In 2020, the two best free Swiss online banks remain Zak and Neon. My opinion hasn't changed since last year. However, my use has. And a third bank has emerged as an alternative candidate.
If you want to open a free Swiss account with them, I still have the 2020 promo bonus codes at the end of the article for the MP Team members :)
For the new Mustachians among you, I remind you that the average Swiss person spends CHF 300 in bank fees per year for his household.
By choosing a free Swiss bank that is just as reliable and secure, you can therefore afford to have CHF 300 more to invest annually, which represents an accumulation of assets of CHF 4'440 in 10 years. And all this just to make the unique effort of changing financial service provider.
"Where do I sign?!" was my reaction the first time I did my calculations.
Now that we've talked about the why, let's move on to the expectations I have in terms of banking services.
I have explained in detail my expectations in terms of services from a Swiss bank in my detailed review of 2019. These are still valid in 2020.
- Online and mobile
- Free bank transfers in Switzerland
- Free bank transfers in the Euro zone (via SEPA)
- Free Maestro debit card
- Free ATM withdrawals
- Free cash deposit at ATMs (new criterion, more info below)
- ISR payment via scan
- eBill support
- Accessible physically (via real people in real offices)
- Download of account statements in PDF format
- Live push notifications
One of the questions I regularly receive by email is the following: "But, MP, which is the best Swiss bank you're ultimately advising me to choose between the two?!"
Unfortunately, personal finance is as the name suggests "personal" and depends on your needs and preferences.
To help you make your choice, here's a comparison chart between Zak and Neon:
|Online and mobile||✅||✅|
|Free bank transfers in Switzerland||✅||✅|
|Free bank transfers in the Euro zone (via SEPA)||✅||✅|
|Free Maestro debit card||✅||🚫
(Maestro not available)
|Free ATM withdrawals||✅
(at Cler ATMs)
(2x/month, any Swiss ATM)
|Free cash deposit at ATMs||✅||🚫(paying via postal deposit slip)|
|ISR payment via scan||✅||✅|
|Download of account statements in PDF format||✅||✅|
|Live push notifications||✅||☑️
As you can see, if you can't do without a Maestro debit card, or a bank with physical offices, or being able to deposit cash for free, then Zak is the best solution.
On the other hand, if you can't do without eBill (it will come at Zak between the 3rd and 4th quarter of 2020), then Neon can be a good alternative (if you don't need the above mentioned points of course).
For my part, I choose Zak again in 2020 as my main Swiss bank.
The reasons remain the same as last year, with an additional one :
- In small country shops, merchants regularly refuse MasterCard/Visa cards because these means of payment involve too many costs for the them, so the Maestro is still useful — especially since in the countryside you don't necessarily have an ATM next door to go and withdraw cash
- I appreciate the advantage of having a bank that has offices to go to if there's a problem. I mentioned to Neon that even in their case (i.e. a Swiss online bank without any physical office), they might offer a live chat or phone number in the future. It would reassure me almost as much as a physical office if it is managed by competent people
- New reason : I received a payment of more than CHF 400 in cash a few months ago. I didn't want to keep such a large amount with me. So I was glad I chose Zak because I was able to deposit my cash directly at their ATM in Yverdon-les-Bains. With Neon, I would have had to go to the post office to fill in a deposit slip, and this with a fee
I've become aware of several things with all the recent events: when things are going well, digital is pretty cool; but when things start to go sour, then you think you wish you had a plan B.
The first reminder was when the Zak app was unavailable for a few hours last year. Luckily that hasn't happened since.
The second wake-up call was in the last few weeks with COVID-19: our friends at Degiro saw the account requests explode. So since March 25th, they have set up a waiting list that is only getting bigger because they favour the security and stability of their platform rather than accepting everyone. Nevertheless, some readers have not yet been able to open their account (if this is your case, I remind you of my advice if you want to enjoy stock market sales: open a CornèrTrader account temporarily, then transfer all your securities to Degiro once the situation has returned to normal).
I have other examples in mind that confirm that when things are going well it's cool, but when things go badly it's often too late to have a plan B.
That's why I decided to make Neon my secondary bank — even if it's not as minimalist as I would like.
"Uh OK. But what does that mean concretely, MP?"
Nothing very complicated, don't worry. Basically it's just that now our main account (i.e. where we receive our salaries and with which we make our usual payments) is at Zak's. And on top of that, we have a Swiss bank account opened at Neon with a small cash reserve in case there is a problem with Zak (unavailability of the app or other).
