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Unless you live entirely off the grid and get paid in cash, you will need a bank account. But which Swiss Bank should you choose?
There are tons of Swiss banks. After all, Switzerland is the country of banks. However, contrary to popular belief, Swiss banks are not great!
Most Swiss banks are costly and offer poor service. You can find much cheaper and better banks in other countries. Fortunately, this is starting to improve with some new banks trying to make things move in a better direction.
Let’s see which is the Best Swiss Bank in 2020! But first, let’s start with how we can choose a bank!
How to choose a bank?
There are many criteria you can use to compare banks. We are going to see the most important parameters. Of course, some of your needs may be different than mine. So the best Swiss bank for me may not be the best bank for you!
The parameters will also depend on what you need. But here are the things most people need from a bank:
- A checking account to get their salary.
- A debit card to withdraw cash when you cannot use your credit card.
- Possibly, a savings account. But not everybody needs one. I have not used one in years.
You will also need a credit card. However, the best credit cards are not the ones you can get from a bank! I would encourage you to have a separate credit card from your bank account. If you do not know which one to choose, you can read about the best credit cards in Switzerland. So for our comparison of banks, we are going to ignore credit cards.
1. The Base Price
First of all, you need to consider the price of the bank account. These days, you can find free bank accounts in Switzerland. So there is no reason to pay anything for a bank account!
You just need to be aware that some Swiss banks have some conditions to make it free. For instance, my current bank, Migros Bank, is free as long as I have 7’500 CHF on my bank account. These limitations are not an issue for me. I generally keep about 10’000 CHF on my account. But it could be an issue for people having less than that on their bank account.
So, before you choose a bank account, you need to know how much you will keep on your account.
2. The price of features
The base price of a bank account is essential, but we should not forget to look at the features’ prices.
First of all, you want a free debit card (a Maestro, generally). You can find several banks with free debit cards, so there is again no reason to pay for a debit card! You should not use it too much, of course. You should only use it to withdraw money. And you can use it if you cannot use a credit card.
Of course, you want to be able to do bank transfers in Switzerland for free! You do not want to pay extra money to pay your bills! You will also need bank transfers to send money to your broker (Interactive Brokers, for instance).
You may want cheap bank transfers in Europe in euros. This feature is not mandatory since you generally do not want to use your bank account for this. For this, you probably want to use Revolut to save on fees and bad conversion rates.
Finally, you want to be able to withdraw some cash for free! There are always some cases where you will need cash. You do not want to have to pay to get some money!
3. The security of the bank
Even if you do not keep a lot of money in your bank account, you want it to be safe.
For that, you should keep your money in a Swiss bank account. All Swiss bank accounts are insured up to 100’000 CHF. That means if your bank goes bankrupt, you still get your money back.
You need to make sure that the money is kept in an institution with a Swiss banking license. For that, you should not consider small startups that may not yet have a banking license.
If you are serious about security, learn how to secure your online finances!
4. Access to the bank services
For this one, it will highly depend on you. You need to decide on how much access you want to your bank account.
Some people want an actual office with people in case they have an issue. I do not care about that. But that is not the case for everybody!
And also, sometimes, people want a local bank. They feel like they can trust more a local bank. We have plenty of cantonal banks in Switzerland, and people seem to like them. For me, this would be one of the last points I would use to compare two banks. But if you want, that is something you can consider! I much prefer to look at the ATMs of that bank rather than the bank itself.
Some people want a mobile application. And some people, like me, would prefer a web application. If you want a mobile app or a web application, you may want to make sure it works well. But honestly, you are not going to use it a lot.
I use my bank account once a month when I pay all my bills. Except for that time, I rarely check my bank account. As long as I can do that relatively quickly, I do not care how to do that. But I want to be able to do that from home.
But some people check their bank accounts daily. For these people, it is essential to have a powerful application that works well. If you are one of these people, I encourage you to find reviews of mobile apps of banks and maybe demos so that you can get a feel of it.
One important thing is where you can withdraw money for free! The lack of ATMs was a big issue for me with Postfinance. There were no ATMs where I could withdraw cash for free, close to where I worked or where I lived. It could be vital if you withdraw money often!
5. Features of the bank
Finally, the least important thing about a bank is its features.
You do not need anything fancy with your bank. For instance, I only use four features with my bank:
- Getting my salary in.
- Paying my bills by scanning them with my phone or computer.
- Transfer money to my broker.
- Withdraw cash from time to time.
That is it! And I do not think that people need any more features than that.
But if you need it, there are a few things you could consider.
One thing many people want to have is electronic bills. I do not like them. Using electronic bills will bind you with a bank. And that is bad. You want to be able to change to a new bank very easily. But some people like it and could not live with it. So you could use that as an argument.
Another thing that some people want is to transfer transactions to their fancy budgeting tools such as YNAB or Personal Capital. Once again, I do not think this is useful. You do not need any fancy budgeting tool. You just need a simple spreadsheet. And you can even have some budget applications for free! I do not understand people willing to pay for a budgeting tool.
