FX and international payments
: 8 options for businesses in Switzerland
- Currency exchange
- International payments
Foreign exchange transactions (fx) and global payments are a relevant topic in most Swiss businesses: According to the latest Credit Suisse SME study, small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) account for 45% of Switzerland’s exports and a growing number of companies also regularly import goods and services from abroad.
There is a variety of ways to trade these foreign currencies – but the fees are often hidden and non-transparent. For this reason, we compared 8 options for Swiss business owners to handle their foreign currencies.
Providers for foreign exchange transactions in Swiss companies are:
- Corpay (Afex)
- Traditional banks
Businesses should consider the following 10 criteria to choose the right partner for their fx handling:
- What are the fees per transaction? Many services are not transparent about this and fees can vary widely with each trade, depending on the traded volume. This makes it impossible to properly calculate and plan.
- Which currency pairs are supported on the platform?
- Is it possible to also issue payments? Some of the providers limit their service to the money exchange, which requires additional transactions between the provider and the bank, and often times also an additional account in each currency at additional cost. These back and forth transactions between the house bank and the fx provider are costing additional value days.
- Is it possible to submit multiple payments via pain.001 payment file? This point is often overlooked, but will save your accounting team a lot of time and headaches.
- How can the payment information be exported from the tool? Camt.053 is the European standard for any communication between payment institutes and accounting tools. Supporting camt-files will make the booking of these transactions a lot easier and can in some systems even be automated.
- How does the solution integrate with your existing system landscape? Modern software should communicate with other tools without the need of uploading and downloading files manually.
- Which customer segment is the provider focussing on, and is your business part of this target group?
- Does the provider offer a solution for peer-payments? This will allow you to create your own payment-network and move money around the globe instantly at zero cost, without the bounderies of the existing banking system.
- Is the provider also offering IBAN-accounts to receive payments?
- Does the provider have the capabilities to further support your business on implementing hedging strategies, currency swaps and forward trades?
Herebelow you will find a comprehensive overview of currency providers for small and medium-sized businesses in Switzerland:
|free international payments (SWIFT)||yes||no||no||no||no||no||no||no|
|transparency about fees and markup||transparent, fixed prices
0.2 – 0.4%
|transparent, fixed prices||volume-based, agreed per transaction||volume-based, agreed per transaction||intransparent and depending on chosen price plan||rather expensive||intransparent, agreed for each trade||expensive, often intransparent|
|available currencies||> 150||EUR/CHF||12||> 20||> 50||> 150||> 150||depending on the bank|
|availability||24/7||Monday – Friday||Monday – Friday||Monday – Friday||24/7||24/7||24/7||office hours|
|file upload for mass-payments||yes||no||no||no||no||no||yes||yes
(supported by most banks)
|file export for easier accounting||yes||no||no||no||no||no||no||yes
(supported by most banks)
|connected with third-party systems||yes||no||no||no||yes (focus: UK)||yes (focus: UK)||yes||most banks: no|
|focus||sme||private clients + small entreprises||private clients + sme||private clients + sme||private clients + small entreprises||private clients + freelancer||sme + private clients||private clients + sme|
|peer-network (free international payments)||yes||no||no||no||yes||nein||nein||nein|
|multi-log in and team-collaboration||yes||no||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes||most banks: yes|
|own IBAN’s for incoming payments||yes (for free)||no||no||no||yes
|hedging possibilities||yes||no||no||no||geplant||nein||yes||depending on the bank|
|splitting option for already entered trades||yes||no||no||no||no||no||no||no|
|no additional fees for small transactions||yes||yes||no||no||yes||yes||no||yes|
1. amnis – the digital end-to-end solution for international business payments
amnis provides companies with the simplest, fastest and most cost-effective platform for international payments. To meet this high ambition, foreign exchange transactions are consistently thought of from the company’s point of view and the solution starts where companies effectively come into contact with third currencies: when they are paying invoices in foreign currencies and receiving customer payments.
Unlike most other providers, the margin on the exchange rate is fixed per customer – regardless of whether 500 EUR are exchanged on one day and 500,000 on the next.
amnis can provide you with all tradable currencies worldwide, the exchange rates can be fixed any number of days in advance and your bank account can be debited at the value date, fully automated. Additionally, it is possible to trade currencies over the weekend – 24/7. With amnis’ latest feature, you can even receive payments in 20+ currencies with own virtual IBAN accounts.
