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card treatment Parliament gives boost to expats’ banking woes

The House of Representatives voted massively on Monday in favour of guaranteeing the right of Swiss citizens living abroad to hold PostFinance credit cards. The debate will move on to the Senate.

Withdrawing from a Postfinance ATM in Zurich.

(Keystone)

Some 178 parliamentarians supported the proposal, put forward earlier in July, which will ensure that Swiss expats can hold, and use, credit cards issued by the state-affiliated financial group. Four votes were cast against.

The vote was sparked by various measures by some Swiss banks that harmed the Swiss abroad population, including Postfinance’s cancelling of their credit cards, a decision that Social Democrat politician Tim Guldiman today described as “difficult to understand.”

All the more so, he said, given that the specific structure of Postfinance – belonging to Swiss Post, thus overseen by the state – means it has a particular responsibility towards Swiss citizens.

The Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA), who have been waging campaigns for better banking conditions for Swiss expats, welcomed the vote, and said that it hoped the Senate would follow with a similar decision.

Discrimination?

The trend towards penalising Swiss citizens living abroad is usually explained by Swiss banks as down to the increased regulatory difficulties that have come about since clampdowns on banking secrecy and cross-border transactions in recent years.

Others have justified the moves by reference to the free market, of which the banking industry is simply a service provider. Today, Swiss president Doris Leuthard, who spoke out against the vote, said that even domestic consumers do not have automatic access to Postfinance credit cards – why support expats in particular, she wondered.

The OAS plans to continue its campaign against high fees, closures, and roadblocks for the Swiss abroad with a three-pillared strategy announced last month.

Today’s Postfinance ruling will make its way to the Senate in due course.


swissinfo.ch and agencies/dos

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