Of course, as a personal finance blogger, this will also allow me to continue to make a comparison of Swiss online banks and keep me informed of what's new with each of the solutions.
Also, if Zak doesn't offer eBill this summer, I might try to set it up on Neon and then transfer my eBills to Zak afterwards to see how it goes.
As usual, I'll document all this on the blog!
Talking to readers (hi Judith!), there is a third Swiss bank that made its entry in my "Best of 2020": Raiffeisen.
Indeed, the Raiffeisen offers a very interesting loyalty program MemberPlus with more than 500 free museums, the same for Swiss castles, discounts on train tickets and other discounts on events.
What's more, this offer is interesting because it's free of charge for the Raiffeisen customer, but also for three accompanying children.
To take advantage of the offer, you need:
- Be a shareholder member of Raiffeisen with a one-time fee of between CHF 200 and CHF 500, depending on your branch office (this amount is refunded if you no longer wish to be a member)
- Have a debit (or credit) card, costing CHF 40 per year
Aside from the few hundred CHF that are locked, it is clear that their offer of museums and castles is worthwhile, especially for a family, as the CHF 40 is quickly paid back.
I give you a summary below:
|Criteria||Raiffeisen (shareholder account)|
(CHF 200 to CHF 500 to become shareholder)
|Online and mobile||✅|
|Free bank transfers in Switzerland||✅|
|Free bank transfers in the Euro zone (via SEPA)||🚫
|Free Maestro debit card||🚫
|Free ATM withdrawals||✅
(at Raiffeisen ATMs)
|Free cash deposit at ATMs||✅|
|ISR payment via scan||✅
(via a second mobile app...)
|Download of account statements in PDF format||✅|
|Live push notifications||☑️
For my part, as I explained to Judith in the blog comments, I don't want to be forced to consume something to make my bank "become free". Moreover, and potentially wrongly so, we don't visit so many museums and castles in Switzerland. But that might change in the future with the MP kids growing up.
So for the time being, no Raiffeisen for the MP family, but I wanted to mention it because it can be an interesting alternative for families who already spend a lot on cultural outings.
I was again able to negotiate the following 2020 welcome bonus codes for Team MP members:
- Zak: the promo code "ONLYMP" entitles you to CHF 50 welcome bonus (the app says CHF 25 when you put the code in, but you'll get CHF 50!)
- Neon : the promo code "mustachian" entitles you to CHF 10 welcome bonus — to be entered during the registration because not possible afterwards (special promotion: until 18.05.2020, this same code entitles you to CHF 20 instead of the usual CHF 10)
As a reminder, I've created a detailed tutorial on how to create a Zak and Neon account with screenshots in this blog post.
Summary of my 2020 ranking of the best free Swiss banks :
Zak if for you if you want the security of an old Swiss bank (established in 1927), to deposit cash at the ATM, to have a Maestro card, and all that for free.
What's more, if you couple it with my Swiss credit card system with cashback, it becomes the most frugal setup possible because you have a free Swiss card optimized for each use: a Maestro for local shopping, a free Cumulus MasterCard for a maximum of cashback (several hundred CHF per year), and a free Revolut for spending in foreign currencies.
(Note for couples: with this credit card system, it allows you to have one card per person, because neither Zak nor Neon offer joint accounts or have multiple cards linked to the same account — for now).
Neon is your solution if you care more about minimalism than maximizing cashback. Indeed, their MasterCard allows you to pay in Switzerland of course, but also abroad with no additional fees (exactly as with Revolut — congratulations to Neon for this feature released at the beginning of the year!). So you only need one card instead of three.
I must admit that I'm lurking at this solution for several months, but the advantages of Zak mentioned above coupled with a maximization of cashback via the Cumulus MasterCard make me keep my initial choice for the moment.
The other option if you are already a cultural addict to Swiss museums and castles is the Raiffeisen.
Finally, as these banking solutions are free of charge, I recommend that you have a secondary Swiss bank in case one of them is not accessible.
And you, which free Swiss bank did you choose to save more than 4kCHF in 10 years?
Note: if you choose to open an account with Zak or Neon, I will receive the same amount of compensation as your welcome gift — without you paying anything extra, of course. It helps finance part of the costs and the time I spend writing the blog. Thank you in advance!
As I've explained many times before, please know that I only share services and tools that I personally use in real life. I recommend them in the hope that they will be as valuable to you as they are to me.