Travel Money Guide: Switzerland

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What every traveller needs to know about finding the right travel money product to use in Switzerland.

Regardless of what you plan to do in Switzerland, you’ll need to organise your travel money before you get there. If you’re not sure where to start, use our travel money guide to compare travel money options and familiarise yourself with the ways you can juggle your finances on your holiday.

Switzerland is not part of the European Union, so the national currency is the Swiss franc. As a political and economic centre of Europe, Switzerland boasts a huge international population and the country’s primary industries are financial services and banking. Access to ATMs, card acceptance at the point of sale and presence of global banking institutions reflect this. There has been a significant rise in card payments in Switzerland, travellers will find Visa and Mastercard credit, debit and travel cards are widely accepted. However, American Express and Diners cards are accepted in fewer places. Read on for a comparison of products you can use in Switzerland minus the fees for international transactions.

Which option is right for your next trip?

Bankwest Zero Platinum Mastercard

$0 annual fee
0% foreign transaction fees

Eligibility criteria, terms and conditions, fees and charges apply

Bankwest Zero Platinum Mastercard

A platinum credit card that features 0% foreign transaction fees, complimentary travel insurance covers and no annual fee.

  • $0 p.a. annual fee.
  • 17.99% p.a. on purchases
  • Cash advance rate of 21.99% p.a.
  • Up to 55 days interest free
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Compare travel cards for Switzerland

Rates last updated November 20th, 2017
Name Product Foreign Currency Conversion Fee Overseas ATM Withdrawal Fee Overseas Cash Advance Fee Annual fee Product Description
Bankwest Zero Platinum Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$0
The greater of 2% or $4
$0 p.a.
Receive complimentary international travel insurance, access to a 24/7 concierge service and 0% foreign transaction fees.
ANZ Rewards Travel Adventures card
0% of transaction value
$0
$0
$225 p.a.
Receive 40,000 bonus Velocity Points when you spend $500 on eligible purchases in the first three months.
Bankwest Breeze Platinum Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$5
Greater of 2% or $4.00
$99 p.a.
Offers an introductory balance transfer rate of 0% p.a. for 13 months with a 2% BT fee, plus platinum perks.
Westpac Lite Card
0% of transaction value
$0
$108 p.a.
Keep credit card costs low with a maximum credit limit of $4,000 and no foreign transaction fees.
Bankwest Qantas Platinum Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$5
2% or $4, whichever is greater
$160 p.a.
Enjoy a high credit limit with complimentary travel insurances and earn 0.5 Qantas Points per $1 spent on eligible purchases.
Bankwest More Platinum Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$5
2% or $4, whichever is greater
$160 p.a.
No fees on overseas ATM withdrawal, no foreign transaction fees and earn 75,000 bonus More rewards points.

Compare up to 4 providers

Rates last updated November 20th, 2017
$
Name Product Product Description Debit Card Access ATM Withdrawal Fee Monthly Account Fee Overseas ATM Withdrawal Fee Overseas Eftpos Fee
Bankwest Qantas Transaction Account
Earn Qantas Points on Debit Mastercard transactions, overseas ATM withdrawals and your account balance and get to travelling sooner.
Mastercard
$0
$0
2.95%
ING Orange Everyday Account
Receive an international ATM withdrawal fee rebate and an international transaction fee waiver when you meet the deposit and purchase criteria.
Visa
$0
$2.50
$2.50
Westpac Choice
Take advantage of Westpac's Global Alliance and save on overseas ATM fees at over 50,000 locations worldwide with fee-free cash withdrawals.
Mastercard
$0
$5
3%
St.George Complete Freedom Account
Part of the Westpac Global Alliance, save on overseas ATM fees at over 50,000 locations worldwide with fee-free cash withdrawals.
Visa
$0
$5
3%

