Moving to CH, looking for advice on a "bank setup": Neon + Migros?

Hi everyone,
I’m moving in a few days from Canada to Lausanne, Vaud with my wife, and couldn’t be more excited!! :heart:
I however feel a bit nervous when it comes to choosing the right bank (banks?), there are many options available and I don’t have the experience to make the best call. :fearful:

Hoping you can help me with some suggestions based on the following:

  • I need a joint account for my wife and myself
  • I plan to do a lot of purchases abroad, in EUROS, and want minimum fees
  • I generally rarely use cash, if ever
  • I’m looking to get a card with travel insurance if possible

Some questions:

  1. I’ve seen a lot of praise for Neon, Revolut or N26. Can I make this my only account, or should I also open another account in a more traditional bank like Migros? If so, why is it better to have an account other than Neon? I’m asking, as this would mean extra fees to pay, and 2 banks to manage.

  2. In terms of investment (Mutual funds) for my pillars, is that something you can do with Neon, or do you need another bank to do that? If so, what bank would be better?

  3. Can I open a credit card in any bank, just like in Canada? (or do I need a checkings account in that bank?) What credit card would allow for minimal fees aboard when paying in Euros? Is there a card that does Cashback abroad? If not, would you suggest one card for international payments, and one for Swiss payments (with cashback)

Thank you so much. :heart:

Neon: No shared account.
But can work as your only Swiss bank account, if you’re happy with using an app for everything.
I certainly works for me. I haven’t needed a brick and mortar bank account for over a year.

Forget about Revolut or N26 as your only account. You might compare it to living in Canada and asking to use a U.S. account as your only account - because it’s located on the same continent.

Neither N26 nor Revolut offer Swiss bank accounts - so you will be missing very essential payment features. You will not be paying all your everyday bills with them.

They might be interesting solutions for travel and/or foreign currency spending though…

While Neon has run the occasional referral program to refer to third-party providers, they don’t have an investment offering themselves. Go and look separately for a 3rd pillar (3a) provider that suits you.

You won’t have any control or investment decision on first and second pillar anyways (for the time being).

In principle yes. Though many high street banks won’t do it, without you having an account with them …that you receive your salary into. Especially as a newcomer to the country, who has no credit history.

There’s specialised credit card offerings such as Swisscard or Cornércard that do offer stand-alone card products. If you’re accepted, as being a newcomer to the country.

Swiss credit cards are rather expensive for FX payments. All of them. Though maybe not as much as UK ones.

Neon’s Prepaid debit card uses Mastercard rates without a surcharge though - so would be one good option. Note however that it’s good (if not essential) to have a credit card for rentals (hotel rooms, cards), depending on the country and region you’re travelling to.

That’s what I’m using, since I’m a bit of cheapskate and payment card geek.

I am using the Swisscard Cashback Cards duo domestically, for 1% cashback on AMEX card payments (except at the few merchants that don’t accept AMEX).

If I’d go shopping and/or travelling in foreign currency, I would probably use mainly Neon, Revolut and/or TransferWise for inexpensive international payments (note: none of them being or having on offer a true “credit” offering), if I hadn’t access to some non-Swiss products.

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  • What I did not cover: Travel insurance. Travel insurance does tend to come with (with few exceptions) the pricier cards only though. Which will probably still charge you extra for foreign currency. Maybe you’d look into taking out travel insurance separately?

  • I’d encourage you to not look into things and decide solely from a lowest-cost perspective. To put things into perspective: You can get a current account from UBS with a credit card for as little as 5 CHF/month. (3 CHF, if you keep 10’000 CHF with them in any form). And they are a really, really good and professional bank. With physical branches. And more than just solid english-speaking customer service.

Speaking of which: UBS and many cantonal banks have quite sophisticated apps, with lots of functionality. They make Neon’s app almost look like a toy, in comparison.

The thing is, I actually prefer Neon’s simplicity and sticking to the very basics, when paying my everyday little bills. And their laxer authentication requirements (however, I’m not keeping subtantial amounts at Neon).

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@San_Francisco covered almost everything, I have little to add, apart from maybe that if you do want a joint account with your wife, consider Raiffeisen. It’s a traditional brick and mortar bank, a cooperative. Their joint account is free, you pay for the associated card though (40 CHF per person). However, if you become a member (either minimum amount on account or buy an interest-bearing bond from them, depending on location), this card gives you discount on hundreds of attractions around Switzerland. If you plan to see a lot of Switzerland, this might be a great option. Once everything is open again…


Welcome in Switzerland and in Canton of Vaud :slight_smile:

Here are some solutions for you and your wife:

Free bank and free credit card to purchase in Switzerland and abroad

  • BCV Family Direct Banking Pack
    It’s a traditional brick and mortar bank with free shared checking and saving accoung if you have 15’000 CHF in asset (like in cash). They will also provide a 3a account but I won’t use their solution because there is better one in Switzerland (like VIAC, Finpension, Frankly).
  • Neon
    Free Prepaid Credit Card and checking account, but there isn’t a shared solution yet. You can use it to purchase abroad without majoration and with the MasterCard FX Rate which is quite good.
  • Migros Cumulus Credit Card or Swisscard Cashback
    If you are looking for a normal credit card with cashback. With the first one, you have a travel insurance, not with the second one. This cards have to be used only for domicile purchased as they have high fee if you purchase aboard.

