You may need to send money abroad after relocating to Switzerland. Use this guide to learn how Swiss money transfers work and what to expect.
If you need to make an international money transfer from Switzerland, you can do so through a number of different outlets. Your options include Swiss banks, mobile banks, and specialist brokers. This guide explains the Swiss money transfer process in full, with sections including:
- International money transfers in Switzerland
- Online international money transfer services in Switzerland
- Swiss money transfer by traditional bank
- International money transfer via online and mobile Swiss banks
- Wire transfers in Switzerland
- Foreign exchange brokers in Switzerland
- Useful resources
International money transfers in Switzerland
When you relocate to another country, you may need to send money back home from time to time. International money transfers have grown in popularity as the world’s workforce has become more mobile. According to the World Bank, around $689 billion was transferred across borders in 2018.
With its robust and sophisticated financial sector, Switzerland offers a variety of different methods of sending money abroad. However, these methods vary in terms of cost, time and process involved, so it’s worth doing your research before deciding which one to use.
Online international money transfer services in Switzerland
One of the most common ways of transferring money from Switzerland abroad is by using on online money transfer service. These are popular as they are easy, quick and low-cost.
You can find a number of online transfer providers operating in Switzerland. These companies have accounts in countries all over the world, meaning that you can transfer fairly large amounts with most of them. Big names include:
- Wise (formerly Transferwise)
- World Remit
Many of these companies offer same day transfers up to a certain amount if you complete the transaction early enough in the day, although this may depend on where you are sending money. You can expect money to arrive within 3-5 working days at the latest.
There may also be limits on how much you can transfer, although again this depends on where the money is going. For example, Wise allows you to send a maximum of CHF 1.3 million per transaction.
How to send money using an online money transfer service in Switzerland
The exact process for making your Swiss money transfer varies with each company but typically involves:
- Registering your account and providing identification
- Securing your exchange rate so that you know how much your recipient will get
- Providing the recipient’s account details, for example an IBAN number
- Paying the money, usually by either bank transfer, credit/debit card or SWIFT
Fees are generally quite low but vary across providers. You will usually pay a small fixed fee plus a percentage of the amount transferred and the exchange rate offered. The fixed fee is typically between CHF 0.50 -3.00 while the percentage is normally between 0.25 – 1.00%.
For example, if you sent CHF 1,000 to Germany by online money transfer, the recipient would get around €909.50. This equates to a fee of around €4. If you sent the same amount to the US, the recipient would get around $1,100 at the best rates. This equates to costs of around $15. You can check Monito to compare rates and fees.
In order to protect funds and prevent money laundering, the main online money transfer companies are all regulated by either FINMA in Switzerland or by the financial regulators in the country they are based. For example, UK company Wise is regulated by the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Swiss money transfers by traditional bank
Banks have offered Swiss money transfer services for many years and plenty of people still use them for this service. This is primarily because of the high level of security protecting against fraud as licensed banks are signed up to the Deposit Guarantee Scheme covering up to €100,000. Banks also have more security measures in place to counter money laundering.
Transfers are made using either International Bank Account Numbers (IBAN) or SWIFT codes (bank identifier codes). You will need either the IBAN or SWIFT of both your account and the account of the person you are paying. Switzerland belongs to the Single European Payment Area (SEPA), a system that makes cross-border payments across Europe much easier.
Costs of international bank transfers using Swiss banks
Although doing Swiss money transfers by standard banks is secure and convenient, it can be more costly than using specialist services. Admin fees can be high, especially if you choose to set the payment up via filling in a paper form at your bank branch.
Fees include a standard flat fee, which varies between banks and is determined by factors such as destination, amount paid, transfer method, and any special requests such as fast-track transfer. Typically, you can pay anywhere between CHF 3-30. Banks sometimes include additional hidden fees, so be sure to check costs first. There is also the exchange rate, which can be more costly through traditional Swiss banks.
If you sent CHF 1,000 to Germany using traditional banking online, you can expect the recipient to get around €905, which works out at a fee of around €8. Sending the same amount to the US would see the recipient get around $1,075, which works out at a fee of around $40. See Monito for current rates and fees.
How long do international bank transfers in Switzerland take?
Transfers within the SEPA region usually take between 0-3 days. If you send money outside Europe, expect it to take a little longer. The standard timescale that banks offer is 3-5 business days. In some cases, it can take up to seven days. Many banks offer a fast-tracking service but this comes at a price. Again, this will vary depending on transfer amount and destination.
