With a reputation for banking secrecy and watertight client confidentiality, Switzerland has long been where the world’s super-rich turn to look after their wealth.
Historically, this comparatively small and landlocked country had few resources. When it turned to financial services and precision manufacturing, it created the pillars upon which its prosperous present-day economy now relies.
Suppose you’re expanding your business to Switzerland or working with a new service provider based there and need to make payments easily. In that case, you’ll need to understand your options for financial transfers.
This guide will take you through what to expect when transferring money from the UK to Switzerland, including what fees you’re likely to pay, how long transfers may take, plus alternative solutions that could save your business money and resources.
Let’s get you up to speed.
Global transfers in Switzerland
Switzerland occupies a unique position in Europe at the heart of the continent and outside the political framework of the European Union.
Switzerland has traded with its neighbours for centuries. Indeed, major financial hubs developed for this reason: Zurich would work with Germany, Geneva with France, and Lugano with Italy.
This outward-looking commercial culture continues today, with the Swiss population making many cross-border transactions.
Switzerland has a tradition of financial stability. The country’s importance as a centre of financial services grew as wealthy people sought ways to protect their assets amidst the social and political upheavals of the 18th and 19th centuries. Switzerland remained neutral during the two World Wars, further enhancing its financial stability reputation.
It’s home to some of the most watertight privacy laws in the world. The Swiss Banking Act of 1934, still in force today, makes it illegal for bank employees to disclose client details. Despite pressure from other countries worldwide, Switzerland continues to honour client confidentiality.
While Switzerland stands apart from other countries in its banking laws, its financial infrastructure is intertwined with other nations in different ways that enable easier international transfers.
For example, it’s a member of the EU’s Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA). This means that transfers in Euros to other SEPA countries are the same as transfers to domestic accounts within Switzerland.
The country is also part of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT), a network that allows Swiss institutions to transact with up to 190 countries worldwide.
Switzerland is also embracing new technologies for retail payments, such as the TWINT payment system, which is fast becoming the most popular way for residents to make payments. Users can link their bank accounts to the TWINT app to make secure payments from their mobile devices.
Countries eligible for payments
You can send and receive payments in Switzerland to most countries worldwide.
The specific countries you can transfer money to depend on which service you use – we'll look at the options available later in this guide. But if we take 3S Money as an example, you can make and receive payments from more than 190 countries.
It’s worth remembering that you may be unable to send money to certain countries due to political circumstances. It’s essential to check with your provider before making a payment.
Because of Switzerland’s location, it’s easy to forget that it doesn’t use the Euro. Its official currency is the Swiss Franc with the currency code CHF (Confoederatio Helvetica Franc).
Switzerland was one of the last countries to stop using a gold standard to determine the value of its currency. Historically, governments would stockpile gold reserves for times of economic difficulty.
While we don’t have any gold bars in our 3S Money vault, we know something about exchanging currencies.
We always recommend sending your transfer in the local currency of the destination country. The currencies available will depend on your provider, but 3S Money offers 65+ currencies (with FX rates up to five times lower than traditional banks).
With a 3S Money International Business Account, you can quickly transfer money to and from Switzerland. Your business can send, collect, hold, and exchange high-value payments in CHF wherever you do business – without the hassle of opening local bank accounts.
You can add funds for transfers from the UK to Switzerland in various ways. Most providers will accept corporate and personal credit cards, debit cards, bank transfers, direct debits, and e-wallet services like Apple and Google Pay.
If you use a credit card, be aware that your card issuer may apply added charges: a cash advance fee. You’ll need to factor this in when working out the overall cost.
Different ways to send payments to Switzerland
There are many ways to transfer money from the UK to Switzerland. Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
Your bank will be able to transfer the funds for you. This is a popular choice for many people and businesses as it’s often the easiest, most comfortable and most convenient. But for those exact reasons, it can also be expensive. Here’s why:
Banks usually charge a fee to arrange and process money transfers (for UK banks, this varies from £20-£40).
Some banks may also charge a percentage of the total amount you’re transferring (as much as 3-4%).
Banks may use their own foreign exchange (FX) rates which could cost customers up to 5% more.
All banks are different, so check your business account's terms to see your bank’s international transfer charges. If they charge a lot, consider an alternative.
Online banks or Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs)
Electronic Money Institutions offer many financial products and services as traditional banks but don’t have physical branches.
EMIs like us are becoming an increasingly popular tool to transfer money. This is especially true for businesses that run internationally. Here are a few reasons why:
Savings: EMIs offer lower fees and more competitive FX rates than traditional brick-and-mortar banks.
Simplicity: All your business transactions are accessible in one easy-to-use platform.
Scale: Your business can grow quicker with greater access to multiple countries and currencies.
International businesses are turning to EMIs for alternative banking solutions because they enable payments in different countries without holding local bank accounts.
Wire transfer services are another way for transferring money to Switzerland from the UK. As with other services, this method has pros and cons. For example:
You can choose how the money is received. Many services offer bank transfers, eWallet delivery, or cash pickup from a physical location. If you want a faster transfer, you’ll probably pay significantly more.