Compare up to 4 providers

Rates last updated November 20th, 2017
Name Product Description Available Currencies ATM Withdrawal Fee Reload Fee Initial Load Fee
You can load and hold up to eleven currencies on the Qantas Cash Mastercard with a locked-in exchange rate. A travel card to be used at home as well as overseas, rack up Qantas Points on all eligible purchases. Debit cards incur a 1% reload fee.
AUD, AED, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD
AUD 1.95, CAD 2.00, EUR 1.50, GBP 1.25, HKD 15.00, JPY 160, NZD 2.50, SGD 2.50, USD 1.95, THB 70.00, AED 6.50
$0
$0
The NAB Traveller Card allows you to load up and lock in up to 10 currencies. Benefit from no fees for reloading funds. Comes with a secondary card for added security.
AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD

Overseas: $0 per withdrawal via international ATMs

Domestic: $3.75 fee applies

$0
$0

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How many francs do I need to bring to Switzerland?

Yes, the rumours are true, Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world to visit, and, according to some estimates, the most expensive country in the world to live. Although hardly a budget destination, it is possible to save a penny here and there.

ZurichBudgetMidrangeExpensive
sleepSleepHostel
$50 - $100 per night
2 star hotel
$100 - $250 per night
5 star hotel
$300 - $800 per night
foodEatSwiss sausage sandwich plus a pint of beer (street food)
$13
Noodle house (restaurant)
$30 per dish
Michelin star restaurant
$100 plus per person
rent-a-bikeDoRent a bike and ride around the city
Rental is free + $30 deposit
Entry to the Kunsthaus Gallery
$35 per person
50-minute massage for 2 at exclusive day spa
$350

*Prices are approximate and based on summer seasonality and are subject to change

Exchange rate history

The Swiss Franc is one of the most stable currencies in the world, definitely one of the most valuable. Since the Global Financial Crisis, the value of the Australian dollar has dropped against the Swiss franc. The past few years, 1 Aussie dollar is worth about 0.70CHF. If you think the dollar will continue to fall relative to the franc, traveller’s cheques and prepaid travel money cards let you lock in a rate.

YearAverage annual exchange Australian Dollar (AUD) to Swiss Franc (CHF)
20120.971464
20130.897429
20140.82526
20150.722884
20160.73252
20170.751838

*Exchange rates are accurate as of 4 September 2017

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Which one do I choose: Travel card, debit card or credit card?

Visa and Mastercard branded products are accepted in more places than American Express and Diners cards throughout Switzerland. You will be able to see which cards are accepted in different places by looking for the card scheme logo at the point of sale terminal and ATM machines. Switzerland is a modern economy based around banking — it’s their primary industry — you won’t need to carry a large amount of cash as you can use your card in more places than not. Make sure your card has a chip. This will let you make contactless payments for over the counter purchases and the majority of point of sale terminals use the CHIP rather than the magnetic strip to process the payment.

Travel money options for Switzerland at a glance

Travel money optionProsConsiderations
Debit cards for travel
  • Secured with a chip and a PIN technology
  • Can be easily blocked by your issuer with just a phone call
  • ATMs are ‘everywhere’ in Switzerland
  • Don’t come with a back-up card
  • Linked directly to bank account. This could have security implications if your card goes missing.
  • Fees to consider such as ATM fees
Prepaid travel money cards
  • Allow you to hold multiple foreign currencies at a time
  • Save on currency conversion fees
  • Can be easily blocked by your issuer with just a phone call
  • Come with a back up card and are protected by PIN
  • Money back guarantee for victims of fraudulent transactions
  • Swiss franc cannot be loaded and spent
  • Need to pay a fee to convert your own money into Swiss francs
  • Often charge ATM fees
  • Subjected to currency conversion fees if travel card is used in Switzerland
Credit cards for travel
  • No currency conversion fees
  • Features such as insurance or reward points earning
  • ATM cash withdrawals may attract cash advances and higher fees
  • Rewards program may cost more than they are worth
Traveller's cheques
  • Acceptance
  • Security
  • Can be costly with initial purchase charges
  • Not all merchants accept traveller's cheques
Cash
  • Greater payment flexibility
  • Convenience
  • More difficult to manage expenses
  • Higher risk of theft

This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.

