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Zak vs Neon: Best Swiss digital bank account in 2020?

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Zak vs Neon: Best Swiss digital bank account in 2020?

Zak and Neon are two good Swiss Digital bank accounts. They are both entirely digital and accessible through mobile applications.

The great thing about these bank accounts is that they are significantly cheaper than conventional bank accounts. Their low prices are what make their success. And they have some attractive features.

But which one should you choose? Which of Zak vs Neon is better for you? Let’s find out!

In this article, I am going to compare Zak vs Neon in detail. We are going to see the fees, the security, and the limits of both bank accounts. By the end of this post, you should know which of Zak vs Neon is best for you!


Zak is a bank account managed by Bank Cler (previously Bank Coop). So while it is a digital bank account, it is still backed up by a traditional bank and not a startup.

Even if Bank Cler backs it up, there are no offices for Zak. It is entirely digital. It is also entirely mobile, so you will have to use it from your phone. Zak is not a bank itself. It is merely a bank account offered by Bank Cler.

On top of the usual banking features, Zak has several extra features that you can use with other  Zak users. For instance, you can send money directly to any other user of Zak. You can also manage a budget with several other users. It is an excellent feature if you know other users.

For more information on this bank account, you can read my full review of Zak.


Great Swiss Digital Bank

Neon was one of the first Swiss digital bank accounts. Neon is entirely digital. There are no offices where you can do operations. And it is fully mobile in that there are no online applications either.

Neon is not a bank. They do not have a bank license of their own. Another bank does not back Neon. However, your money is held in the Hypothekarbank Lenzburg Bank, another reputable Swiss Bank. It means you are protected as if your money was in any other large bank.

One very interesting fact of Neon is that they offer payments abroad for free with their card. Neon was the first Swiss bank that provides this service! It was quickly followed by others (Zak!), but it is interesting to note that they are leading the innovation.

For more information on this bank account, you can read my full review of Neon.

Which is cheaper? Zak vs Neon

Let’s start with the critical question of the fees! Which of Zak vs Neon is cheaper?

The critical point about these two bank accounts is that they both do not have management fees. So keeping your account open will not cost you anything. This absence of management fees is essential because it is the most significant advantage of digital banks these days.

With Zak, you will get the cards delivered for free. But with Neon, since May 2020 (it was free before), you will pay 10 CHF to get the MasterCard delivered to you.

For both accounts, the transfers in CHF between bank accounts are entirely free. Payments in Switzerland are also free with both bank accounts. But every bank in Switzerland offers this for free.

Now, not everything is free with these two bank accounts. So, we need to compare their prices for several features.

Let’s start with withdrawals. Zak offers withdrawals for free at any ATM from Bank Cler. For all other ATMs, you will pay 2 CHF per withdrawal. With Neon, you get two free withdrawals per month. After this, you will have to pay 2 CHF per withdrawal.

I would think that Neon is slightly better than Zak for withdrawals unless you withdraw a lot of cash. But most people should not withdraw cash more than twice a month. However, if you have a Bank Cler ATM close by, Zak could be better for withdrawals.

For withdrawals abroad, it is different. With Neon, you will pay a 1.5% fee on each withdrawal abroad. With Zak, you will pay 5 CHF per withdrawal abroad with the Maestro and 4% (with a minimum of 10 CHF) with the Mastercard. You cannot withdraw money with the Visa card from Zak. Generally, you should avoid withdrawing money abroad.

Neon is entirely free for payments abroad or in other currencies. With Zak, you will pay 1.50 CHF per purchase with the Maestro and a 2.5% fee with the Mastercard. However, payments abroad are free with the virtual Zak prepaid Visa card! So, you should only use the Visa card abroad if you are with Zak.

Also, Neon has a partnership with TransferWise for international transfers. This partnership makes Neon significantly cheaper if you need to send money abroad.