These services often add a currency exchange rate markup, meaning either the sender has to pay more, or the recipient receives less. Either way, the provider pockets a healthy profit.
Wire transfers can be less secure and harder to trace. Ensure that a recognised local body regulates your provider for peace of mind.
Sending payments to Switzerland: step-by-step
A 3S Money International Business Account lets you send money to 190+ countries and 65+ currencies, including the Chinese Yuan. Here’s how:
1. Open a 3S Money International Business Account
Once approved, you can send, receive, hold, and exchange Chinese Yuan from one globally accessible online account.
2. Enter the transfer details
Add the recipient’s name and account details, then choose the currency and country.
3. Send your money
Receive an alert when the transfer is complete (usually in under two hours).
Receiving money from Switzerland: step-by-step
A 3S Money International Business Account makes receiving payments from 190+ countries, including China, easy.
1. Open a 3S Money International Business Account
Benefit from one easy-to-use platform for all your international payments.
2. Give customers your account details
Easily collect cross-border payments in CHF and 65+ currencies.
3. Receive your money
See the payment arrive in your account (usually in under two hours) - there are no fees to receive international payments.
How long do money transfers to Switzerland take?
The answer is: it depends. Many transfers from the UK to Switzerland will take a few seconds, but some could take a few days. Generally speaking, how long depends on the type of transfer and the system(s) your provider uses.
If your bank uses the SEPA network, most payments are processed instantly.
EMIs, such as 3S Money, can also instantly deliver most transfers to Switzerland (a 3S Money International Business Account also allows you to manage global transfers easily from one online platform).
Transfers using the SWIFT network can take up to four working days to reach the recipient.
Remember, if you send a payment over a weekend or public holiday, expect your money to take longer to reach its destination. This is because transfers from the UK to Switzerland are usually only processed on working days.
All these factors will affect how long your transfer takes. For more precise timing, check with your provider.
How much money can I transfer online to Switzerland?
There’s no limit to how much you can transfer. However, some providers cap the amount you can send in an individual transaction. So, you may have to complete multiple transfers if you want to transfer a large amount.
3S Money doesn’t impose transaction limits. Once an International Business Account is approved, you can quickly transfer high-value payments from the UK to Switzerland and 190+ countries worldwide.
Transferring large amounts
In cases where your provider imposes a cap, look out for multiple transfer fees. If you send payments regularly in this way to pay supplier invoices, for example, the costs could mount up.
When transferring large amounts, there are a few things you should consider:
Some providers cap the amount you can send in a single transfer, so you may have to do several.
There may be a limit on the number of transfers you can make in any 30-day period.
Larger amounts can take longer to process, depending on the provider.
Larger amounts can take longer to process.
Your provider may enquire about large transfers. This is considered best practice and an essential part of how financial institutions meet their regulatory obligations.
How much does it cost to transfer money to Switzerland?
We mentioned earlier how international transfers via traditional banks could be a costly way to send money to China. Let’s look in more detail at the fees you might pay:
Outgoing transfer fee: You’ll most likely be charged a flat fee for sending an international transfer. For UK banks, this varies between £20 and £40.
3S Money charges just $1 (or your local equivalent) per transfer regardless of how much you send. See more about 3S Money pricing.
Incoming transfer fee: Most UK banks charge around £7.50 for receiving payments from international bank accounts. 3S Money charges £0.00.
Initiation fee: Some banks might charge you a fee if you request the transfer over the phone or in person rather than online. Expect this to be around £20. 3S Money doesn’t charge initiation fees.
Commission: Banks might also charge a fee based on a percentage of your transfer amount. For UK banks, this is currently around 3-4%.
3S Money charges just $1 per transfer (or your local equivalent) regardless of how much you spend
The exchange rate you can find on Google or see on the news is called the “mid-market” rate. Banks apply their exchange rates to international transfers, meaning you’ll pay more – and they keep the difference. 3S Money offers FX rates up to 5x lower than traditional banks.
Tips for transferring money to Switzerland
When running a business, you’ll want to keep costs to a minimum. That’s even more important when your operations are international.
Fortunately, alternative banking solutions (like 3S Money) are here to save you time and money when completing international transfers to countries like Switzerland.
We’ve covered a lot in this article, so here are some tips and main takeaways to consider:
Various transfer methods include banks, EMIs, and wire transfer services.
Where possible, avoid making lots of small transfers. Individual fees and charges add up.
Most traditional banks charge a percentage of your transfer as a fee. With 3S Money, however, this is a flat rate, so you don’t need to worry.
Check the latest GBP/CHF exchange rate and compare it to your provider’s (you may have to do some digging to find this number). 3S Money offers FX rates that are 5x lower than traditional banks.
Ensure that an independent body regulates the provider you use. 3S Money is FCA-regulated and uses safeguarding to protect 100% of your funds. Other schemes, such as the FSCS, only cover up to £80,000 – so you have greater peace of mind with 3S Money.
There’s a better way for international businesses to manage their money
Ready to start making and receiving payments to and from Switzerland?
3S Money’s International Business Account offers global payment solutions for businesses looking to run in multiple countries – all from one easy-to-use account.