Using travel cards, debit cards, credit cards and other options in Switzerland

Travelling with an Australian credit cards

A travel friendly credit card gives you access to a line of credit, and you won’t pay for currency conversion when you transact in francs. There are two providers to compare if you’re in the market for a credit card to use in Switzerland: The GE Money 28 Degrees Mastercard and the Bankwest Platinum credit cards. Both these cards waive the fee for currency conversion. However, making a withdrawal on credit isn’t advised as cash advance charges apply. Travel extras such as insurance or an increased earn rate on rewards cards for overseas purchases are other points to consider when you’re comparing credit cards to use overseas

  • Tip: Some providers waive cash advance charges when you keep a positive balance and make ATM withdrawals. Find out which providers let you do this and which won’t.

Using debit cards

A travel debit card lets you spend and withdraw in Switzerland like you would at home. Find a debit card that waives the international ATM withdrawal fee and you can make free ATM withdrawals when you use an ATM offered by a Swiss bank (banks in Switzerland and Europe do not charge a local ATM operator fee). The Citibank Plus Transaction Account could be a handy product to use in Switzerland. As well as spending and withdrawing without paying to convert dollars to francs, Citi waive the international ATM withdrawal fee too.

Westpac cardholders can avoid the international ATM fee by using Global Alliance ATMs in Switzerland. There are less than a handful of BNP Paribas and Deutsche Bank branches in Switzerland, using the Citibank Plus in Switzerland is the only viable way to avoid paying international ATM fees.

  • Tip: Make sure your debit card has a chip to avoid situations where you card won’t be accepted.

Using prepaid travel cards

There are no prepaid travel cards which allow you to hold Swiss francs. Usually, the advantage of these cards is you can hold multiple foreign currencies at a time and save on currency conversion fees. One of the these products may make sense if you’re spending your time in the Eurozone (France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain etc) and the UK, but if you’re spending the majority of your time in Switzerland, you’ll pay for currency conversion when you spend in francs.

The currency conversion fee can be double the charge applied to most credit cards and debit cards. Products such as the Commonwealth Bank Travel Money Card charge the Visa or Mastercard rate plus 4.5% for currency conversion and charges for international ATM withdrawals. So, regardless of which product you choose, you’re going to pay for currency conversion, international ATM withdrawals, or both when you use a travel card in Switzerland.

Using traveller's cheques

Traveller's cheques are an outdated travel money product, it’s far easier and a much cheaper (using the right product) to get francs by using an ATM. If you do have traveller’s cheques, you can cash your cheques at exchange offices at train stations or at a bank. Exchange offices offer the same rates as banks; however they may charge a commission for the transaction.

  • Tip: Banks are open during regular business hours Monday to Friday: 8:30am - 4:30pm.

Taking a cash with you

It’s cheaper to get your cash exchanged in Switzerland than it is in Australia. Even cheaper still if you make an ATM withdrawal using a card which doesn’t charge for currency conversion or international ATM fees rather than visit an exchange office or bank. If you do have Australia dollars or euros you need to exchange in Switzerland, bureaux de change outlets can be found at airports and train stations. You can also change your money at a bank, which will give you the most competitive rate for changing cash, and shouldn’t charge a commission either.

  • Tip: Some large retailers will accept euros (the majority of businesses will not). If you use euros, you will get a worse rate than paying with the local currency.
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Fresh tracks: Bart snowboarding in Verbier, Switzerland

Bart goes to Switzerland every couple of years to snowboard. He splurges on a 6 day heli-skiing package in Verbier, which is recognised as providing the best off-piste snowboarding in the world. He says he gets to the mountain from Geneva and, when he’s done, takes a little side trip to Berlin and then to Paris before flying home. He spends Swiss francs in Switzerland and euros in Germany and France. He spends about three weeks to a month in Europe each time he visits the continent.

What cards did you take with you?

Why did you take these cards?

