When you think of secure banking, you probably imagine a Swiss account. Thanks to its long history of neutrality and economic stability, Switzerland has one of the world’s best banking systems.
If you are considering opening a Swiss bank account, our asset protection team at Blake Harris Law would like to share some things you need to know before making your move.
Overview of Swiss Accounts
Swiss accounts are a class of offshore banking accounts that protect your money from government interference and currency devaluation. While traditional banks in other countries may be subject to regulations, banks in Switzerland have much more flexibility in how they conduct their business. However, you won’t be able to escape taxes completely and enjoy undocumented, 100%-anonymous premium accounts.
Opening a bank account in Switzerland sounds like something only for world leaders and multi-millionaires. That’s not the case. Creating an account can help you protect your assets and have peace of mind during economic instability and financial risk in your home country.
A Swiss bank account is an excellent option for non-residents and foreigners to store their assets securely. With so many highly reputable banks available, it isn’t as difficult as you think to find one that works for you.
If you seek privacy, you can open a Swiss bank account in the name of your offshore corporation or LLC, which you can establish in any jurisdiction globally (Nevis or the Cook Islands, for example). Talk to our legal team for more information.
Requirements You Need To Open A Swiss Bank Account
Opening a Swiss bank account isn’t a difficult process. However, the main difficulty comes when trying to navigate the many requirements and documentation necessary to even begin opening the account. Part of what makes Swiss banks famous is their security. Not everyone can open a bank account in Switzerland, and you will have to comply with specific regulations and check off a plethora of legal boxes to get started. Most requirements for opening offshore bank accounts fall under three main categories: eligibility, documentation, and minimum required balance.
You can open your personal account with almost any type of currency, including Swiss francs, Euros, and U.S. dollars. However, you must meet certain eligibility requirements as a non-resident or foreigner beforehand. These include:
- Age eligibility: According to Swiss law, non-residents must be at least 18 years old to open a bank account. If you are a minor, you’ll need to find other basic account options.
- Political eligibility: Although Switzerland allows most countries to open an offshore trust, not all are welcome. Residing in an ineligible nation could render your Swiss bank accounts illegal.
- Personal eligibility: Swiss banks value integrity and reputation, so they want to avoid association with scandals such as deposits for money laundering purposes. Even if you meet nationality and age requirements, having a criminal background could make you ineligible to open an account.
Like any other financial institution, Swiss banks require potential clients to have proper documentation to open their accounts. You must provide documents to prove who you are, where you live, and how you acquired your assets. Documentation must include:
- A valid passport: This provides a legitimate form of identification. A valid passport also demonstrates you have already jumped through several legal hoops.
- Proof of income source: There are many ways to earn your income, and Swiss banks might frown on some of them. You’ll need to document the origin of your income before opening an offshore bank account in Switzerland.
- Address confirmation: Prospective clients must confirm and verify residence at the physical address they provide.
Minimum Balance Requirements
Minimum balance requirements mean that you cannot create an account without first depositing a set amount of funds. An institution might also close your current accounts if your balance dips below a certain point.
For Swiss savings accounts, the minimum deposit varies according to the type of account. These requirements can also vary, depending on the kind of bank. For example, many major Swiss banks require a minimum initial deposit of one million U.S. dollars for non-residents, but certain Swiss Banks have no minimum required balance.
How Do You Choose the Right Bank for You?
As a soon-to-be account holder looking to protect your assets, you want to find the best bank for you. The good news is that the Swiss banking system is one of the best, offering a wide selection of banks to meet your preferences and needs. They offer an incredible range of services and undergo rigid regulations, so they adhere to strict privacy laws that protect your assets from prying eyes.
Not all Swiss banks are equal, however. Services, security, and fees can vary from bank to bank, similar to those in the United States. As you determine which bank to open your account with, consider these factors:
- International money transfers
- Debit card options
- Online banking features
- Monthly credit limit
You can choose from many different types of banks in Switzerland, each with its own pros and cons. The main categories of Swiss banks are cantonal, retail, international, and investment.