Digital and Free Bank Account

  • Zak
    It is a free digital solution if you don’t mind to have an E-Banking solution where you get a checking account, a normal credit card and a virtual VISA Card. In the other hand, you will not have a shared account, the normal credit card hasn’t cashback services and you should avoid using it outside Switzerland. The VISA Card however is workind as the neon card, using VISA FX Rate on foreign purchase, but you have to use your smartphone since there isn’t physical card.
  • Neon
  • Migros Cumulus Credit Card or Swisscard Cashback

Traditional bank

  • UBS, PostFinance, Credit Suisse, Migros, Raiffeisen
    These are traditional brick and mortar banks with fees that can be high, but you will have a shared account from them and sometimes a normal credit card.
  • Neon
  • Migros Cumulus Credit Card or Swisscard Cashback

Personaly, I was with UBS since last year and was really satisfied with their services. However, their fees were high for my use and I opened an checking and savings account to BCV since is free when you have at least 10’000 CHF (for single account). And I’m using neon as my main credit card to purchase aboard and travel. I’m not a fan of normal credit card and I’m not looking after cashback. However, if I would chose a normal credit card, I will take the Migros Cumulus Credit Card.

Hope it could help you a bit.

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Bank Cler have discontinued their Mastercard credit card for the Zak account - received an email from them just last week.

The virtual prepaid Visa prepaid is there to stay - though somewhat cumbersome to use, with it’s separate balance and topping-up needed.

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Oh this is relaltively new, thanks for the information!

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I have always resented have to pay a monthly fee to UBS for a basic account (currently 3CHF /month plus 40CHF/yr for a debit card). However reading your question and on reflection if I had to repeat my international move today I would go with them again or with Credit Suisse.

The start-up banks (Zak, Neon) and low cost (Migros) are breaking the duopoly but the reality is the big guys still provide a service, they have branch networks and are used to dealing with expats. This is helpful during a time when you will have a lot of admin. For example you might need a rental security deposit account which UBS offer quickly and under 1 roof

For foreign transactions Revolut is great to save an additional 1 or 2% but it is a prepaid card and sometimes refused. Credit card is needed for some motorway tolls or gas stations, and car hire

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Migros Bank also has a good customer service. I have an issue with their software and I got a call from an IT guy who was very helpful. He even called me back after I told he could close the ticket since he had another suggestion! Never seen something like that.

BTW don’t mixup Migros Bank with the Migros Cumulus mastercard. The first is a brick and mortar bank, the second is just a name of a card offered by Cembra, which is also connected to a membership with the migros supermarket chain.

In my experience, this type of account is “forced” on you by the landlord, and I’ve never had the choice of which bank to have it at. Although, granted, it’s often been at UBS.

Yeah, I like Migros Bank too.
Would avoid Credit Suisse.

FYI - I have it at UBS, I’ve chosen it by myself (my landlord allowed it) and it didn’t matter that I have no other connections with UBS (I have the account at cantonal bank).

Thanks all for the useful answers.

So based on the above recommendations, it seems like a good setup for me would be:

  • UBS as my main bank, joint account. I’m fine with the fees.
  • Migros Cumulus Credit Card for transactions in Switzerland
  • Neon Account + MasterCard for international transactions in Euros

Additional questions:

  1. Is it possible to combine UBS + the Migros Cumulus Credit Card? (or does it mean I need another account at Cembra, which might be too many accounts for me)
  2. Are there any “hidden” fees or restrictions to the Migros Cumulus Credit Card?

Do you have any additional comment that could help me in terms of banking setup for a newcomer?
Thank you!

Unfortunately no, they are different provider.

However, if you don’t really care about cashback and you take the UBS Family Banking Package (joint account), you will pay 15 CHF per month (180 CHF per year) if you have at least CHF 10,000 in total family assets and you will have a Debit Mastercard that you can use as a credit card too, and a normal credit card (without cashback).

They are different providers, but one can still have both without opening a normal banking account at Cembra. Cembra will give you only a credit card account with a bill every month and you can pay this from your UBS account via normal bank transfer or via LSV (automatically debited).

I have this Cumulus credit card and the only catches for me are higher fees for transactions abroad (even on an online shop based somewhere else in Europe) and no e-bills.

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I would go with BCV (free if your have 15k CHF) family direct + Cashback cards

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@dabeda That’s totally fine then, it’s the same in Canada. I’ll simply have to be careful and make sure I pay this card every month. But at least I’ll get cashback. I assume the advantages I would get from a UBS credit card would be less interesting?

@dabeda EDIT: I checked on the card page and it doesn’t seem to offer either cashback (it looks more like a points rewards card, granting you Cumulus points for each purchase) and doesn’t seem that Travel insurance is included either (it looks like an add on that I need to pay for)

@Ardius thank you. It is a good alternative that I’ll add to my list. that being said I think it may be financially more interesting to invest the 15K CHF, the return outweighs the UBS fees, from what I’ve quickly calculated.

For the cashback cards that’s super useful, I’ll look into it. The Migros Cumulus card looks like a point rewards card, so it’s exactly what I was after.

Note that there’s a bit of cashback, but it’s not going to be anything like in US/CA (there are more regulatory pressure in Europe on how much the cc networks can charge the merchants).

(So might not be worth optimizing too much on cashback, from what I gather for the people who are into it there’s a TCS card, or some Amex, the latter might not be accepted everywhere).

Yes, the cashback are cumulus points which you can redeem at Migros, 1 point worth 1 cent. As I regularly go to Migros anyway, it’s as good as a cashback for me.

Take a cumulus card and go to migros. I mean, not the mastercard, Just the cumulus. You can then get cumulus points ans pay with cashback Amex and get 1% cashback too !

For BCV, the 15k represent the emergency cash you need at every time on CH :wink:

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