numbered bank account switzerland guide
Accounts & Cards

Swiss Numbered Bank Accounts: A Practical Guide

January 16, 2023 - Daniel Dreier

Find clear information about what Swiss numbered bank accounts are, how they work, and what they cost in this guide by independent Swiss online comparison service

From the Internet to Hollywood, there is a lot of misinformation about numbered bank accounts in Switzerland. Here, provides the facts.

What is a numbered bank account?

A numbered bank account is a bank account which uses an alphanumeric code in place of your name on your bank account information. In this way, the numbered bank account service is similar to the tokenization systems employed by some mobile payment solutions and credit card networks.

In addition to Switzerland, numbered bank accounts are also offered in Andorra, Austria, Liechtenstein, and some other countries.

Do all Swiss banks offer numbered bank accounts?

No. Many Swiss banks no longer offer numbered accounts. Some Swiss banks continue to service existing numbered accounts, but do not open new numbered banking relationships. Of the banks which still offer this service, each has its own specific requirements for opening a numbered banking relationship.

What kinds of numbered bank accounts are there?

Accounts which may be offered as numbered accounts by Swiss banks include private accounts and business accounts, as well as custody accounts for holding securities. However, the kinds of numbered bank accounts offered vary between individual banks.

Swiss banks sometimes use the term numbered banking relationship because just one code may be used for several different accounts at the same bank. Fees for the service are generally charged per customer, and not per account.

Are Swiss numbered bank accounts anonymous?

No. When you open a numbered bank account, the Swiss bank is required to fulfill all know your customer (KYC) requirements. Numbered bank accounts in Switzerland are subject to the exact same due diligence, regulatory compliance, and anti-money-laundering obligations as all other Swiss bank accounts.

As with all Swiss bank accounts, banks must report suspicious activity to the relevant Swiss authorities. If you live in a country with which Switzerland has an agreement for the exchange of tax-relevant information, the Swiss bank is required to share your identity and tax-relevant information about your bank account with the tax authorities of your country of residence.

In the distant past, it was possible to make international transfers from Swiss numbered bank accounts using the number in place of your real identity. This is no longer the case. When you make transfers from a Swiss numbered account to banks outside of Switzerland, your Swiss bank is required to share your actual identity with the foreign bank. However, your Swiss bank has to get your explicit approval before making a transaction which involves sharing your identity.

Bank statements and other communications from your bank are either held by the bank for you to collect in person, or are sent to a post office box or to a third party (your lawyer, for example) to whom you give a power of attorney over your account. This reduces the risk of unauthorized third-parties accessing your financial information.

What are the advantages of numbered bank accounts?

If used correctly, the only parties which will have access to information about your numbered bank account balance and transactions are you, select bank employees, and authorized government departments (in keeping with Swiss bank privacy laws for residents of Switzerland, and with information sharing agreements for non-residents). Your identity is not available to most bank employees, and the bank has to get your express permission before sharing your identity with third parties.

What are the disadvantages of numbered bank accounts?

The relatively high fees charged are one of the main disadvantages. Many Swiss banks which offer numbered bank accounts charge a fee of between 1000 and 1500 Swiss francs per customer relationship and year. That numbered account fee is in addition to the basic account fees you can find in the private account comparison and business account comparison, and the custody fees shown in the online trading comparison. It is also in addition to the non-resident fees you may be charged if you do not live in Switzerland. 

If you want your bank statements and correspondence to be kept at the bank for collection in person, you normally have to pay an additional fee for this service (400 francs per year, for example).

Another consideration is that if you transfer money between a numbered account and a foreign bank account, your real identity is used and not the number. This is generally also true if you use services like online banking, mobile banking, debit cards, and online trading platforms, or receive mail correspondence at your personal address. Engaging in any of these activities can result in third parties linking your identity to your account, and thus largely nullifying the benefit of a numbered banking relationship. 

Are numbered accounts protected from bank insolvencies?

Swiss numbered accounts have the same Swiss bank depositor protection for bank insolvencies as regular Swiss private accounts and savings accounts.

How can I open a numbered bank account?

Numbered bank accounts can only be opened in person at a branch office of a bank which offers this service. The procedure is similar to that for opening a regular Swiss bank account. However, depending on the bank, the requirements for establishing a numbered banking relationship may differ from those for opening a regular bank account.

More on this topic:
Swiss banking secrecy explained
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Editor Daniel Dreier
Daniel Dreier is editor and personal finance expert at
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