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UBS is likely the most famous Swiss bank. Even many foreigners know this big bank. And it is also the biggest bank in Switzerland by market capitalization. UBS operates in many countries, not only in Switzerland.
But, is it any good as a banking service? I will answer this exact question in this review.
I will look into the bank services of UBS in detail and see the advantages and disadvantages of this bank.
By the end of the article, you will know whether you should use a UBS bank account.
UBS has a long history. It started already in 1862 as the Bank of Winterthur. It later merged with the Toggenburger bank in 1912 to form the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS). In 1998, they merged with the Swiss Bank Corporation (SBS), another large union bank.
From this point, they became UBS only, not an acronym anymore. The bank results from more than 300 financial firms merged over time. These firms now form a financial giant.
In 2021, UBS had about 3 million customers in Switzerland. They are offering many services:
- Savings and checking accounts
- Vested benefits and third pillar accounts
- Investment funds
- Broker accounts
- Private wealth management
In this article, I will only focus on the banking packages of UBS.
Keep in mind that I have never used UBS myself. This review results from all the information I could find from UBS and its customers.
Let’s look at the features UBS offers for bank accounts. To access the banking features, you have several choices:
- The e-banking web application
- The mobile applications
- Directly in the offices
From the applications, you can do everything you expect from a bank account:
- See your balance and transactions
- Pay your bills
- Transfer money to other accounts
- Pay e-bills
That’s about all you need from a bank account.
Contrary to many banks, UBS has straightforward banking packages. Their banking package is called UBS Me. They have different versions of the package based on your situation:
- UBS Me for Young People and students for people between 12 and 30 years old
- UBS Me for families and couples
- UBS Me for cross-border workers
- UBS Me for young professionals (below 32 years old)
- UBS Me for individuals (everybody else)
The features are the same between the different versions, but the prices differ slightly. This review will cover the UBS Me for individuals (the default version).
With your banking package, you get a CHF private account and several savings accounts (if you want). You will also get a debit card and a credit card included in the package. You can choose between Visa and Mastercard for your cards. You can also use your account with TWINT.
One thing that many people like is that everything is available in English. Both the applications and the support are available in English. This is great for people that do not speak one of the Swiss national languages.
Overall, UBS me should have more than enough features for anybody.
Let’s now take a look at fees for the banking packages.
First, let’s start with the account price per month. As you can expect from UBS, their banking package is not free. First, we must distinguish two versions of the packages:
- Standard. You will only get statements by email or on the phone
- Traditional: You get paper statements.
The default price is 13 CHF per month for the standard package and 18 CHF for the traditional package. I hope that most people are using digital statements, and they should avoid paying 60 CHF per year to get paper statements. So, we will focus on the standard package.
If you have more than 10’000 CHF on your account or a mortgage with UBS, you will get 5 CHF off your base price. So the Standard package will only cost you 8 CHF per month (96 CHF per year).
With these fees, several things are included:
- Send money to and from your account
- Pay your bills and e-bills
- Pay with your card in shops that support the PostFinance card
- Withdraw cash in all UBS ATMs
If you withdraw money from another ATM, you will pay 2 CHF to withdraw Swiss Francs in Switzerland, 5 CHF for a withdrawal in EUR in Switzerland, and 5 CHF for any withdrawal abroad.
You can also get modules to get more withdrawal for free at other ATMs:
- Module Switzerland: 2 CHF per month for two free withdrawals in Switzerland per month.
- Module Worldwide: 5 CHF per month for four free withdrawals in Switzerland and two free withdrawals abroad per month.
I think there are enough UBS ATMs so that you do not have to use any of these modules.
If you use your card abroad or in foreign currencies, you will pay a surcharge of 1.75% on top of the exchange rate. This fee is expensive, and you should not use these cards for that purpose.
Finally, if you have more than 250’000 CHF on your account, you will need to pay a 0.75% negative interest rate.
Honestly, these fees are better than I expected. You can get a good banking package for 8 CHF per month, less than 100 CHF per year. I would probably not pay for it, but it is not the end of the world.
We should look at what other users think of UBS.