It will take you maybe fifteen minutes a month to manage your budget with a simple spreadsheet! But if you want, this could limit the choice of your bank. I do not think it is a good argument. But that is up to you!
Some banks have even more features than that. Some banks try to do your budget for you, for instance. And some banks have features to automate bank transfers between accounts. But do you need that? In the end, it will be up to you to decide on which feature is worth it.
The two Best Swiss Banks in 2020
Based on these arguments, here are the two best Swiss banks in 2020:
- Neon as the best digital Swiss Bank
- Migros Bank as the best traditional Swiss Bank
I decided to choose one digital bank and one standard bank. Because some people do not yet want to move to a digital bank, and I can understand them. And as it turns out, there are still some great Swiss Banks!
Also, there are more limits to digital banks currently. So it still makes sense to have a traditional bank account, even in 2020.
And of course, there are other Swiss banks than these two. And some of them are quite good. But I do not want to give you a list of too many banks. That would be a waste of time for you and me! I think there is more value in a shorter list with two good banks.
The Best Digital Swiss Bank in 2020: Neon
Let’s start with Neon.
Neon is an entirely digital bank. That means they do not have any office that you can walk in. Of course, they have some form of customer service. But all your operations will need to go through the mobile app.
Contrary to most banks, Neon does not offer a Maestro card. Instead, Neon offers a Mastercard debit card. You will be able to use this card where you would normally use a Maestro card. But there are some exceptions in places that only accept Maestro cards.
Given its wide range of features and low price, Neon is currently the best digital Swiss bank.
If you enter the code “F9YMGT” during the registration process, you will get 20 CHF for free once you start using your account. And I will get 20 CHF as well.
1. The Base Price
Price is where Neon excels! The base price of a checking account with Neon is entirely free! That’s right. You will not pay any management fees! And you do not have to have any amount of money on your account for this to valid!
Now, not all operations are free. For instance, you will still have to pay for transferring money abroad or receiving money in foreign currencies. But these are exceptional events.
2. The price of features
The price of features at Neon is also excellent! Pricing is where Neon shines compared to other Swiss banks.
You can make payments for free in Switzerland in CHF. These payments are for all our bills and all your money transfers!
With your Mastercard, you can purchase things online and abroad in foreign currencies for free! These free purchases abroad are probably one of the most significant advantages of Neon.
If you transfer money abroad from Neon, you will profit from their partnership with TransferWise. So, you will also pay very low fees for transferring money to other countries.
Neon does not offer a Maestro card. Instead, they provide a MasterCard. It is different than most Swiss banks. But Neon offers the MasterCard for free! But you may have to use cash in some places that only accept Maestro.
You can also use your Neon card with Google Pay. So you can pay in many shops.
Finally, you can also withdraw money at any ATM for free! However, you only have two free ATM withdrawals per month. After this, you will have to pay 2 CHF for each withdrawal. If you are like me and trying to avoid cash, you should be more than okay with two withdrawals per month. I generally withdraw money less than once a month.
3. The safety of the bank
All Swiss bank accounts are insured up to 100’000 CHF. But Neon is not a bank. However, your funds are deposited, in your name, with the Hypothekarbank Lenzburg bank. And this bank has a Swiss banking license.
So, as long as you do not have more than 100’000 CHF, your money is fully insured!
4. Access to The Bank
Access to the features of the bank is entirely on your phone. That means that your bank is always in your pocket!
As for withdrawals, you can use all ATMs in Switzerland. It is great because this is not the case for a lot of banks!
Another great thing is that the website is entirely translated into all national languages and in English! And the application itself is also available in English! If you are an ex-pat and do not yet speak one of the national languages, this could be very important to you!
Finally, customer service is available by email and by phone. But you will not be able to talk to people in person since they do not have offices for the customers.
Overall, Neon has more than enough features for most people. The mobile application is excellent and very easy to use.
You can scan your bills with your phone to get the reference number! This feature can save you a lot of time. But these days, it is almost there in all mobile banking applications.
Also, you can easily download account statements in PDF. This feature is essential if you want to archive them! You can also receive an SMS notification when something happens on your account. This feature could be useful.
Neon is also the only digital Swiss bank with support for e-bills. On top of that, Neon has a few extra features. For instance, you will be able to send money directly to other users of Neon.
One of the features that are missing for me is the lack of a Maestro card. It is not a huge deal. But there are still shops and offices that do not take credit cards. And for these shops, you will have to plan to have cash before.
Another limited feature is for payments. For instance, with Neon, I cannot send money to Interactive Brokers. Indeed, they do not accept a foreign address for a Swiss CH IBAN. This is one of the big reasons I keep my main bank account at Migros.
The Best Standard Swiss Bank in 2020: Migros Bank
If you prefer a standard brick and mortar Swiss Bank, I recommend Migros Bank. I am currently using Migros Bank as my main bank account.
One thing you need to be aware of is that the application is not available in English. If you are an ex-pat and are not yet speaking one of our national languages, I would recommend going with Neon instead.
1. The Base Price
Let’s start with the base price. A checking account is free if you have more than 7500 CHF on your entire Migros account. If you have a savings account as well with 7500 CHF, the checking account will be free.