2. exchangemarket – the easy EUR/CHF solution for small amounts
EM Exchangemarket GmbH offers the possibility to convert CHF into EUR and vice versa. The company focuses on private clients, but also offers its services to business clients. Additional currencies such as USD or GBP are not supported, and there are also no options to route payment transactions, money transfers are explicitly allowed to the own bank account.
For the exchange of small amounts up to the equivalent of CHF 5,000 per month, there is a shortened onboarding procedure that does not require any verification of the beneficial owners.
3. Wechselstube – for the purchase of real-estate abroad
The underlying principle of the provider Wechselstube.ch is simple: fix the exchange rate (maximum 24 hours in advance), transfer money in your main currency and 1-2 days later, the equivalent amount is transferred to your foreign currency account at the bank. Wechselstube supports the 12 most important currencies.
The markup varies from transaction to transaction and depends on the volume of each individual deal. This makes the financial planning more difficult, as each trade is considered individually and thus priced differnetly. The offer of Wechselstube is therefore best suited for individual, larger transactions – like, for example, the purchase of real estate abroad.
4. b-sharpe – popular among expats and cross-border commuters
Geneva based b-sharpe specializes in the needs of expats and cross-border commuters. Employees who work in Switzerland and live abroad have the option of having their CHF salary payments transferred directly to b-sharpe, which then pays them in the target currency. b-sharpe also offers solutions for the payment of bills abroad or real estate transactions.
In addition to its business with private individuals, b-sharpe also offers SMEs the possibility to exchange foreign currencies. Similar to Wechselstube’s offering, b-sharpe’s conditions depend on the transaction volume. According to b-sharpe, more than 20 currencies are currently supported.
5. Revolut – the British challenger bank
With more than 350,000 customers, Revolut is by far the most popular smartphone bank in Switzerland. Private individuals appreciate the free debit card and favorable exchange rates.
With Revolut Business, the startup, which operates under a Lithuanian e-money license, also offers a service explicitly targeted towards small companies: The business account is multi-currency capable and, depending on the premium plan chosen, there is a limited allowance within which foreign currencies can be exchanged at the interbank rate.
However, with an allowance of only 10,000 to 50,000 CHF per month at the preferred rate (depending on the selected price plan), the offer is clearly aimed at small companies that only have occasional payments in foreign currencies. Above that, a surcharge of 0.4% applies – which very quickly puts the best offer of Revolut Business on par with the most expensive one at amnis.
As a business operating in Switzerland, you also need to be aware that Revolut currently only provides British IBAN’s.
6. Wise – high on the list for freelancers
Wise, formerly Transferwise, has its roots also in the UK and grew with expats looking for a cheap way to send money back to home. In Switzerland, Wise is represented through a partnership with the neobank Neon.
The main focus of Wise lies on the transfer of foreign currency payments. Thanks to its uncomplicated processes, the solution enjoys a growing popularity among freelancers. With over 150 currencies, Wise covers the widest range of tradable currencies besides amnis.
The exchange rate markups with Wise depend on the volume, but are relatively high for a neo-bank and even in the best case are never lower than 0.45% (EUR/CHF).
7. Afex – the American fx-provider
Afex, which belongs to the US conglomerate Fleetcor Technologies, has been offering payment transaction solutions since 1979. In addition to foreign exchange transactions, the company processes payments of various kinds, including bank checks.
The recent integration of Afex into Corpay entails some strategic changes, and the company intends to focus primarily on larger companies with high foreign currency volumes in the future.
8. Traditional banks – manual and intransparent
Last but not least, SMEs can of course also conduct their foreign currency transactions via the good old house bank. What should be avoided at any cost is issuing foreign currency payments via the CHF account – the applied exchange rates are exorbitant and a margin surcharge of 2% or more is not uncommon.
The processes at most banks are still quite manual and inflexible, the fees often intransparent. It is also not unusual for foreign exchange transactions at banks to still be conducted over the phone. You can find a price comparison here. Unfortunately, very few banks offer digital solutions for foreign exchange trading for small and medium-sized businesses, and if they do, they usually require a high minimum annual turnover.
Level up your fx affairs with amnis!
Since 2015, amnis facilitates the global payments and fx transactions of businesses: amnis is the simplest, most affordable and fastest global payment solution for SMEs in the market.