. So you will have your funds available wherever you go in Switzerland, and in most other countries as well for that matter. Fees for withdrawing money abroad are very low compared to some of the usual suspect banks...

The Post Finance Online Set comes with a debit card and free online banking, which is very convenient. Applying for an account is very easy and can be done online (in English).

My advice: Do not forget that credit cards are hardly ever free here. Some of the easiest-to-get cards may result in fees for use abroad or for e-banking. If you regularly shop at Migros, you may want to look into their fee-free Cumulus Mastercard. Or if you like convenience, SBB now has a bundled VISA with their half-fare card as well.

Do you have any hints and tips to share?


A travel obsessed, positive thinking day dreamer from Spain who tries to gather as many experiences and memories as possible in Switzerland.


  • I noticed that it’s not always possible to pay with a PostFinance Card in Restaurants (don’t ask me for reasons, I’ve no idea why). To be sure to be able to pay everywhere, I think you’ll be best off with a Maestro Card or similar from a bank like Raiffeisen or Clientis. (I give preference to smaller banks rather than to UBS or Credit Suisse)

  • Sylvia,

    I just relocated to Switzerland (St. Gallen) to complete a Master’s degree. I do not have a job. Is it possible to obtain a bank account without a job, but with a residence permit? I will be here for nearly two years, so financially it makes sense to have a local bank account. Please email me in response if I will not receive a notification that you have posted an answer.

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