A number of options and services are available for sending money overseas. Comparing these options in advance definitely pays off, because the cost differences are huge.
Western Union and MoneyGram
Both of these well-known money order services operate in Switzerland. MoneyGram works with Valora Kiosks (the largest kiosk chain in the country) and other Valora outlets. Western Union services are available at SBB/CFF/FFS counters and ticket vending machines and at PostFinance, among others.
Both Western Union and MoneyGram let you quickly transfer money to most countries in the world without the need for a bank account. This is one reason why these services are a favorite among foreigners living in Switzerland. You can pay cash at participating locations and the recipient in another country (far flung or not) can collect the money immediately.
In addition to Western Union and Moneygram, there are numerous smaller money order services in Switzerland. These typically specialize in transfers to specific countries or regions.
Beware of high fees
Take note: Both Western Union and MoneyGram charge heavy administration fees. A 1000-franc transaction may cost you 60 francs or more in fees, depending on the location of the recipient and other factors. Additional costs may also be hidden in the foreign currency exchange rate. If you have another option, you can save a lot of money by avoiding these services.
Western Union provides another option, whereby you can make an online transaction into a recipient’s bank account. This is less practical than making an offline cash payment, but it also costs a lot less because no administrative fees are charged. The forex rates are also more favorable than those used at brick-and-mortar locations.
Some smaller, specialized money order services have more favorable fee structures than both Moneygram and Western Union, but only for certain countries.
Cheap online alternatives
An even cheaper option is presented by online-only money transfer services like Exchangemarket.ch, CurrencyFair and TransferWise, which regularly perform well in comparisons (see for example on Monito). However, these may not be the best choice for all circumstances. Fees vary depending on the country and currency in question. It pays to check rates ahead of performing a transaction, so you can choose the best deal.
Transfers from your bank
One of the least expensive ways to send money is by performing a regular wire transfer from your bank account, although this may still be more expensive than using a cheap online money transfer service. If you need to transfer a large amount, you can check the going forex rate with your bank ahead of time, and compare it to rates used by other money transfer services.
Comparing fees is worth it
Just to help you understand how much you could save, let's take a look at this example: Suppose you had sent 1000 francs from Switzerland to Germany, to be received in euros, on December 10, 2015. Depending on how you sent then money, the recipient would have received one of the following amounts.
Western Union transfer offline to offline: 812.52 euro.
Western Union Transfer Online to account: 894.74 euro.
PostFinance Online to account: 913 euro.
CurrencyFair Online to account: 916. euro
TransferWise Online to account: 917.15
Transfers from your checking account
In Switzerland, wire transfers can be made from a checking or business account. As a rule, transferring money from savings accounts is either not allowed or very expensive.
There are several different fee schedules that may apply to money transfers from your bank account:
- OUR: All costs are charged to you as the Swiss bank account holder. OUR transfers outside of Switzerland in foreign currency using an IBAN often come with a flat-rate fee of 20 francs. If you don’t use the recipient’s IBAN, you may pay additional fees. The recipient does not need to pay any fees for the transaction, and normally receives the entire amount sent (with the exception of deposit fees charged by their bank).
- SHA: Shared costs. You as the sender pay fees charged by your Swiss bank, while the recipient abroad pays fees charged by their bank. This is the standard option at most banks, and the one which moneyland.ch uses when comparing transfer costs. A transfer to a foreign currency (with the exception of the euro) made using online banking typically costs between 3 and 10 francs. When you make a transfer to euros using SEPA, the transaction is often free of charge. However, some banks do charge up to 5 francs for SEPA transactions.
- BEN: The recipient pays all fees. With this option, the sender does not pay any fees. Instead, the recipient covers the fees charged by both your bank and theirs. Note: Swiss banks may charge you, as the foreign currency recipient of a transfer, up to 40 francs or even more in fees.
Recommended: online payments in foreign currency
There are different ways to go about making a transfer to another country. For example, you can use a deposit slip or coded form, or even request the transfer via mail, fax or phone.
Whenever you can though, you would do better to make transfers online. This often comes out cheaper than other methods. A special service such as processing a transfer request made over the phone or by fax can easily add a 20-franc fee.
Euro transfers using SEPA
While making transfers to another Swiss bank account in Swiss francs doesn’t cost you anything, foreign currency transfers both within Switzerland or to another country usually involve fees.
Transfers to euro, however, are made via SEPA. These transactions are generally free-of-charge at Swiss banks, but some banks do add a charge. This may be 30 centimes, 1 franc, 2 francs, or even 5 francs, depending on the bank involved. SEPA transfers use the shared cost (SHA) fee model.
Making non-SEPA transfers abroad in euro without the use of an IBAN will normally be more expensive, costing around 8 francs per transfer.