Marion and I stayed in today as we are both coming down with a cold. So instead of a post on what we did (hung out at home), here's an explanation of how banking in Switzerland works (for us).
We opened an account with a specific bank in Switzerland because Brian's firm has a relationship with them.
Brian met with the bank the Wednesday after we arrived to set up the account. I believe the appointment took approximately 2 hours. Accounts are both private and secretive, even between spouses. Brian had to pay an annual fee to allow for me to have a debit card and use the account. After the meeting was over and Brian had signed approximately ten documents, he deposited some cash in the account and was told that we would be able to access the account as soon as we received our standard mailings.
A week or so later, we received a new mailing every day over approximately 6 days. First there was the online banking PIN number. Then came the online banking package, then Brian’s debit card PIN number, then Brian’s debit card, then my PIN number, then my debit card.
The online banking package was cool. It came with some information about the online system, a little plastic card, and a calculator. Brian quickly threw the calculator on a pile on the bookshelf since he is an accountant and has too many calculators. We thought that it was silly though to give someone a calculator to balance their checkbook, when they promote online banking.
So we were finally ready to pay some bills. What’s kind of cool about Switzerland is that everything is essentially paid by wire transfer. Our landlord sends us an invoice and then we wire the money to their account. Here is how it works:
First, you find your way to the e-banking log in page. Then, you enter the agreement number (this is sent with the handy dandy calculator).
Once you enter the agreement number, a set of numbers is generated below it.
This is where Brian and I realized that the calculator they sent really wasn't a calculator. It was actually a password device. On the back of the device was a slot to insert a the separate plastic card from the bank. Once inserted, you turn the device on and enter your initial 6 digit online banking PIN number. After logging in to the password device, you enter the set of numbers that was generated by the web page after the agreement number was inputted.
Still with me?
So, if you have done everything correctly the password device/incognito calculator spits out another code. This code is what finally gives you access to your account and is entered on the webpage below the other two lines of numbers.
Of course if you don't have the super calculator with you, you are basically screwed for doing any online banking. Which is why we keep it in a safe place, away from Marion.
Phew! It's a lot. And I realize that it is probably more confusing reading about than it was for us to try and figure out. Pictures would probably help. But I'm not going to post pictures of our banking info on the internet. That would just be silly!
Of course, having access to your money doesn't really help you pay for items.
Brian has pretty much taken the price shock in stride, except on Monday when he had to buy some finger nail clippers. The only place he could find them was at the Apotheke in Zug (basically a beauty supply store that pretends to also sell medicine). When he arrived at the register he saw that they cost 15 CHF. Of course, the wrapper did say "High Quality - Made in Germany". Apparently, they don't just make the best and most expensive cars in the world; they are also cornering the market in the high end manicurist sets.