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Payment transactions via Swiss Post

Swiss Post is assigned a “Postcheque and giro service”. Thanks to its dense network of 4,000 operating locations, it offers ideal conditions for this. In principle, anyone can now open an account and make cashless transfers.

Postcheque counter at the main post office in Geneva, 1935. Source: Museum of Communication

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As early as 1862, Swiss Post introduces a money order service, which can even handle payments abroad – although the process is rather complicated in its early days. The novel thing about money orders is that there is no cash transaction between the point of payment and receipt. Postal payment transactions in the proper sense start in Switzerland in 1906, when the legislation on the Postcheque and giro service comes into force. Thanks to its dense network of around 4,000 post offices, Swiss Post offers ideal conditions for making payment transactions accessible to smaller companies and private individuals.

Popular Postcheque accounts

After a sluggish start, the number of Postcheque accounts opened rises sharply in the first ten years. This also increases the number of payment orders, and Swiss Post opens more cheque offices. The accounts are funded either by cash deposits with inpayment slips at post offices or by cashless transfers from other accounts. Rent, invoices or wages and salaries can now be easily debited or credited using account transfers. The number of Postcheque offices managing these accounts rises to 25 in 1921. The cheque office employees – mostly women – accept payments, pay out money and process transfers.

Punched inpayment card, 1955. Source: PTT Archive
Punch card, 1955. Source: PTT Archive

Modern technology on the rise

In 1950, Postcheque accounts at Swiss Post number more than 200,000. To streamline operations, it introduces punched inpayment cards in the 1950s. These cards can be processed semi-automatically. Microfilm cameras are also soon in use to record inpayment slips. The first computers follow in the 1960s. One of the most important innovations is the introduction of the Postomat in 1978. The device allows easy withdrawal of cash with a Postomat Card – at any time of the day or night.

Postmaster and customer at a money counter, 1969. Source: Museum of Communication
Money counter, 1969. Photo: Walter Studer. Source: Museum of Communication

From payment transactions department to PostFinance

In 1996, the cheque offices are transformed into six processing centers and a service center. All Swiss Post payment transactions are now automated. When the state-owned PTT is dissolved at the end of 1997, the erstwhile department for payment transactions becomes the Swiss Post subsidiary PostFinance. One thing remains unchanged, however: Swiss Post has a universal service obligation mandated by the Confederation. Through its subsidiary PostFinance, it ensures that payment transaction services are available throughout the country.


PTT Archive, oral history platform: https://www.oralhistory-pttarchiv.ch/de/themes/zahlungsverkehrTarget not accessible

Karl Kronig, Museum of Communication (ed.): Ab die Post! 150 Jahre schweizerische Post, Bern, 1999.

Walter Knobel, Swiss Post (ed.): Gelb bewegt. Die Schweizerische Post ab 1960, Bern 2011.

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