Swiss personal bank account tips
Accounts & Cards

How to Use Swiss Private Bank Accounts

February 16, 2023 - Benjamin Manz

Get informed about what points to consider when using Swiss private accounts in this guide.

A private account is where you normally receive your salary, and you can also use a private account to pay bills. Payments and cash withdrawals at ATMs using a debit card are also charged to a private account. Private accounts are also known as checking accounts, personal accounts, salary accounts, or current accounts. Here, moneyland.ch lists useful tips for using private accounts.

Tip 1: Use a private account for transactions, and a savings account for saving

A private account is designed for everyday financial transactions. Savings accounts are designed for saving. Important: Savings accounts are not suitable for frequent transactions. Many savings accounts have high fees for bank transfers. Tip: If you have both a private account and a savings account at the same bank, you can normally transfer money between your savings account and private account free of charge.

Tip 2: Compare costs

Take time to compare the costs of Swiss private accounts on a regular basis. There are often big differences in the fees charged by different banks. The interactive private account comparison on moneyland.ch accounts for all of the relevant costs and interest rates of Swiss private accounts and debit cards. You can learn how to migrate from one bank to another in our guide to changing private accounts.

Tip 3: Optimize interest earnings

Swiss private accounts for adults yield little or no interest. Swiss savings accounts, on the other hand, have higher interest rates.

In most cases, interest rates are less important than fees and charges when choosing a private account. But there are exceptions: Private accounts from some banks have interest rates which are nearly as high as those of their savings accounts. The interest rates of private accounts for children and students are also often identical to those of savings accounts. The private account comparison on moneyland.ch accounts for both costs and interest earned.

Tip 4: Use electronic documents

Many Swiss banks charge lower account fees if you choose to do all of your banking online only. When you choose this option, you also do not receive bank statements on paper, which helps you avoid the postage costs which some banks bill you for.

Tip 5: Withdraw cash at your own bank

Withdrawing Swiss francs at ATMs from your own bank is generally free of charge. On the other hand, many banks charge you a fee (typically two francs per withdrawal) when you get money at ATMs from other banks.

Tip 6: Use debit cards instead of credit cards

Making cash withdrawals with most credit cards is very expensive. Swiss credit card issuers charge very high fees for cash withdrawals at ATMs. This is true for both local withdrawals in Switzerland, and withdrawals which you make when traveling in other countries. Always use your debit card or ATM card for cash withdrawals, and not a credit card.

Tip 7: Use an ATM card instead of a debit card

If you only use your bank’s own ATMs, and do not use debit cards to pay for purchases at merchants, then you do not necessarily need a debit card at all. By foregoing the debit card, you avoid paying the annual debit card fee, which can be up to 50 francs per year depending on the bank.

Tip 8: Leverage your wealth for lower banking fees

Some banks charge you lower account fees if your total account balances at the bank are higher than a certain threshold. In this case, it is beneficial when your total assets at the bank always remain above that threshold. Normally, the total assets across all accounts count towards the required amount, including the balances of savings and retirement accounts. The threshold is often around 7500 francs, 10,000 francs, or 25,000 francs. Other banks discount your private account fees if you hold a certain amount of securities (like stocks and funds) in their investment products.

Tip 9: Get your credit cards separately

The credit cards offered by banks normally have annual card fees. The bank charges these fees either individually, or as part of bank package fees. But today, there are numerous credit cards from Swiss card issuers that do not have any annual card fees at all. When comparing credit cards, pay attention to complimentary benefits like insurance and reward programs. The interactive credit card comparison on moneyland.ch gives you a clear overview.

Tip 10: Do not pay basic account fees

Many banks charge a basic monthly or annual fee for private accounts. Bank packages also have relatively high basic fees. But there are also banks which offer private accounts without a basic account fee. You can find the cheapest account which suits your needs using the moneyland.ch private account comparison.

Tip 11: Check offers for children and young people

Many banks charge lower fees and/or pay higher interest on accounts for teenagers and students, compared to standard accounts for adults. Depending on the bank, accounts for teenagers and students may also include other perks, such as discounts on public transportation. The private account comparison includes bank accounts for teenagers and students, and accounts for them in comparisons, based on your eligibility.

Tip 12: Make use of customer perks

Some banks have customers discounts for things like concert tickets or sports events. Some offer discounted ski passes or free entry at many museums.

Tip 13: Use neobanks

Depending on how you do your banking, neobanks can be a cheap alternative to classic bank accounts. Neobanks normally can only be used via a mobile app. In many cases, neobanks have lower fees and charges than conventional banks, but are more limited in the services they offer. An account at a neobank can be a good choice if you only need basic banking services, or if you are looking for a cheap secondary bank account. You can find an overview of neobanks in Switzerland here.

Tip 14: Pay attention to notice periods and withdrawal limits

If you plan to keep larger amounts of money on an account, you should carefully review the notice periods and limitations on withdrawals. Savings accounts generally have much tighter limitations on withdrawals than private accounts. Bank typically charge you high fees if you withdraw more money than the limit allows for.

Tip 15: Understand how Swiss bank depositor protection works

Swiss bank accounts are covered by a bank depositor protection scheme which safeguards the money in your accounts against the risk of your bank going bankrupt. However, this scheme only covers up to 100,000 francs per customer and bank – not per account. It can take many years, in some case, to recover even part of balances which exceed that 100,000-franc limit. Securities like stocks and funds, unlike bank account balances, are segregated assets which belong to the customer. They are not liquidated along with other assets when a bank fails. You can find more information in the guide to Swiss bank depositor protection.

Tip 16: Reclaim the withholding tax

Interest paid by Swiss banks is subject to a 35-percent withholding tax. Interest earned on accounts which pay interest annually is exempt from the withholding tax when the interest payment is lower than 200 francs. Tip: Make sure to reclaim the withholding tax when you submit your tax returns.

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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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