So, regarding pricing for Zak vs Neon, Neon is cheaper than Zak. But both bank accounts are quite cheap! For international purchases, Neon is more convenient since it is an actual physical card, and you do not need to use your phone.

Basic Features

Let’s compare the basic features of Zak vs Neon.

While Neon offers only a Mastercard, Zak offers a Maestro and a virtual Visa. The Maestro card could be useful in Switzerland since some administration offices still refuse credit cards. But the Visa is only virtual. It means you can only use it from your phone with Google Pay or Apple Pay. For me, it is a significant disadvantage since you cannot use your phone everywhere abroad.

Regarding mobile applications, they have the same basic features. You will be able to do all your banking from any of those apps. Both apps have the same features and the same quality.

In some Bank Cler’s ATMs, you can deposit cash directly into your Zak account. Being able to deposit cash is a great feature for a digital bank account. If you want to deposit cash in your Neon account, you will have to pay a fee for it. With digital bank accounts, having extra cash is always an issue.

Another place where the two bank accounts differ is that Neon offers support for ebills, but Zak does not. In December 2019, Neon was the first Swiss digital bank account to offer ebills. For me, this is not a big deal since I do not use ebills, and I do not recommend ebills either. But for some people, this could be a big deal.

Neon is available in French, German, Italian, and English. On the other hand, Zak is not available in English. So, if you do not speak any of the national languages of Switzerland, you may have issues with Zak.

For the basic features, we can draw simple conclusions:

  • If you need a Maestro, Zak would be better than Neon.
  • If you need a Physical Card abroad, Neon will be better.
  • If you need ebills, Neon will be better than Zak.
  • If you do not need any of these features, both accounts will offer the same level of service to you.

Extra Features – Zak vs Neon

We can also take a look at some extra features of Zak vs Neon.

Both banks offer a similar feature to send money directly to other users of the service. With Neon, you can send money directly to your contacts. And with Zak, you can use the Zak Illico service to send money to other users.

On top of that, Zak has two extra notable features:

  • Savings Pot: You can create some sub-accounts and transfer money from one to another. Some people like doing that for having, for instance, a holiday account.
  • Common Savings Pot: You can manage some money with up to 10 persons. This feature could be very useful in managing the budget of a project with several people. You could use that to manage money for a vacation with friends, for instance.

For extra features, Zak is slightly better than Neon. Now, most of these features will only be useful if you know other people that use the application. If you do not know anybody using Zak, these additional features will not be helpful at all.

And if you do not use a feature, it is useless for you. When you are comparing bank accounts, you should only compare the features you are going to use.

Which has higher limits?

If you plan to use a digital bank account as your main account, we need to take a look at the limits of Zak vs Neon.

With Zak, you can pay up to 5000 CHF per day. And you have a limit of 10’000 CHF per week. You can go over this limit, but you will have to call Zak for each transaction that goes over this limit. It could be a limiting factor if you plan to use it as your main bank account.

With Neon, you can spend 30’000 CHF per month from the account. With the card, you can withdraw 1’000 CHF per day, spend 5’000 CHF per day in stores, and 5’000 CHF online. The card has a monthly limit of 10’000 CHF per month.

For the account, Neon has much better limits than Zak. With the card, you can spend more with Zak. But in both cases, you can spend more than enough with the cards.

However, you could have issues if you have to make large transfers. For instance, if you have to pay for a downpayment. So, these accounts seem better as a second active bank account rather than a first. But, if you do not have any big transfers planned, you should be okay with either of these bank accounts.

Security – Zak vs Neon

Let’s take a look at the security when using these two bank accounts.

First, a critical part is what happens to your money if they bankrupt (or close down). With Neon, your money is held safely with Hypothekarbank Lenzburg. So it is protected under Swiss law up to 100’000 CHF. With Zak, you have the same protection since Bank Cler holds your money. So both accounts have the same legal security.

From a security point of view, both apps are linked to your phone. You will have a password to enter the application. And the application is linked to your phone. It means that your phone acts as a second-hand factor. So the application is protected as long as the security of your phone is not compromised. So, again, Zak and Neon have the same technical security.

From a security point of view, Zak and Neon have the same level of security.

What about Zak Plus?

The basic account at Zak is free. But they have an offer for the Zak Plus account.

Zak Plus will cost you 8 CHF per month. But it will reduce the prices of the features of Zak. The prices when you use the Visa and the Mastercard will not change. But with the Maestro, several things become free:

  • Unlimited withdrawals at any ATM
  • Unlimited withdrawals abroad
  • Unlimited purchases abroad

I think that Zak Plus could be a good thing if it also applied to the Visa. Generally, Maestro cards are not as well accepted abroad as  Mastercard cards. For instance, in the United States, almost no shops are accepting Maestro cards. But you can get money with it in some ATMs.

Moreover, since you have the Visa that you can use abroad, you already have all the features you need with the basic Zak plan.

Given the fact that Neon offers free purchases abroad with their Mastercard for free, I think that there is little value for Zak Plus over Neon or Zak basic. Now, an advantage of Zak Plus is that you will get withdrawals abroad for free compared to Neon 1.5% fee. But it is not every day that you need cash abroad.

Zak vs Neon – Summary

We can now make a final summary of the comparison of Zak vs Neon:

Criteria Zak Neon
Management Fees 0 CHF 0 CHF
Opening Fee 0 CHF 10 CHF
Withdrawals in CH Cheap Cheap
Payments Abroad Free Free
Withdrawals Abroad Expensive Expensive
International Transfers Expensive Cheap
Free Cash Deposits Yes No
Limits Low Medium
Maestro Yes No
Physical credit card No Yes
E-Bills No Yes
Instant Transfers between users Yes Yes
Extra Features A few None
English No Yes
Security Good Good

Neon has a few more advantages than Zak. But both Zak and Neon are both good choices with different strengths:

  • Both bank accounts offer free purchases abroad and in foreign currencies
  • Neon offers international transfers cheaper than Zak
  • Neon offers a physical credit card
  • Zak offers a Maestro
  • Neon offers support for e-bills
  • Neon has higher limits
  • You can deposit cash in your Zak account for free

You may want to choose between Zak vs Neon based on your needs. Or you may use both if you want. Since both are free, you can also try both and choose the one you prefer after some time.

Zak vs Neon Conclusion

Choosing between Zak vs Neon is not easy. They are both great digital bank accounts. They have both their advantages and disadvantages.

Regarding Zak vs Neon, I prefer Neon over Zak for several reasons:

  • Neon offers a physical credit card. You do not have to use Google Pay or Apple Pay.
  • You can do international transfers with Neon at a good price.
  • Neon is truly innovative. Indeed, Neon introduced all the features first, and Zak just tries to follow.

Also, If you like e-bills, you may want to go with Neon. It is currently the only digital bank account with support for e-bills. But if you are like me, this does not matter if you are not automating your finances.

Now, Zak has several advantages, as well. First, you can have a Maestro as well with Zak. A Maestro card can be convenient in Switzerland. And, with Zak, you can deposit cash directly into your bank account for free with Bank Cler ATM. It could be practical if you often get cash. But I cannot remember the last time I had to deposit some money in my account.

Since they are both cheap, you could try them both and see which one you prefer after some time.

In any case, if you want a good credit card, you will have to look at some other credit cards with cashback. Neither Neon nor Zak offers a good credit card for domestic purchases. On the other hand, they both offer good credit cards for purchases abroad.

What about you? Which of Zak vs Neon do you prefer?

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Mr. The Poor Swiss
Mr. The Poor Swiss is the author behind In 2017, he realized that he was falling into the trap of lifestyle inflation. He decided to cut on his expenses and increase his income. This blog is relating his story and findings. In 2019, he is saving more than 50% of his income. He made it a goal to reach Financial Independence. You can send Mr. The Poor Swiss a message here.
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