My swiss bank account ctd

swiss bank account

Turns out that opening a Swiss bank account wasn’t quite as easy as I made it sound in a previous post.

True, I’ve watched too many movies starring people like Matt Damon who were pampered and fawned over upon entering a Swiss bank. Also true, as I reported, no one asked me when I arrived if I perhaps might like an espresso.

A couple of Friday afternoons ago, I went to the post office, took a number, and waited in line, just like everyone else. When my number was called, I handed over a great deal of information about myself – a copy of my passport and visa, a copy of my employment contract, a copy of my rental agreement, among other things.  I was prepared to hand over dental records and a DNA swab, if the request had been made.

But, after waiting a week for my account information to arrive by “post” (pardon me if I sound affected, but I now live in a “flat” and take a “lift” to get there, so naturally my mail arrives by “post”), I received an email from a very nice person at my new bank – the Swiss post office – informing me that, in addition to everything else, I would also have to furnish a copy of my residency permit.

Only then would I have the privilege of entrusting all of my money to them. In the U.S. I could bring in a dollar to open a savings account, and the bank manager would personally give me a toaster to thank me. (Well, that was true in 1963, when I opened my first account at Old Kent Bank in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Maybe things don’t work that way today.)

To be fair – and you’ll find out in a few paragraphs why I really do need to be fair about this – everyone I have dealt with has been unfailingly polite. They even speak (and write) impeccable English, compared to my shamefully peccable German.

Beyond that I learned a great deal since writing my last post about how the Swiss banking business has changed in the last year. Given how few banks want to take money from U.S. citizens right now, it’s remarkable that I found even one that was interested in holding my money.

Under pressure from the U.S. government, centuries of (profitable) Swiss banking practice changed, almost overnight, and so it’s no wonder that I wasn’t offered any espresso at the Swiss post office. They have been polite to me, yes, but they have decidedly mixed feelings about my government.

At this point I’m going to remind my readers that I’m a pastor – with excellent training in Hebrew and Greek, but little in the way of banking practice. And so, what has happened is still largely a mystery to me. What I know for sure is that I moved to Switzerland at an awkward time for U.S. citizens, even those with small amounts of money to deposit.

But here’s the thing: The compliance manager at my bank, who emailed yesterday with further instructions about opening my account, thanked me for my recent blog post.

And now I realize how wise it was for me to be fair when blogging about this subject. I hope to get my bank cards in a couple of days.

About Doug

I have been a writer ever since fifth grade when I won second prize in a “prose and poetry” contest. I am also a Presbyterian pastor, and for several years toward the end of my career I lived and worked in Zürich, Switzerland. I am now retired and live just north of Holland, Michigan, along the lake.


3 Responses to My swiss bank account ctd

  1. Dennis Ulmer February 21, 2014 at 6:24 am #

    Hi Doug, It sounds like “government red tape” has hit Switzerland, and greatly influenced by the U.S. Government. I was wondering about fees. Do the post office banks charge fees for everything like the banks do here? I don’t think anyone gives toasters any more. They seem to strongly encourage electronic banking and discourage walking into a bank to get service from a bank teller. They do give you a really small lollipop at my bank if you ask for one. I think you pay for just about everything else. If you don’t pay, there are all kinds of rules. At least two direct monthly electronic deposits, minimum balances, everything but emptying the waste baskets.

  2. Barbara Keith February 21, 2014 at 9:36 am #


    I guess my only response is … “We always must take a few shells with the clams!”

    We still miss you and Susan … It’s NOT THE SAME!

    Barb & Tom

  3. Steve with Elise March 27, 2014 at 12:05 am #

    Good morning, Doug,

    Elise and I are in Cape Town on our way to Namibia. We’ve, well, Elise has completed two workshops so far; one in Port Elizabeth and one in a suburb of Cape Town called Somerset West. It has been invigorating to watch her in action. Really miss having the FPC gang here with us. That was a most memorable trip.

    Just read with interest your experience of the Swiss bank account initialization. During my active airline flying I considered opening an account in Europe. Sounds like I would have failed on the essential residency permit among the other minutae. I have thought many times of opening one here in South Africa. One show-stopper was that Elise has one here and she has been unable to withdraw the funds for transfer to the USA. Don’t know why that is, but it is what it is. I would be very interested to know if the Swiss prevent you from taking funds to the USA once you deposit them.

    Pending elections in South Africa, the Oscar Pistorius trial and the Malaysian 370 flight have me more than busy with non-workshop curriculum. Too many people consider me an expert on two of the above, which I am not. Thankfully, South African politics doesn’t need my input, but it is fun to listen to other ‘experts.’

    Give Susan our best. We miss the two of you around FPC.

    Steve Stimpson

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