Government-owned cantonal banks are similar to retail banks in their available services. Typically, only residents in a canton where there is a bank branch can open an account with that bank. A few popular Swiss cantonal banks include:
- Appenzeller Kantonalbank
- Luzerner Kantonalbank
- Banque cantonale du Valais
- Urner Kantonalbank
Retail banks could be your best option if you’re a non-resident or foreigner looking to open a bank account in Switzerland. Swiss national retail banks usually have several branch locations throughout Switzerland and allow you to deposit funds, withdraw cash, and manage your assets easily. Some of the most popular retail banks in the country include:
- UBS Group
- Migros Bank
- Credit Suisse
With an international bank, you can expect English-speaking staff and customer-oriented services. These banks deal with foreigners on a regular basis and make international payments as easy as possible. You may already be familiar with some of these international banks:
- Banco Santander
- Barclays Bank
- Deutsche Bank
Many Swiss banks offer accounts to store your funds in a secure place and protect them against economic volatility. However, one specific Swiss banking sector only focuses on investments and caters toward wealthy investors. These Swiss investment banks can be exclusive, only permitting ultra-rich private clients to open an account.
If you are looking for more than a savings account, some Swiss retail banks will also offer investment accounts. Popular investment banks include the following:
- Credit Suisse
- EFG International
- Julius Bär Group
What Are the Best Swiss Banks for Non-Residents or Foreigners?
If you live in the U.S. and want to open a Swiss bank account, you may wonder, “What are the best banks for foreign residents?” In theory, all the big-name banks in Switzerland provide account services to non-Swiss individuals. However, they may obscure pricing options and make the process more complicated.
Don’t waste your time researching a private bank that does not put its pricing information and procedures upfront. The following Swiss banks have many international clients and make the process of opening an account as streamlined as possible:
- PostFinance: To open an account with PostFinance as a foreigner, you only need a valid ID, proof of address, and tax information. This retail bank offers various account options (numbered account, investment account, etc.) with a reasonable monthly fee.
- Migros Bank: Another retail bank that many non-residents recommend is Migros. Migros Bank offers several different account models and relatively low minimum required balances for a standard bank account.
- UBS Group: UBS Switzerland simplifies the Swiss bank account opening process for foreigners, making it an excellent option for offshore assets protection. You can quickly open a bank account and take advantage of competitive monthly rates.
- Valiant: With Valiant, you can open your Swiss account in no time and start saving. It’s a little more pricey than other banking options, but that often comes with better services and more effective account management.
How Do You Open a Swiss Bank Account?
The easiest and most direct way to open a Swiss bank account is to visit a branch office directly in person and talk to a representative there. This is the most surefire way to ensure your process goes smoothly as you will receive all of the information you need in person from an employee at the organization, but this is obviously not the most convenient option for most people. Additionally, going through the process in person may take up a lot of your time, taking from weeks to months to fully complete it.
Can You Open a Swiss Bank Online?
If you can’t visit the Swiss bank directly in person, your next best option would be to try to see if you can open it online. Fortunately, it is possible to open your Swiss bank account online. You just need to know what to look for and make sure you are dealing with a legitimate financial institution, such as UBS Group or Migros Bank.
Most banks in Switzerland allow you to begin the account application process online, but you must physically visit the organization to finalize it. However, a few banks give clients the option to open Swiss bank accounts safe online from anywhere in the world. As you sift through your banking options, look for information about online services and the account application procedure.
Pros and Cons of Opening a Swiss Bank Account
A bank account in Switzerland (like most things in life) has its advantages and disadvantages. Thinking through these pros and cons can help you make an informed decision.
Here are some of the best Swiss bank account advantages:
- Financial planning: You can keep your investments safe and sound in gift savings accounts, laying the groundwork for your family’s bright financial future.
- Protecting against lawsuits: Private banking services offer numbered accounts, keeping your name separate from your assets and protecting against lawsuits.
- Tax breaks: The Swiss banking industry doesn’t operate under the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations. You can work with the Swiss withholding tax and abide by Swiss banking law.
- Asset security: Swiss banks have some of the safest bank accounts in the world. The Swiss economy is incredibly stable, saving your assets from devaluation and sudden catastrophe.
As you open a Swiss bank account, you should also consider the cons:
- Expensive rates: Many numbered Swiss bank accounts have incredibly high minimum required balance and additional annual fees for non-residents.
- Inconvenience: Visiting a Swiss national bank and managing your account can be challenging if you live in the United States or other faraway countries.
Consulting an Attorney for Swiss Bank Accounts
Opening a Swiss bank account is the perfect solution if you’re looking to keep your assets safe and secure. At Blake Harris Law, our experienced attorneys can help you find the right bank and understand your legal options. Contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation.