Instant Payment in Switzerland

Instant Payment in Switzerland

Payments – At All Times and Without Delay

The New Normal

The account of the payee is credited at the same time the payer’s account is debited simultaneously – in less than ten seconds, regardless of the time of day or day of the week. Here, the funds are available immediately, and there, there is always full transparency of spending. That's instant payment, the new normal – the timely answer to the ongoing digitalization of economy and society.

Instant payment is already a reality in many countries. In order to make it possible in Switzerland as well, the expansion of the central payment infrastructure (the SIC systems) is underway. With the launch of the fifth generation of SIC at the end of 2023, SIX will lay the foundation for instant payment in Switzerland. As far as the banks’ participation is concerned, the Swiss National Bank decided in June 2021 to make the acceptance of such payments mandatory for financial institutions (see SNB media conference). As of August 2024, the biggest Swiss banks must be able to process instant payments, with the remaining banks following suit by 2026.

You will find answers to the following questions

Special features of instant payment

About Instant Payment

How does instant payment function, and who will benefit from it?

Instant payment is characterized by speed and immediate execution around the clock: The payer’s account is debited immediately and simultaneously with the funds being made available to the payee’s account.

Speed alone is not necessarily a compelling quality – the focus is on the specific benefit that can be achieved through this new speed. The advantages of instant payment include the following:

  • The payer receives immediate confirmation of payment.
  • The money owed to payee is available immediately.
  • Neither party is exposed to credit risk as the debit and credit are simultaneous and final.
  • The account balances of both parties are up-to-date at all times. This makes planning and budgeting easier.

These and many other examples demonstrate: Both the payer and the payee benefit from instant payment in many ways. Speed and immediate execution eliminate uncertainty and credit risk for all parties, including and especially the financial institutions involved.

How do they differ from current payments?

The difference between conventional transfers and instant payments is significant. With a common transfer within Switzerland, there is a delay before the funds are credited to the recipient’s account. It may take a couple of hours, a day or even longer, depending on whether they start their journey during the day, at night, during the week or at the weekend, on a workday or on a public holiday.

New players in payment traffic often use solutions that resemble instant payments. These solutions may match the definition of instant payments, but they do not have to. Immediate notification by SMS to the paying party following a payment does not necessarily mean that the payment has already been fully processed.

The issue lies in the difference between clearing and settlement. Clearing means that the payee’s bank has accepted the transaction and agreed to process it. Settlement is a harder currency, meaning that the transaction has actually been settled between the banks involved. The payee has access to the funds, and there is no counterparty risk of any kind.

When will instant payment arrive in Switzerland?

Together with the Swiss National Bank, SIX is developing the new infrastructure for processing instant payments. This will be technically available in November 2023, after which the onboarding of banks will take place.

Receipt of instant payments will become mandatory for Swiss financial institutions in two phases:

  • From August 2024 for larger banks
  • End of 2026 for the remaining banks that process customer payments

The roadmap is in place: By late summer 2024, at least 50 banks, which together cover around 98% of customer payments in Switzerland, will be able to receive instant payments and process them in seconds.

Switzerland: Instant Payment Will Become the Standard



Read the post in our trade magazine PAY.

PAY is the SIX trade magazine for payment transactions. Receive relevant information on the latest trends shaping payment transactions.

Comparison with Other Countries

Is it already standard abroad?

Today, around 2,300 banks and payment service providers in 29 European countries are capable of processing instant payments, which equates to 62% of all institutions – albeit with significant differences between the individual countries (source: European Payments Council).

The proportion of instant payments, or more precisely, of SEPA Instant Credit Transfer (SCT Inst) payments in relation to all conventional transfers (SCT) is just under 16%, and the trend is upwards. Nevertheless, instant payments have not yet become established as standard. They are still far from being the new normal. There are exceptions: The Netherlands, for example, is a pioneer. Since the EU legislators have not yet issued a binding directive, participation in SCT Inst is voluntary for banks.

In addition to the voluntary nature of participation, there are other reasons holding back the final breakthrough. To be able to carry out instant payments, both the payer’s and the payee’s bank must participate in SCT Inst, otherwise it will not work. The fees charged for instant payments are also still very high at present. Depending on the bank and the package used, a payment of this kind costs between zero and two euros. High prices do not, however, encourage people to use instant payments – customers also expect the same conditions as those offered by neobanks and big techs: no additional costs for the new normal. The same prices and mandatory accessibility is also the object of a proposal by the European Commission.

Why do we need instant payment in Switzerland?

As an innovative financial center, Switzerland has ground to make up with instant payments and cannot allow itself to be overtaken or outpaced by other countries. There should also be a level playing field for all participants in payment transactions. The pressure from big techs and neobanks will have an even greater impact in the future. For financial institutions, payment transactions are the most frequent point of contact to their customers – an advantage that should be preserved.

The Swiss National Bank therefore wants to do all that is needed for instant payment to become the new normal in Switzerland too. This will require, firstly, the expansion of the technical infrastructure and, secondly, the participation of the banks in the new process.

Marketing Material

Here you can find our marketing materials to inform your customers about instant payment.

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Factsheet on Instant Payment

The factsheet sums up all the most important information and
key data on the new instant payment service.

Frequently Asked Questions About Instant Payment

The FAQ contains answers to the most important and frequently asked questions about instant payment. The document will be added to and updated on an ongoing basis.

Figurative mark for Instant Payment

A corresponding figurative mark was designed for the recognition of Instant payment in Switzerland, which can be used independently or in conjunction with the name in German, English, French or Italian. The figurative mark is available for download in various formats and colors.

Figurative mark in desired color

This online tool allows you to generate a figurative mark (with or without the naming) in the color of your choice. Enter the hex code or RGB value for the desired color and download the image mark as SVG (vector format) and/or PNG (pixel format) file.

Text Modules about Instant Payment

The text modules provide templates that can be used in customer communications as needed.

Imagery about Instant Payment

These images from SIX are available for download and may be used in connection with the topic of Instant payment.

All rights to the material provided are held by SIX. The marketing material (including images) may only be used in connection with the marketing of Instant payment.