How to Move Your Money Abroad
If you’re moving to Switzerland, one part of the process you might not have considered so far is the need to transfer money abroad. Might you need cash to settle in, or are you perhaps buying a home there? In either case, you’ll need to move money from your home country to a Swiss bank account. But how do you go about doing this? And how do you do so at the best exchange rate?
1. Open a Swiss bank account.
Before you can transfer money to Switzerland, you need to open a Swiss bank account. This is a matter of going to Google, and finding out what accounts are available to suit your needs. It’s also worth finding out if you can open it from your home country, which could save you some trouble later on.
There is helpful information on this topic available here:
In addition, lots of people looking for information on Swiss banks do so from an investment point of view, so it’s important to make sure you don’t confuse this.
2. Consider what service you want to use to transfer the money.
For instance, you might use your bank in your home country, or a specialist foreign exchange service. When making up your mind which to use, it can be helpful to have the following in mind:
a. Do you like and trust the person you’re dealing with? You’re after all entrusting them with potentially significant sums.
b. Do they charge to send the money abroad? In the UK for instance, high street banks such as Natwest charge a £20 flat fee to do so.
c. Is the exchange rate good? The exchange rate can differ substantially from place to place, so you need to check to make sure you get the best one.
d. Do they offer a secure service? In the UK, money transfer services must be registered with the Financial Services Authority to be legitimate.
e. Is it convenient to use them? You might find the best exchange rate with a broker in Australia, but if they’re in a different timezone it may not be practical to use them.
f. Can they offer testimonials? You might want to email previous clients, to make sure they’re a legitimate and trustworthy service.
Once you’ve answered these questions, you should be in a better position to choose the best service to transfer your money to Switzerland. You’ll need to create an account before you can send your money, so make sure you do that before moving onto the next step.
3. You will likely need the following to transfer money to Switzerland.
To send money to Switzerland, you will need the following:
a. The name of the beneficiary and their address (likely yourself.)
b. The name of your Swiss bank and their address.
c. Your IBAN (International Bank Account Number.) This will be 21 characters long and start with CH.
d. Your BIC (Bank Identification Code) or SWIFT code.
This will be in addition to having opened an account with a money transfer service.
4. Consider the foreign exchange rate.
In addition to the differences in the rate available from different money transfer services, the foreign exchange rate clearly changes too. To put yourself in a position to get the best available rate:
a. Use a service like Google or the BBC to keep an eye on what the Swiss franc is doing. The weaker it is, the more francs you’ll get when you transfer.
b. Look at where the franc has been in the last three months or so. Use this as a benchmark for the kind of exchange rate you can expect. Be realistic.
c. Begin to look at the rates as far in advance as you can. This gives you a bigger window to find an acceptable rate.
d. If a rate arrives that you like, but you don’t yet want your funds sitting in Switzerland, speak to your dealer about locking in the rate using a “forward contract.”
So long as you’ve registered an account with a money transfer service in advance, you should be able to send your money to Switzerland fairly instantaneously, once you find a rate you like. That might be a matter of doing it over the phone, or doing it online.
5. Consider the Swiss franc since 2008.
In addition to the basic advice I’ve offered above, it can be useful to bear in mind the following information about the Swiss franc since 2008.
The Swiss franc is currently pegged to the euro at 1.20. This means the Swiss National Bank is intervening directly in the foreign exchange market to keep the franc at this point, so that the euro and franc move in tandem. It’s doing this because, since the onset of the Eurozone financial crisis, the franc had become dangerously expensive, as the markets fled to Switzerland as a refuge. This was destroying Switzerland’s manufacturing base.
What this means for you is that, to a large extent, what exchange rate you get to the franc will depend less on what’s happening on Switzerland than Europe.
Here are some useful links on this topic:
6. Look for expat forums.
Last of all, if you find yourself with a question you cannot find an answer to, it can be worth looking through the existing forums for Swiss expats. These contain countless discussions from people that have had trouble sending money to Switzerland, so could feature the answer you’re looking for. If not, you can always start a new topic yourself, and wait for someone to help you.
Peter Lavelle is a broker at foreign currency exchange Pure FX. He has written for several well-known sites in the global expat community, including culturespain.com, myfrenchlife.org and survivingnjapan.com. He is also a published fiction writer. He currently lives in Madrid with his girlfriend.