Travel Money Guide: Switzerland

Rates and Fees verified correct on December 5th, 2016

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

Bankwest Zero Platinum MasterCard

$0 foreign transaction fee with a $0 annual fee.

  • $0 p.a. annual fee
  • 17.99% p.a. on purchases
  • 2.99% p.a. for 9 months on balance transfers
  • Cash Advance Rate of 21.99% p.a.
  • Up to 55 days interest free

Compare travel cards for Switzerland

Rates last updated December 5th, 2016
Foreign Currency Conversion Fee (MC) Foreign Currency Conversion Fee (VISA) Overseas ATM Withdrawal Fee Annual fee
Bankwest Zero Platinum MasterCard
An introductory offer on balance transfers with $0 annual fee. Complimentary travel insurance & 24/7 Concierge service and $0 foreign transaction fees.
0% of transaction value $0 $0 p.a. Go to site More info
28 Degrees Platinum MasterCard
Benefit from no international transaction fees on purchases, no currency conversion fees and no annual fee.
0% of transaction value $0 $0 p.a. Go to site More info
Rates last updated December 5th, 2016
$
Monthly Account Fee Debit Card Access ATM Withdrawal Fee Fee Free Deposit p.m. Details
St.George Complete Freedom Account
$0 Overseas ATM fee when you withdraw from the Global ATM alliance network.
Visa $0 $2,000 No account keeping fees, if you deposit $2,000 per month plus no minimum balance required. No ATM fees when using St.George, Westpac and BankSA ATMs. Open More
Westpac Choice
$0 Overseas ATM fee when you withdraw from the Global ATM alliance network.
Mastercard $0 $2,000 No ATM fees when using St.George, Westpac, BankSA or Bank of Melbourne ATMs in Australia. Deposit at least $2,000 per month and enjoy no monthly service fee. Open More
Bank of Melbourne Express Freedom
$0 Overseas ATM fee when you withdraw from the Global ATM alliance network.
Visa $0 $1,000 No ATM fees when you use Bank of Melbourne, St.George, Westpac and BankSA ATMs. No monthly fees if you deposit $1000 into your account each month. Open More
Bankwest Qantas Transaction Account
No overseas ATM withdrawal fees (charged by Bankwest), 3rd party ATM fees and international transaction fees may still apply.
Mastercard $0 $2,000 No monthly fees when you deposit at least $2,000 into your account each month. Free access to Bankwest and CommBank ATMs in Australia. No overseas ATM withdrawal fees (charged by Bankwest) though third party fees may apply. Open More
Citibank Plus Everyday Account
No international transaction fees and no overseas ATM withdrawals fees if you use a Citibank ATM overseas.
Visa $0 $0 No ATM fees using Citibank, Westpac, BankSA and St.George branded ATMs in Australia. Use overseas Citibank ATMs for free. More
Rates last updated December 5th, 2016
Available Currencies ATM Withdrawal Fee Reload Fee Initial Load Fee
ANZ Travel Card
ANZ Travel Card
AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD, AUD 3.50, CAD 3.00, EUR 2.20, GBP 2.00, HKD 20.00, JPY 260, NZD 4.50, SGD 4.00, THB 95, USD 2.50 1.1% of the value purchased $0 Go to site More
NAB Traveller Card
NAB Traveller Card
AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD $0 per withdrawal on international ATMs and $3.75 per withdrawal at any Australian ATMs $0 $0 Go to site More
Cash Passport MasterCard
Cash Passport MasterCard
AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD $2.50 for withdrawals made overseas 2.95% of the amount withdrawn for domestic withdrawals $0 $0 Go to site More
Qantas Card with Qantas Cash
Qantas Card with Qantas Cash
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 Go to site More
Travelex Travel Card
Travelex Travel Card
AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD Travelex does not charge an ATM withdrawal fee when you use your Travelex Multi-currency Cash Passport to withdraw currencies that are loaded on the card at overseas ATMs where MasterCard is accepted. The greater of 1.1% of the initial load / reload amount or AU$15.00 $0 Go to site More

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
20120.971464
20130.897429
20140.82526
20150.722884
20160.718103
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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
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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 and Bankwest also waive the international ATM fee. 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, Citibank 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 do not charge for currency conversion; however, travel cards like the CBA product charge for international ATM withdrawals. So, regardless of which product you choose, you’re going to pay for currency conversion or international ATM withdrawals 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 the Visa and American Express cards back home to take advantage of the Qantas Points earn rate. Although this account charges a currency conversion fee for overseas purchases (1.5% for AMEX and 3% for Visa), he wanted to rack up on some points on his trip so he took both cards with him to Europe. The Black cards also gave him access to the Qantas Club at Sydney international airport.

He pays his account in full so he made purchases during the month without paying any interest. 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 an extra couple of hundred in international transaction fees over the course of his holiday.

Where could you use your cards?

The ANZ Black American Express card couple only be used in a couple of places in Switzerland. He booked the heli-skiing package using the AMEX card and used the Visa card for over the counter purchases when he could, which was most of the time.

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. Bart says his mate says Citibank didn’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 2016 at 17:41.

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3 Responses to Travel Money Guide: Switzerland

  1. 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

  2. Default Gravatar
    Kim | January 13, 2015

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

    • Staff
      Shirley | January 14, 2015

      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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