If you do not have 7500 CHF on your account, you will have to pay 3 CHF per month.
If you do not keep this amount in your bank, you should probably not use this bank. But this is still the best of the standard banks. Other banks are either more expensive or have a higher limit for free management.
I always try to keep 10’000 CHF on my account, so I am okay with this limit.
2. The price of features
Most of the features you are going to use are free with Migros Bank.
First, you can make payments for free in CHF in Switzerland. So you can pay your bills and transfer money for free!
The Maestro card is free. If you want an additional Maestro card, you will have to pay 30 CHF per year. Their credit cards are not free either. But they are not great, so you do not want to use them anyway!
Withdrawing in all the places I have mentioned before is free of charge. And you can withdraw money as many times per month as you want! But if you want to withdraw from another ATM, you will pay 2 CHF per withdrawal.
There is another fee with Migros Bank. You will pay 0.20 CHF for each incoming transfer. For me, this is acceptable since I do not receive many payments each year. However, this is still a bad point for Migros here. This fee means Migros Bank is not entirely free.
Moreover, SEPA payments in euros are not free! You will pay 0.30 CHF per payment in EUR abroad. This fee is a bit disappointing, I think. But it should not be an issue as long as you have TransferWise or Revolut to save money on these transfers.
You should not use the Maestro card from Migros Bank to make payments abroad. They will be very expensive. For this, Neon is much better, but you can also use a Revolut card, for instance.
3. The safety of the bank
Migros Bank is a licensed Swiss bank. As such, your money is protected up to 100’000 CHF. This protection is the best security you can get for your money in Switzerland.
4. Access to The Bank
Since Migros Bank is a standard brick and mortar Swiss bank, you will have access to its service in offices. That means you can do transactions in the office, and you can also get customer support there. Actual customer support is the main difference with a fully digital bank.
There are plenty of Migros Bank offices in Switzerland. If you live in a city, you should have access to one. Otherwise, the nearest town should have one!
And of course, you will also have access to the bank services through the Migros Bank mobile application. And they also have a desktop application for Windows and Mac.
Finally, if you want to withdraw money, you have many choices! You can withdraw cash with your Migros Bank debit card in:
- Migros Bank offices
- Migros shops
- Migrolino shops
- Migrol shops
- Denner shops
This list makes a considerable number of places where you can withdraw money! It takes some time to get used to it since people are used to withdrawing cash in banks. But now, I always withdraw money in Migros shops.
For features, nothing is missing with Migros bank.
You can get report statements in PDF. You can also scan bills with your phone. All the basic features are here. You also have access to electronic bills (e-bills).
However, the mobile application of Migros is much worse than the mobile app of Neon. It is not intuitive at all. And it does not look good at all either.
But I think the biggest problem is what they call two-factor authentication. You need to have a second computer or mobile phone, or tablet with the application to validate transfers from the main. This limitation is a big issue for me because my computer runs Linux. And Migros Bank does not support Linux!
I had to install the application on my wife’s phone to use it. It is terrible! For me, this system is a big problem for Migros bank. If you do not have two phones or a tablet and a phone, I would recommend using Neon instead. Even if you install it on your computer, you still have to install it on your phone to confirm transactions.
Swiss Banks Summary
Let’s summarize our finding with this comparison table of the best Swiss banks:
|Feature||Neon Bank||Migros Bank|
|Price of Features||Excellent||Good|
|Offers a Maestro||No||Yes|
|Extra Features||Direct Transfers||None|
|Mobile App||Good||Very bad|
|Platform Support||Mobile-Only||Mobile and Desktop|
The two best Swiss Banks for 2020 are Neon and Migros Bank!
The choice of a Swiss bank currently boils down to whether you want a digital bank or not. If you want a Digital Swiss Bank, you can go ahead with Neon. If you prefer a Swiss Bank with an office, you should go ahead and choose Migros Bank.
Both of these Swiss Banks are cheap and offer a good amount of features. If you need a Maestro card, you will have to go with Migros bank for the time being since Neon does not offer one yet. Unfortunately, this is sometimes still necessary in Switzerland.
For now, I am with Migros Bank. I went with them before discovering Neon. Today, if I had to choose, I would probably go with Neon instead as my main bank account. However, there are a few things that keep me at Migros:
- The limits of Neon. Generally, 30’000 CHF per day should be more than enough. But there are some cases where I had to do larger transfers than this, for instance, for my downpayment. So this limit could be a blocker for some people.
- The fact that I cannot transfer money to IB from Neon.
- The fact that my mortgage is at Migros Bank.
But overall, Neon is better than Migros bank for me. Mainly because of the issues I have with the Migros Mobile Application. And this would save me a little money by avoiding the 0.20 CHF fee on each incoming payment.
Learn more about these best Swiss banks with my detailed reviews:
If you want to create an account at Neon, do not forget to enter the code “F9YMGT” during the registration process, you will get 20 CHF for free once you start using your account. And I will get 20 CHF as well.
What about you? Which of these two Swiss Banks do you prefer?