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Old 19.02.2015, 19:59
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Year long stint- which Bank?

Hi,

I have been combing through the threads of which banks to join and its become very confusing- some information misguided others spot on, all and all I figured I would make it easy for myself and just start a new thread.

I am a nanny from the US here for a year and am needing to open a bank account. Everyone is telling me that Post is really my only option as its free and the other banks are reluctant to take americans on as new customers (is this true????). Though I was reading on another thread that Post cannot be used out of Switzerland (is this true????), this will be a problem for me as I travel frequently.

I really would like something that is easy, free (checking/saving), just need the debit card, and that I can transfer money from my US bank accounts to (totally unaware of how that works).

Please please please advise away! I would ideally like to get this done tomorrow as I have been living without a bank account for a couple weeks (living on amex

Thanks
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Old 19.02.2015, 20:14
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Re: Year long stint- which Bank?

This....

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... from the US
...makes the answer "any that will take you", I'm afraid. IIRC the usual suspects seem to be UBS and CS, maybe Postfinance or a cantonal bank
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Old 19.02.2015, 20:23
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Re: Year long stint- which Bank?

Fellow American here. You're in for a bit of a learning curve...

1) No such thing as a checking account here. The equivalent transaction (usually done online) is a bank transfer. Say you want to send somebody money: in the US you'd write a check, hand it to them, and they'd take it to their bank. Here they give you their account details, you go online and instruct your bank to send money to that account.

2) Americans can still get basic accounts with UBS, Credit Suisse and possibly a few others, the list is pretty short though. With CS or UBS, at worst you might have to go to a particular main branch in Zürich to open the account. After that you can do everything online though so it doesn't really matter.

3) It won't be free. Normal is something like 40/year for a debit card (this is waived if you're a student or are under a certain age - 23? 24?) plus a monthly fee of a couple francs.

4) Transferring money from the US can be done, fees aren't extortionate but the procedure is a bit of a pain (you'll probably have to call and/or fax your US bank to initiate every transfer) so if you have the option I'd recommend moving bigger amounts less frequently.

4b) On the other hand, if your account (actually: your total of all foreign-held accounts) goes over $10K at any point in the year, it means extra US paperwork for you to file (google FBAR) so perhaps not too big.


If I were you I'd take myself, my passport, and my residence permit down to the nearest branch of either CS or UBS tomorrow morning and see what they say. Oh, and perhaps a copy of your employment contract - can't remember if they wanted to see mine or not.
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Old 19.02.2015, 20:39
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Re: Year long stint- which Bank?

Mathnut

Thank you so much for your clear instructions and well yes reality check! I will be the first to admit that I have no clue how half the stuff over here works but I am certainly willing to learn.

I am 23 so hopefully that qualifies me as free account? I will see , if not the fees do not seem to be astronomical.

I guess which bank would you go for CS or UBS?

Thank you for the very helpful information! clear and concise!
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Old 19.02.2015, 20:41
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Re: Year long stint- which Bank?

I wouldn't try UBS (I came here about 3 years ago, and they were totally not interested, although this could have changed in the meantime).

I wouldn't suggest a Kantonal Bank or any other small or local bank, because I don't know if they're up to dealing with the extra expense of american clients (definitely not the very small ones)

I've heard from a lot of friends that it's really easy with PostFinance, but I don't know about using it in other countries, but I don't think this would be a problem if you got a Maestro or Credit Card with your account (different from a PostFinance Card). From what I understand, legally, they basically have to take you.

I ended-up with Credit Suisse. I had to show my passport, prove that I had residency in Switzerland (if you don't have an official permit yet, proof that you're accepted for one is sufficient), and sign a lot of forms saying that I was an american citizen/US person and that I would report my swiss account under FATCA, etc... I'm a student, so my account is free, but if you get a Viva account, it should be pretty cheap if not free.

You will need to close the account when you leave the country. Unless you're harboring millions, you won't be worth it after you're no longer a resident (heck, you're probably barely worth it now in their eyes).





For transferring money from the US.... If you can't do international transfers from your US online banking, I hope you gave someone legal access to your account in the US. If not, it could be complicated depending on your bank, and I can't really give you any advice about what to do here. However, if you did one of the above, you'll need:

1) Your name
2) Your Address (swiss)
3) Swiss Bank Name
4) Swiss Bank Address
5) International Bank Account Number (IBAN)

With this information, you should be able to transfer money to your swiss account. I recommend doing it in LARGE chunks or all at once, because they will probably charge you an international transfer fee (at my bank in the US its $50 per transfer, regardless of the amount transferred, not so bad, but it adds up after awhile).

To transfer your money back at the end of your stay, you'll need the same information above accept for your bank in the US. You should be able to do this via the online banking in your swiss account. Then, close your account in switzerland (once you lose residency here, the bank will probably close it automatically anyway, and I wouldn't guarantee that you will get the money without a lot of rigmarole, or at all)
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Old 19.02.2015, 20:53
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Re: Year long stint- which Bank?

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Mathnut

Thank you so much for your clear instructions and well yes reality check! I will be the first to admit that I have no clue how half the stuff over here works but I am certainly willing to learn.

I am 23 so hopefully that qualifies me as free account? I will see , if not the fees do not seem to be astronomical.

I guess which bank would you go for CS or UBS?