Usually, I use Trustpilot to get information about a product. But in that case, there are barely 100 reviews of UBS on Trustpilot. They got a terrible average score of 1.5 stars out of 5. However, I do not think we can judge a bank of 3 million customers with 100 reviews.
Looking at the bad reviews, we can see that many people complain about the fees. But most of the reviews are just awful quality and should be ignored.
Looking at the good reviews, it seems like people with private wealth management services are pretty satisfied with the services of UBS.
I have unfortunately not been able to find a good source of reviews for UBS.
On the other hand, I know many expatriates that use UBS because they accept foreigners more than other banks. And all these people I know are pretty satisfied with the offer of UBS.
I would say that reviews are very mixed on UBS banking services. But I have not been able to find enough information on the subject.
We also need to look at the security of using UBS as a bank account.
Currently, customers of UBS are protected like any other Swiss bank by the Esisuisse deposit protection scheme. So, if UBS bankrupts, customer assets are protected up to 100’000 CHF.
However, since Esisuisse has a limit of 6 billion CHF and UBS has more than three million customers, the guarantee would only be on average 2000 CHF per customer. This total limit is a disadvantage of Esisuisse since larger banks are less protected than small ones.
Now, in practice, things would likely be different. And we have a recent example to prove that. Indeed, in 2008, UBS almost bankrupted due to the subprime crisis (the so-called great recession). And the Swiss National Bank (SNB) bailed them out with 60 billion CHF.
Today, UBS is considered a bank that is too big to fail. These banks have stronger restrictions to avoid issues. These restrictions do not mean that UBS is safe from bankruptcy. And this does not mean either that the SNB would bail them a second time. But I would be surprised if the SNB would not help if turmoil arose again.
So, from a regulation point of view, UBS is relatively safe. From a historical point of view, they are not safe since they already had to be bailed out. However, it is considered much safer these days than it was in 2008.
From a technical point of view, they have high standards of security. They have options for multiple factors of authentication on their digital accesses. And their website contains a lot of information on cybersecurity, which is a good sign.
I would say that it is currently safe to have your assets at UBS. However, I do not think this is the safest bank.
Let’s summarize the disadvantages of UBS:
- Relatively Expensive bank accounts.
- They had to be bailed out in the past.
Let’s summarize the advantages of UBS:
- All the features you need.
- Good reputation.
- Trusted bank.
- Not extremely expensive.
- Good technical security.
UBS vs Neon
We can quickly compare UBS with Neon bank (my favorite digital bank):
8 CHF per month
Overall, UBS is significantly more expensive, but you will get access to their offices, and you can deposit cash easily in your account. You also get higher limits.
Neon is my favorite Swiss bank. You can read my Neon Review for more information.
UBS vs Migros Bank
We can also quickly compare UBS with Migros bank (my favorite traditional bank):
8 CHF per month
3 CHF per month
There are very few differences between these two bank accounts except for the price. UBS is more well-known, and some people trust it more than other banks. Also, Migros Bank is pretty bad if you only speak English.
You can read my review of Migros Bank for more information.
Overall, I do not see any significant advantage of using UBS bank over other cheap banks. Their prices are not the end of the world since the basic banking package should contain all you need for 96 CHF per year. Nevertheless, they do not have any extra features that other cheaper banks do not provide.
So, I would not recommend changing to UBS if you use another cheaper bank. On the other hand, I would not necessarily switch from UBS to another more affordable bank.
Many people, especially expatriates, are pretty happy with this bank. And it is easier for a foreigner to use than a local or digital bank. They also have good support of the English language, compared to some other banks.
Also, many believe their money is safer with UBS. I am not sure it is the case. We should remember that the SNB had to bail out UBS during the last financial crisis. The future will tell if they learned from their mistakes.
If you want a brick-and-mortar bank, I still recommend Migros Bank. I have an account here, and I am satisfied with their services. If you have more than 7500 CHF, you can have an account without management fees. And they have all the features you need. I have a full review of Migros Bank if you are interested.
If you want a digital bank, you should look at Neon. It is my main bank account these days. It is straightforward to set up an account, and all the features you need are available directly in the app. But you cannot go to a counter and speak to someone. You can read my Neon review if you want more information.
What about you? What do you think about UBS?