How to make an international money transfer in Switzerland by bank
You can choose to make your Swiss money transfer in a number of different ways – in person at a branch, over the phone, via your bank’s website, or even using a mobile banking app.
Sending the money electronically is the simplest way. The process is broadly similar to using online money transfer services. The main difference is that you won’t need to register or provide proof of identification if you already have an account with the Swiss bank.
You will generally need to provide:
- Your name, address and account number. If you are logged into your account, these details may be saved automatically.
- The recipient’s name and either IBAN or SWIFT number.
- Amount you wish to transfer.
- The currency the recipient will receive the funds in.
You may sometimes have to give additional information such as the name of the recipient’s bank, the country the funds are being sent to and reasons for payment (especially for large amounts).
How to receive an international money transfer in Switzerland by bank
If you are receiving money to a Swiss bank account by international transfer, the administration will generally be dealt with by the person paying the funds. You will have to provide your IBAN or SWIFT code. Contact your bank for these. Alternatively, you can search for IBAN codes here and your SWIFT code here.
If the amount involved is a large sum, or if your bank has any questions about the nature of the transfer, you may have to provide additional information to your bank.
International money transfers via online and mobile banking in Switzerland
Most digital and mobile banks in Switzerland provide easy access and low-cost money transfer services that enable users to send funds overseas with just a few button clicks.
Many of the main mobile banks operating in Switzerland, such as bunq, N26, and Neon, have partnered with the online money transfer service Wise to offer international transfers on the same terms as if you dealt with the company directly. The main exception is UK fintech Revolut which offers its own low-fee international money transfer service between more than 30 countries and in 28 currencies. All you need to provide is the recipient’s mobile number. Revolut offers the interbank exchange rate, meaning that you effectively pay no conversion fee. Sending CHF 1,000 to Germany would convert to around €916 and to the US would convert to around $1,116.
You can transfer unlimited amounts through Revolut, however, the free account option is limited to $1,000 a month (CHF 900). If you need to transfer larger amounts, you can set up an account that offers limitless transfers for around $10 (CHF 9) a month. Unlike mobile banks such as N26, Revolut has a fintech rather than full banking license. This means that it isn’t covered by the Deposit Guarantee Scheme.
Wire transfers in Switzerland
Wire transfer services operate in countries all over the world, providing the ability to send money quickly from one side of the world to the other. Money is sent electronically across financial networks, which can be banks, credit/debit cards or other financial service providers.
The biggest advantage to wire transfers is that you can make payments without a bank account. This is great if you have to wire cash to someone at short notice or need to send emergency funds to someone overseas who has lost their wallet.
The two biggest international wire transfer companies are MoneyGram and Western Union. Both operate from a number of Swiss outlets including PostFinance, railway stations, financial service providers and certain retail stores. You can also transfer money online via their websites or mobile apps. There are also several smaller wire transfer providers operating in Switzerland.
Although wire transfers are fast and can be convenient in difficult circumstances, they are more costly. You could find yourself paying in excess of CHF 50 in fees for some Swiss money transfers. For a transfer of CHF 1,000 to Germany, expect the recipient to receive around €895. To the US, the recipient would get around $1,075.
To send a wire transfer overseas, you normally need to provide a valid ID, such as a passport, to the agent as well as information on the nature of the payment. Transfer limits are quite low. You can pay around CHF 5,500 at a time to countries receiving in dollars or euros. With most providers, you can choose to pay in cash, to a bank account, or to someone’s credit or debit card.
Foreign exchange brokers in Switzerland
One final Swiss money transfer option is to use a foreign exchange broker, or forex broker. These are companies that specialize in buying and selling foreign currencies. In recent years, they have moved into the international money transfer market.
Forex companies offer a few distinct advantages. They provide good exchange rates, usually operating at around the mid-market exchange rate although some may be even more competitive. Many firms also offer currency exchange advice services as well as options such as setting up multiple payments at a fixed exchange rate.
Two of the biggest companies operating in Switzerland are World First and XE (formerly HiFX). You can send CHF 1,000 to a European country where the recipient gets around €906.50 and to the US where they would receive around $1,103. If you are sending via a bank account, check that your bank is not applying any additional hidden fees.
Sending money through forex brokers is fast – about as quick as using an online money transfer provider – and secure if you use a licensed provider regulated by FINMA. You will need to set up an account, which involves verifying your personal ID. You can do this digitally with the main providers if you download their app.
- Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) – regulates financial services in Switzerland
- Monito – international money transfer comparison tool