Thank you for the very helpful information! clear and concise!
I don't think it matters much. I went with Credit Suisse simply because they had an ATM that was on the way home from where I worked. (Seven years later I don't live near either a CS or a UBS, but none of the banks I do live near will touch my blue passport with a 10 foot pole. Google FATCA sometime, it makes interesting reading.)

23 should qualify you for some sort of young-people-bank-account at either place. Not sure whether it will be completely free but anyway a bit cheaper than the standard version. There are also associated perks, discounts on movie tickets etc. You can check the banks' websites (in English!) for details.

In all honesty though, whatever the difference between the two it'll be a matter of detail - a fraction of a percent interest, cheap tickets on Mondays instead of Wednesdays or whatever. Convenience trumps everything. And just like in the US, you may be charged a small transaction fee (CS does this; I don't know if UBS does too) for using a different bank's ATM, so it makes sense to pick the bank whose ATMs are the most convenient for you to get to.

So I'd say type in your address on http://map.search.ch/ and look for the nearest ATM (Geldautomat), mouse over it to see which bank it belongs to, and go from there.
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Old 19.02.2015, 21:07
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Re: Year long stint- which Bank?

Quote:
I guess which bank would you go for CS or UBS?
My boyfriend is Swiss, and he's with UBS. He has a student/young account with them, and I think that they have a much better benefits than the CS young accounts (that's why I tried to get an account their first). If you have a young account, they don't charge money for taking money out of an ATM regardless of owner so long as it's a bank machine (this might actually be worldwide, but I can't remember). He also gets "Key Club Points" just for using his credit card, that he can spend on anything at a whole list of stores in CH. Additionally, regardless of amount of currency exchange, they only charge 5 CHF.

With CS Bonviva, you get free access to Sony Music Streaming for one year and the opportunity to purchase some things at a discount. They also sporadically give away concert tickets and such things. I was never particularly impressed with their offers, but maybe that's more your thing.

Overall, I think the UBS program is better, but they wouldn't let me in maybe you'll have better luck

Last edited by Schoggi Kuh; 19.02.2015 at 21:10. Reason: adding quote
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Old 19.02.2015, 21:29
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Re: Year long stint- which Bank?

Thank you both for the very useful information. My resident permit is still processing so knowing that I can just take the letter in saying that it is processing is super helpful.

The only atms I have around me is Post- which I really don't want to get an account with Post as I travel internationally frequently. I mostly use my debit card anyways and its very infrequent that I need to take cash out so this shouldn't be a big issue.

Ha I actually know about FATCA

I might just go with CS and save myself the hassle of being turned away from UBS

Thanks everyone! Anymore advice is very much welcomed. Nice to not feel totally alone here as an american.....has been overwhelming thus far.
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Old 19.02.2015, 21:58
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Re: Year long stint- which Bank?

Note that the standard Postfinance card works fine at international ATMs. It is only purchases in shops which don't work. There are fees associated with this, but that may be true for any of the banks under discussion.
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Old 19.02.2015, 22:08
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Re: Year long stint- which Bank?

I'm an Ami and I recently set up a series of accounts with UBS. Like others have said, your choices as an American are limited to Postbank and the two (CS and UBS) which have paid settlements to the IRS. Each has website offerings in English where you can find out more about their account structures online.

Because you are American you will be allowed to have a personal account to pay bills from, possibly a credit card and savings accounts, but never brokerage/investment/special retirement accounts. In addition to the usual Swiss paper trail you will also need to sign two extra pieces of paper: a W9 form for the IRS, and a waiver of your rights to Swiss banking law with regard to the IRS. The experience can be quite surreal as many banks have special conference rooms for consulting your banker to ensure confidentiality. In my case, I was considered enough of a special case that I was asked if I would allow the work-experience kid a chance to sit in and gain new legal insight into his chosen profession.

Because of the peculiarities involved, you will probably have to hold your account at a major regional branch (the big ones). At UBS, they have small teams who specialize in Americans at the main branches. So even though I actually bank at the branch in my neighborhood, my account is officially downtown, so my accounts can be handled correctly. This system wasn't automatically known to all the local branch employees, so to save time, I would call the main Zurich branch of whatever bank you fancy doing business with, identify yourself as an American and ask to set up an appointment with whoever is handling their American accounts. They'll put you right through.
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Old 03.05.2015, 22:16
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Re: Year long stint- which Bank?

Thank you everyone for your help. I was able to get a account with Credit Swiss. This thread can be closed if needed.
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Old 03.05.2015, 23:05
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Re: Year long stint- which Bank?

Quote:
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Mathnut

Thank you so much for your clear instructions and well yes reality check! I will be the first to admit that I have no clue how half the stuff over here works but I am certainly willing to learn.

I am 23 so hopefully that qualifies me as free account? I will see , if not the fees do not seem to be astronomical.

I guess which bank would you go for CS or UBS?

Thank you for the very helpful information! clear and concise!
Just left UBS ! You would be better served by Post Finance Credit Suisse and UBS are expensive, Post is a better deal for you. I am an American and my UK hubby just researched this and found it is a better customer service deal with Post
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Old 03.05.2015, 23:07
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Re: Year long stint- which Bank?

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Thank you everyone for your help. I was able to get a account with Credit Swiss. This thread can be closed if needed.
Sorry, saw this too late. We found that after many years aT UBS, Post is a better option...for any other US citizens.
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