PostFinance international transfer: Fees, rates and transfer time

09.11.17
8 minute read
Tagged:

PostFinance offers a broad range of ways to make payments and transfer money abroad, through local post offices, online or by completing a request form. You can choose from Giro international, and Cash international services. If you’re planning on using your PostFinance account to make or receive an international money transfer, it’s a good idea to understand a bit about how these transactions work.

Understanding your options means that you can pick the best service based on your needs, avoiding surprises and unnecessary fees. In fact, you can likely save money by using a service like TransferWise to send your money abroad, but more on that later.


A quick example before we get started.

A theoretical online bank transfer sending 1000 Swiss Francs from Switzerland to a pound sterling bank account in the UK.

At first glance, it looks like PostFinance is cheaper, but that’s likely before you take into consideration an exchange rate markup. On average, banks often markup an exchange rate by 4-6% to make money on converting your currency. Which means it’s a good idea to compare the exchange rate you’re offered with an online currency converter to find out how much your international transfer is really costing you.

In addition, nearly all transfers sent internationally are sent via SWIFT. Which means there are likely 1-3 intermediary banks as well as the recipient bank that may levy fees of their own. Costing you even more.

Provider Fee Exchange Rate Total Cost
PostFinance (Switzerland) Fr.2 Exchange rate + markup Fr.2 + exchange rate markup + likely fees from intermediary and recipient banks
TransferWise Fr.4.98 The real exchange rate - the same one you find on Google Fr.4.98

Now that you have a bit better idea of what your transfer will really cost you, here’s all you need to know about making an international transfer with PostFinance.

What are the fees with PostFinance for an international transfer (Giro international or Cash international) in Switzerland?

PostFinance’s normal Giro international transfer rates can vary depending on which country you’re sending the money to and in which currency. It can also depend on whether you set up the transfer online or in a branch. You’ll also have the option to cover the entire costs of the transfer, have the recipient cover them or split the fees involved.

(Source 23 January 2018)

PostFinance International transfer fees table

Before you start, it’s a good plan to understand the fees involved, as there are various differences based on whether you’re transferring online or in a branch.

PostFinance Bank Transaction Fee
Incoming international transfer
  • PostFinance doesn’t list any charges for receipt of international transfers, but the exact terms will depend on the account type you have. Keep in mind however that intermediary banks might levy their own fees along the way.
Outgoing international transfer
  • Payments made online to European accounts in SEPA-compliant banks are free.
  • Payments made to other countries online cost Fr.2. If you’re in a hurry you can pay Fr.12 for an urgent payment.
  • To process payments by standing order it’ll cost you Fr.5, or Fr.15 for an urgent payment.
  • In a post office, it’ll cost you Fr.12 to transfer money from your account. If you’re paying in cash it’ll cost Fr.20, however, if it’s urgent it’ll be Fr.30. For an urgent payment made using a debit card, the cost will be Fr.22.
  • If you choose to use the Cash International service, it’ll cost between Fr.6-Fr.12, depending on how you set up the transfer.
Additional fees may apply
  • See additional fees section

(Source 1, Source 2, 23 January 2018)

PostFinance exchange rates

If your transfer will be received in another currency, it’s not only the flat fees which are important. As a sender, you also need to know if the exchange rate used is fair, as this will be one of the factors that decide exactly how much money lands in your recipient’s account. On average, banks often markup an exchange rate by 4-6% and admit to making money on the conversion. PostFinance keeps their exchange rates behind login information. And on the web page that’s accessible, they note

> The rates shown are intended for information purposes only and are provided as a guide.

Which may mean that the exchange rates PostFinance offers may not be something they want to be made public. PostFinance does have an online currency converter, but the rate they show there isn’t necessarily the actual rate they will use. They state:

The stated price is a recommended price. No guarantee of accuracy is given.

If you do decide that PostFinance should make the foreign currency conversion on your behalf, before you commit, compare the recommended rate they quote here with an online currency converter, to see if the rate you’re offered is fair.

To further add complication, many times in an international transfer, it’s actually the intermediary or recipient bank that makes the currency exchange. PostFinance likely cannot get you an exact exchange rate quote ahead of time, which will likely mean that the exchange rate you get will vary widely from the exchange rate given on Google. Costing you a lot more than you anticipated.

(Source 24 Jan 2018)

Additional fees from PostFinance

PostFinance will levy additional charges in addition to the usual transfer charges if they don’t receive the full, correct details needed for the transfer - so it’s well worth making sure you get it right the first time.

