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Many people want the money in their bank to be used for projects with good social and ecological values. And generally, banks use the money to maximize profits, not to fit these values.
For these people, the Alternative Bank Switzerland was created. This bank does not try to maximize profits but prioritizes its ecological and social values. It also offers investment advice for sustainable investing.
So, how good is the bank account from the Alternative Bank Switzerland? We find out in this in-depth review of this bank account. By the end of the review, you will know whether you should use the Alternative Bank Switzerland.
|Monthly fee||4 CHF|
|Withdrawals in Switzerland||10 Free per month, then 3 CHF|
|Withdrawals abroad||5.00 CHF|
|Languages||French, German, and Italian|
Alternative Bank Switzerland
The Alternative Bank Switzerland was founded in 1990 out of the need of people to get a bank that was not only trying to maximize its profits.
Alternative Bank Switzerland aims to be transparent, ethical, and social. It will never invest in fossil energy, will not let any shareholder hold more than 5% of the shares, and will always publish the list of given loans. Another condition is that no sex will hold more than 60 percent of the seats. While this may sound simple, this is already much further than other Swiss banks. This bank promises to be sustainable.
On top of that, the bank also offers investment advice into sustainable products.
At the end of 2021, the bank had about 43’000 customers. This is not a large bank by any means. But the bank has been growing well over time.
So, how does this translate into a bank account? We will find out.
Becoming a shareholder
We must cover bank shares before we delve into the features and fees. Indeed, having ten shares in Alternative Bank Switzerland will open the possibility of using the Plus account.
The standard 7on7 account is available to everyone. However, the 7on7 Plus account is only available to shareholders with ten shares. And this second account has a few advantages.
There are two types of shares:
- Shares of type A with a nominal value of 100 CHF.
- Shares of type B with a nominal value of 1000 CHF.
While the nominal value of a share is 100 CHF, the current value of a share of type A is around 170 CHF these days (1700 CHF for a share of type B). Since 2022, the shares have gained about 60% in value. This is not a bad return for a conservative and sustainable investment. On top of that, there are sometimes some dividends as well.
Unfortunately, shares of type A are only for companies. This means that an individual needs to buy shares of type B. So, to be eligible for the 7on7 Plus account, you would need ten shares of type B. This currently amounts to more than 17’000 CHF.
I find it crazy that you would need to invest that much money to get eligible for the Plus account. We will see later what are the advantages of this account. The difference is huge compared to Raiffeisen, where you can get the shareholder account for 200 CHF.
First, we will look at the features of the Alternative Bank Switzerland.
One great thing about this bank is that you can use it on your mobile and online. It is good because many of the good banks only have mobile apps these days. I may be old-fashioned, but I prefer using e-banking on my computer than on my phone.
As is usual with any bank, you can see your balance, make payments, and transfer money from your account. You will be able to pay your QR Bills easily. These are all the features you need for your day-to-day banking.
On top of that, the bank also supports e-bills. This is great because many people rely heavily on this feature.
You can make payments in Switzerland and abroad in various currencies. It looks like you can only transfer CHF, EUR, GBP, and USD. This should be enough for most people, but some need more exotic currencies.
With your account, you can get a Debit Mastercard on demand. This will allow you to pay in shops and withdraw money in Switzerland and abroad.
Unfortunately, the Alternative Bank Switzerland does not support English. It is available in the three national languages. So, it may be an issue for expatriates.
The interest rate on the standard account is currently 0%. On the 7on7 Plus account, the interest rate is 0.125%. On the savings accounts, you will get 0.5%. This is decent but nothing exceptional.
Overall, you get basic features only with the Alternative Bank Switzerland. This will be enough for many, but the lack of electronic bills will block some people. The advantage will be that you get web and mobile applications.
We must now look at the banking fees of Alternative Bank Switzerland. You do not want to waste your money on fees, even for a highly sustainable bank.
The standard account has a 48 CHF per year fee. You will only pay 12 CHF per year if you have the Plus account.
If you want a card with your account, you must pay 40 CHF per year on top of the monthly fee. This will be almost mandatory for most people, so it should be counted as a yearly fee. This fee is waived if you use the Plus account.
So, you will pay 88 CHF per year for the standard account and 12 CHF per year for the Plus account.
The base operations in CHF are free with both accounts. You will also be able to withdraw ten times per month for free. After this, this will cost you 3 CHF per withdrawal. Ten withdrawals per month is a very large amount.
If you do a transfer in Switzerland in EUR, this will cost 6 CHF (without third-party fees) or 25 CHF (with everything included). If you transfer to Europe in EUR (SEPA), you will pay 6 CHF. And if you transfer to the rest of the world in CHF, EUR, GBP, or USD, you will pay 10 CHF (without third-party fees) or 25 CHF (everything included).
