stock transfer fee comparison
Investing & Retirement

Swiss Stock Transfer Fees Compared

March 1, 2023 - Benjamin Manz

Get informed about fees charged to transfer securities between custodian banks in Switzerland in this guide.

Investing in shares, ETFs, mutual funds, structured products, bonds and other securities is generally expensive in Switzerland. That is true of both the costs of buying, holding, and selling securities, and of the cost of transferring or withdrawing securities. Withdrawal fees apply when you transfer your securities to a different stock broker.

Physical and electronic withdrawals

Swiss banks differentiate between withdrawals of electronic (book entry) securities, and withdrawals of physical securities. Physical delivery (at the counter, for example) is generally more expensive than immaterial transfers. Which country a security was issued in is another factor which affects the cost of withdrawals. Transferring foreign securities to a different custodian bank is often more expensive than transferring Swiss securities. Finally, many banks add a markup when you opt for delivery versus payment (DVP) rather than delivery versus free (DVF). Some banks do not offer DVP transactions at all.

High transfer fees

The securities transfer fees charged by Swiss banks is surprisingly high, as revealed by a moneyland.ch analysis of nearly 40 banks. You can get a detailed comparison of the fees charged by banks as a PDF table using the box at the foot of this article. 

On average, transferring Swiss securities costs 87 francs (electronic) or 143 francs (physical) per title. The average fee for transferring foreign securities is 98 francs (electronic) or 180 francs (physical) per title.

Those averages do not account for additional expenses like VAT and third-party fees and charges. The average fees shown above apply to each individual title (stocks in one company, for example), and not to your entire portfolio.

Example: If you were to transfer one Swiss ETF, five Swiss stocks, five U.S. stocks, and five European stocks from a Swiss custody account to a different stock broker, you would pay 1502 francs in transfer fees, based on average fees. If you were making the transfer from the bank with the highest transfer fees, you would pay 2400 francs. The amount you have to pay in fees is determined by the number of different securities titles you hold, and not by the value of your securities.

Online brokers are the cheapest

Online stock brokers not only charge the lowest brokerage fees and custody fees, but they also generally have the lowest transfer and withdrawal fees. Swissquote charges "only" 50 francs per title for electronic transfers. Cornèrtrader has a transfer fee of just 30 francs.

Some other Swiss banks charge up to 150 francs for electronic transfers, and up to 500 francs for physical transfers. 

The phasing out of transfer fees is not likely

The Swiss price watchdog and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) reviewed the situation in 2016. They share the viewpoint that the high fee charged are completely disproportionate to the actual costs, and have an anticompetitive effect. It is safe to assume that charging customers extremely high fees to withdraw their assets discourages them from migrating to other service providers.

Some banks have reduced or eliminated withdrawal fees since the review. But many banks have not changed their withdrawal fees at all, and some have even raised their fees (as per February 2023).

Tips for changing stock brokers

One way that investors can avoid paying transfer fees when switching accounts is by selling the securities held in their existing custody account. But depending on which stock broker you use, selling your assets may require a lot of effort and/or cost a lot in the way of brokerage fees. However, there is a more affordable alternative: a survey of Swiss stock brokers by moneyland.ch revealed that many Swiss stock brokers may cover the transfer fees charged by your existing bank, either in full or in part, when you migrate to them. Whether transfer fees are covered is generally decided on a case-by-case basis.

Many banks only cover the transfer costs if you are likely to be a lucrative customer. But it is still worth asking your prospective new custodian bank if they cover your transfer fees for new customers.

More on this topic:
Compare Swiss stock brokers now and potentially save thousands of francs
Swiss custody fees explained
Practical tips for investing in stocks

 

Note: If you would like a detailed overview of transfer fees charged by Swiss securities brokers, just request a copy here (as a PDF).

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Expert Benjamin Manz
Benjamin Manz is CEO of moneyland.ch and an independent expert on banking and finance.
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