You could also find that if your transfer is processed using the SWIFT system, banks other than PostFinance can also deduct their own flat fees. That’s because using the SWIFT system means that there are often several banks involved in getting your money to the right place, and they can also take a cut from the amount you send in return for helping to process the transaction. This is beyond the control of PostFinance and they might not be able to tell you ahead of time exactly what other fees might be applied.

International transfers with Postfinance Additional fees
Intermediary fees Postfinance explains: “Fees are incurred for credit transfers abroad, which may be charged by the banks involved. These fees are normally deducted directly from the amount. The beneficiary therefore does not receive the full credit transfer amount.”
Recipient fees In some circumstances, you can choose who pays what fees. However, Postfinance explains: “Please note that recipient banks can charge their customers a fee for credits received via SEPA and for worldwide payments (irrespective of the charging option). This is beyond PostFinance’s control.”
Inquiries into international transactions Fr.60
Missing/insufficient IBAN details for transfers to an EU/EEA country Fr.8

(Source 1, Source 2, 23 January 2018)

A cheap and transparent alternative: TransferWise

If you’re worried about complex pricing and potential hidden fees, then it’s worth knowing all your options. You might well find that you can get a better deal using a specialist service in international money transfers like TransferWise. TransferWise uses the real exchange rate to process your transfer and adds only a small transparent fee per transaction.

For people who live and work overseas, or who like to travel regularly, a TransferWise borderless multi-currency account is another useful tool because you can hold your money in several different currencies and exchange it using the actual mid market exchange rate whenever you need it. If you’re paid in the EU, the UK, the US, or Australia but don’t actually live there, you can receive your salary as a local payment into your borderless account. It’s a great option for remote or freelance workers, because it cuts out international transfers entirely, so there are no extra, hidden fees to worry about.

If you don’t believe it, try it for yourself and see if you can get a better deal with TransferWise. Still worried? Send half of your payment with PostFinance and the other half with TransferWise and see what happens.

How do you make an international bank transfer (Giro international, Cash international) with PostFinance?

You can make an international money transfer using the Giro international service, as well as transfer cash using the Cash International service.

For a regular money transfer using the bank’s Giro international service, you can process your transaction online, in a post office, or by writing to the bank using a specific form.

(Source 1, Source 2, 23 January 2018)

What do I need in order to make an international money transfer?

The exact information you’re asked for will depend on whether you’re transferring within the SEPA (Single European Payment Area) area, or outside. Wherever your money is headed, if you’re using the Giro international service, you can expect to need the following:

  • The transfer amount and currency
  • The full name of the person you’re sending the money to, as written on the account
  • The recipient’s account number for international payments. If you’re sending money to Europe, you’ll need their IBAN
  • Depending on where your money is being transferred to, you might need the SWIFT/BIC code, or routing number if you’re transferring to the USA

(Source 23 January 2018)

What do I need or what should I give to the sender in order to receive an international bank transfer?

If you're expecting to receive an international money transfer with PostFinance, you’ll need to give the sender the following:

  • Your full name as it appears on your bank account
  • Your IBAN
  • Your bank name and address
  • Your bank’s SWIFT/BIC code
  • The amount to be transferred - and the currency you’d like to receive. Don’t forget to take into account any charges when you agree on the amount.

You’ll find your IBAN on any bank statement, by logging into the online banking system or by checking with your bank. You can use this helpful tool to find or check your bank’s SWIFT/BIC code.

How long does an international bank transfer with PostFinance take?

If you’re sending money within the SEPA area using the Giro international service, it’ll arrive within 1 working day. Payments to countries outside of the SEPA area can take up to 4 working days to be received.

(Source 23 January 2018)

Is there any way to make a faster transfer for an extra fee?

You can make a Giro International urgent transfer for an additional fee. This usually arrives on the same day as it’s processed, although PostFinance states that some delays may occur at the recipient end.

(Source 23 January 2018)

Contact / Help - More questions around your transfer?

If you have specific questions about your transfer, you can talk to the advisors at PostFinance:

  • Get help in person at a PostFinance branch or a post office
  • PostFinance phone number - 0848 888 710 from within Switzerland, or +41 58 667 99 85 if you’re abroad

International money transfer fees can add up. If you’re one of the many cross-border commuters who live and work across Switzerland and the surrounding countries, or even if you just like to take regular foreign trips, you can save yourself some money if you choose a safe, efficient and fairly priced international money transfer service like TransferWise.

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

TransferWise is the smart, new way to send money abroad.

Find out more