ANZ is Bart’s everyday bank in Australia, and he uses his credit card back home to earn Qantas Points for his spending. The ANZ Frequent Flyer Black also gave him access to the Qantas Club at Sydney international airport and to other lounges all around the world through Véloce. Bart pays his credit card account in full every month, which means he can take advantage of up to 55 days interest-free on purchases made during his trip.

He also took the ANZ Access Advantage Visa Debit Card to use when he needed to withdraw cash. Given the overall expense of his holiday, Bart wasn’t too concerned with paying the extra international transaction fees that would be charged over the course of his holiday.

Where could you use your cards?

Bart wanted to use his ANZ Frequent Flyer Black to earn more Qantas Points, so one of the first items he paid for with it was the heli-skiing package. As this is a Visa card, he could also use it over the counter for most purchases when he was in Switzerland.

What about making ATM withdrawals?

Bank ATMs in Switzerland do not charge an operator fee when you make a withdrawal. Bart says the only charge to withdraw cash in Geneva and Verbier was the international ATM fee charged by ANZ, which was about $5 per withdrawal. He says he didn’t have any troubles using his Visa Debit Card at ATMs and he never had to look far to find a cashpoint.

What’s your recommendation about travel money for Switzerland?

Bart says if you’re conscious of cutting out the fees for international transactions, it’s hard to go past the Citibank Plus Transaction Account, which was the account one of his snowboarding mates used the last time they went to Verbier. This Citibank account doesn't charge international ATM fees, currency conversion fees or an account keeping fee.

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Buying Swiss Francs in Australia

It will be cheaper to wait to exchange your Aussie dollars to Swiss francs in Switzerland, either at a bank or by making an ATM withdrawal, rather than getting cash changed in Australia before you depart. If you do want francs for a taxi or a coffee you can get money changed at any of the providers listed below. There are ATMs at every international airport (Zurich, Geneva, Basel etc), which should eliminate the need to change currency in Australia.

Finding cash and ATMs in Switzerland

Why you’ll need a combination of travel money options

There is no one best travel money product, so you’re better off using a combination of the products or strategies detailed on this page. A line of credit gives you peace of mind to cover any unforeseen circumstances; while using a debit card for cash withdrawals and over the counter purchases in Switzerland. A travel card may be suited if you’re spending time in countries which use the euro; however, you’ll incur fees, which can be avoided if using a different travel money product.

Whether you're heading to Switzerland to hit the slopes or simply to enjoy the culture, there's a bit you need to get in order before you depart. Take the right combination of cards so you can withdraw and spend conveniently and cheaply. If you have questions about travel money for Switzerland, ask us a question using the 'Ask a Question' form below.

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This page was last modified on 16 November 2017 at 10:31am.

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5 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    LesleyApril 27, 2017

    Hi there – we are going to be travelling through France, Switzerland and Italy in June/July and are finding it quite difficult finding a pre-loaded travel card that would include the euro and Swiss Francs.
    We will be in Switzerland for about 10 days. We would very much like to avoid ATM fees!

    Thanks for your help

    • Staff
      HaroldApril 27, 2017Staff

      Hi Lesley,

      Thank you for your inquiry.

      If you are travelling overseas you may want to consider this options. Your prepaid travel card will support a number of foreign currencies, though the exact ones will depend on the individual card. Look out for cards that support the local currency of your travel destination, otherwise you’ll have to shell out currency conversion fees each time you spend.

      I hope this information has helped.

      Cheers,
      Harold

  2. Default Gravatar
    January 16, 2015

    Thank you Shirley for your response to my question re. converting Australian notes in Switzerland. Now I can take some cash there. Thank you again for the information. Kind regards. Kim

  3. Default Gravatar
    KimJanuary 13, 2015

    Could anyone please advice. Would the banks in Zurich accept Australian $ (cash) to be exchanged to Swiss Francs? Thank you.

    • Staff
      ShirleyJanuary 14, 2015Staff

      Hi Kim,

      Thanks for your question.

      Yes it possible to convert Australian Cash into Swiss Francs at a bank in Zurich. Please note that Swiss banks tend to levy charges on currency conversion.

      Cheers,
      Shirley

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