Opening a Bank Account in Basel

Moving to Basel eBookOne of the first things you’ll need to do upon moving to Basel, is to set up a new bank account. I’m no banker, and the various banks will differ in their processes for opening an account,  but I’ll try and tell you about the documents you are likely to need, and some of the possible options when you move to Basel. For specific questions, contact the bank you’re trying to set up an account with, they’ll be more than happy to help you!

Picture of swiss paper currency

Swiss money is colorful and valuable!

Lots of people take pride in being very organized when they move to a new country, and try to do as many things as possible before they arrive. This works well in many countries, for many different things. However, in Switzerland, when it comes to setting up a bank account, if you try before you arrive you are in for a lot time and effort. This is probably a waste, as you are unlikely to succeed even then! Be patient, wait till you arrive, and you can do the whole thing in less than an hour. If you urgently need an account set up before you arrive, for whatever reason, your best bet is probably through PostFinance. Yes, in Switzerland the post office is also a ‘bank’; I was also surprised about this when I was first moving to Basel, but it seems to work for them!

When it comes to opening your bank account, most banks in Basel will have tellers that speak English, or be able to provide you with someone who does, so that shouldn’t be an issue if you’re not fluent in German or French.  There are two main issues you’re likely to run into are:

  1. Having the appropriate documents need to get your account set up
  2. Choosing a bank out of the many offerings.


What documents do I need to open a bank account?

125x125 placeholder adRegarding the documents you need to open an account, you should pop by, telephone or email the bank you want to open the account with and ask them specifically, but in most cases you should need:

You’ll have to bring ID (bring at least two kinds of official photo ID if possible, including a passport), proof of employment (a signed work contract, or other proof of a steady income), proof of residence, a permanent address (if you’re in a hotel for a couple of months, explain this to them and see if they can make an exception), 2-4 passport photos (you can generally get these at train stations or other places throughout town). You should also bring any other financial documents that might be relevant, like company documents if you have your own business, licenses if you have a shop, evidence of sale of a home or car, which will result in a large deposit.  If you’re a US citizen, you’ll sign a form which will agree to notify the IRS of all transfers. People from other countries may also be subject to additional paperwork.


Which bank should I choose?

This is an individual question that you need to answer for yourself! It will depend on what you plan to do with your money, how much you earn, what kind of account you need, interest rates, stability of the institute, age (some have youth or seniors accounts), etc.  What I’ll do here is list a few of the banks in Basel, with links to their websites, so you can decide on your own. Please keep in mind that this list is not comprehensive, so do your homework to figure out what other banks are out there and which is best for you!

The bank I’ve been with since I moved to Basel, is Basler KantonalBank. They have been very pleasant, polite and accurate. They also have ATMs all over town and their website is in English, which makes things easy.

Account Charges

Depending on what type of account you open, it’s very likely you’ll have charges associated with your account. You’ll probably either pay a monthly or yearly fee for having the account itself, fees associated with debit card withdrawals (especially if these are from ATMs other than your bank). You may be charged for live visits to the bank, or for e-banking you do at home. There are likely to be other charges as well, that I haven’t mentioned, so ask your bank. If you are young (under 26, or a student) be sure to ask the bank if they have a special student account for you. If you’re a senior, you should also ask about special offers.

Credit cards in Basel
Credit cards are a bit different in Switzerland, at least from what I was used to! Usually, you need a certain amount of money in your bank before being issued a credit card, and often a security deposit is needed. The security deposit will be about twice the credit limit, but this varies from bank to bank. You can you the site to compare different credit cards when you move to Basel. Credit cards are not always free in Switzerland, sometimes you have to have a certain number of transactions, or a certain amount spent on them by month or year, so check carefully! Also, many vendors will also charge you a few percent extra if you use a credit card to pay. There are also online sites that allow you to get a credit card without having a bank account, should you choose to.

Personal Loans in Basel

Need a loan or help with financing for a car or project? You can try your bank but often the paperwork can make things slow. You should also consider trying other companies like Cembra MoneyBank. They offer personal loans with an easy online application for loans up to 80,000 CHF. The interest rate varies between 7.95% and 9.95% and is calculated on the basis of your personal financial circumstances.


I hope that this post helps you setting up a bank account when you move to Basel! As I mentioned, I don’t know much about most of these banks, as the only one I’ve used is the Basler Kantonal Bank, so be sure to check to see what works best for you!

Category: Day to day living

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