If you withdraw money abroad with the Debit Mastercard, you will pay 5 CHF per withdrawal. And if you pay abroad with the card, you will pay 1.50 CHF per payment. It is also unclear whether they apply any exchange rate surcharge, but if they do not, you will pay the average surcharge from Mastercard, which is about 0.40%, on top of the fees.
Overall, the fees of Alternative Bank Switzerland are really good in Switzerland but are quite expensive if you need to do any operation abroad. While it is not free, you will pay 88 CHF per year for the basic account. This may be entirely worth it if you strongly believe in how this bank will use your money.
Overall, there is little difference between the standard and the Plus account. Considering that you need to invest 17’000 CHF in the bank to get the Plus, it is disappointing. So, you should not become a shareholder just to get the account, but only if you believe in this bank.
On the standard and Plus accounts, you can withdraw up to 75’000 CHF per month. If you need to withdraw more than that, you will need to give a notification one month in advance.
On the savings account, you can withdraw up to 20’000 CHF per month. You must notify the bank three months in advance if you need to withdraw more.
The Debit Mastercard has a monthly limit of 5’000 CHF per month and a 2000 CHF daily limit.
Overall, these limits are quite good. But I wish the limits on the card were higher. In some cases, large bills need to be paid with the card. But generally, these limits will be good enough for most cases.
How sustainable is it?
The main selling point of Alternative Bank Switzerland is to be more sustainable and more ethical than the other banks in Switzerland. So, we must look at exactly how they are different.
The goal of the Alternative Bank Switzerland is to impact the world positively.
For that, the bank excludes some investments. The bank has an extensive exclusion list. For instance, it will not invest in toxic products, fossil fuels, companies that do not respect human rights, and many more. Their exclusion list makes them already more sustainable than other banks.
They will also not invest in nuclear energy, something I strongly disagree with since it is the only green energy we have to sustain the future that would not ruin us.
On top of not investing in some companies, the bank also chooses to invest specifically in some sectors. For instance, it promotes a circular economy, green housing, etc.
Finally, the company itself tries to have a sustainable company. It has a strong focus on equality and transparency. And it tries to reduce its footprint by reducing energy consumption and waste at each level.
The bank has been recognized several times as a sustainable and ethical bank. For instance, in 2023, the University of Neuchatel gave the bank an ethical finance price.
This bank is significantly more sustainable than any other Swiss bank I know. Sustainability has been rooted in its values since its inception over 30 years ago.
Finally, we can look at what customers are saying about the bank.
On Google, the bank got an average score of 3.4 out of 5, with 19 reviews only. On TrustPilot, the bank only got three reviews and a 3.7 out of 5 score.
On the negative side, most people cite poor customer service, long delays, and not always helpful staff. People also mention that it takes a long time to open an account. On the positive side, people are happy about the professionalism of the employees and about the fact that they know that their money will be well used.
I have found very few reviews of this bank online. Overall, it looks like they could be technical better and improve their customer service. However, people appreciate the sustainability of the bank.
What makes Alternative Bank Switzerland different?
The bank is not aiming to maximize, but to maximize its impact on the world, through its social and ecological values.
Can you become a shareholder of Alternative Bank Switzerland?
Yes. You can buy either A or B shares of the bank. This lets you support the bank, get a little dividend back and possibly some returns.
The Alternative Bank Switzerland is a different kind of bank, focused on sustainability rather than profits. Should you use it? We will find out!
Alternative Bank Switzerland Pros
Let's summarize the main advantages of Alternative Bank Switzerland:
- Very sustainable bank
- Bank with good impact
- Web and mobile application
- Can become a shareholder
Alternative Bank Switzerland Cons
Let's summarize the main disadvantages of Alternative Bank Switzerland:
- The account is not free
- Expensive operations abroad
- Applications are not available in English
- Apparently poor customer service
Overall, the Alternative Bank Switzerland is an interesting bank. Its unique philosophy sets it apart from most other Swiss banks. If you want a bank that adheres to strong social and ecological values and will not use your money to invest in fossil fields, you should consider the Alternative Bank Switzerland.
Of course, this comes with drawbacks. The banking features are currently relatively limited, such as the lack of electronic bills. Also, this account is not free, and using it abroad is expensive. However, these limitations may be acceptable for many users.
I am also surprised by how many shares you need to get eligible for the Plus account. Given the price of the shares, the Plus account should have more advantages.
I have not compared it directly with alternatives because there is simply no alternative bank on the same level of sustainability. However, many banks are significantly cheaper and offer more features. You can read about the best Swiss banks to learn more.
If you are a customer of Alternative Bank Switzerland, I would love to get your feedback on this bank in the comments below.
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