Alpine skiing, fairytale landscapes and gooey cheese fondue combine to offer a once-in-a-lifetime holiday with something for every traveller. But those dream escapes don't come cheap. Here are our insider tips on how to best spend your money in Switzerland and save on ATM and transaction fees.
While the Swiss franc is the official currency, you can get away with using the euro in some places, though the exchange rate may not be as favourable as just using your debit or credit card.
There are no prepaid travel cards which allow you to hold Swiss francs, only euros, meaning you can't lock in a favourable rate. Consider a credit card with no foreign transaction fees or a debit card that gives you rebates on international transaction and ATM fees.
What should I know about money for Switzerland?
Which one do I choose: Travel card, debit card or credit card?
Whichever option you choose, keep in mind that Visa- and Mastercard-branded cards 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's economy is based around banking — it's their primary industry — so you won't need to carry a large amount of cash as you can use your card in more places than not, but 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 option||Pros||Considerations|
|Debit cards for travel|
|Prepaid travel money cards|
|Credit cards for travel|
This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.
Why we recommend 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.
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 Latitude 28° Global Platinum 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). If you're an ING Orange Everyday account holder, you can also avoid ATM fees and international transaction fees as long as you're depositing a minimum of $1,000 per month into your account and making at least five transactions monthly.
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. Regardless of which prepaid travel card you choose, you're going to pay for currency conversion, international ATM withdrawals, or both when you use it 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, but it's often a good idea to have a small amount on you when you arrive in case you need to take a taxi or get something to eat, or if there are any unforeseen issues with your cards. If you do have Australian 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.
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.
|Year||Exchange Australian Dollar (AUD) to Swiss Franc (CHF) ($1 AUD=)|
*Exchange rates are accurate as of 1 January on each year stated above.Back to top
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.
$50 - $100 per night
|2 star hotel|
$100 - $250 per night
|5 star hotel|
$300 - $800 per night
|Eat||Swiss sausage sandwich plus a pint of beer (street food)|
|Noodle house (restaurant)|
$30 per dish
|Michelin star restaurant|
$100 plus per person
|Do||Rent 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|
*Prices are approximate and based on summer seasonality and are subject to changeBack to top
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