Finder is committed to editorial independence. While we receive compensation when you click links to partners, they do not influence our content.
Using a credit card in Switzerland
Credit cards are widely accepted in Switzerland, but carry at least some cash on you just in case.
Credit cards are accepted throughout Switzerland, which is one of the largest banking centres in the world. However, you may still need cash for small purchases like taxi rides, coffees, snacks and souvenirs.
Compare credit cards for use in Switzerland
What credit cards can I use in Switzerland?
Switzerland has high merchant acceptance for Visa and Mastercard branded cards. Some merchants may accept American Express, but don’t rely on it.
Although you shouldn’t use your credit card to make a withdrawal from an ATM, sometimes emergencies arise. For cash withdrawals, Amex cardholders can make cash withdrawals from ATMs of Euronet, Credit Suisse and UBS. However, Euronet are known for their high fees so it’s best to avoid this ATM brand. Visa and Mastercard can be used at most ATMs.
Potential credit card fees in Switzerland
You should always keep an eye on credit card fees, especially when travelling overseas.
- Foreign transaction fees. Most credit cards issued in Canada come with foreign transaction fees of 2.5%. You’ll need to pay this fee every time you use your credit card outside of Canada. Fortunately, there are a few credit cards that charge no foreign transaction fees in Canada.
- Currency conversion fees. If someone gives you the choice of paying in Canadian dollars or Swiss francs with your credit card, always choose the local currency. Paying in Canadian dollars with your card will subject you to a dynamic currency conversion (DCC) that can lead to poor exchange rates and currency conversion fees. Always choose to pay in the local currency and let your bank do the currency conversion.
- Cash advance fees. If you use your credit card to withdraw money from an ATM, you’ll face a cash advance fee as well as the cash advance interest rate, which is usually charged from the day you withdraw the funds. To avoid the high APR, use your debit card to withdraw funds from an ATM.
- ATM fees. Even using your debit card to withdraw funds from an ATM will likely have you facing an ATM fee. To avoid this fee, you can use a debit card issued by a bank that belongs to an international ATM alliance, such as the Global ATM Alliance that Scotiabank is a member of.
Can I avoid all of these fees?
Yes, here’s how:
- Apply for a no foreign transaction fee credit card to avoid this fee.
- Avoid conversion fees by always paying in the local currency.
- Avoid the high cash advance APR by using your debit card – instead of your credit card – to withdraw cash from an ATM.
- To skirt around ATM fees, you’ll need to use a debit card from a bank that belongs to an international ATM alliance – plus you’ll need to stick to ATMs that belong to that network.
ATMs in Switzerland
ATMs are easy to find in Switzerland and can be found within banks, on busy streets, inside shopping malls and at train stations, among other places. Although cards are predominately used, you should still carry some cash on you to pay for small items like coffee, snacks, vendors, souvenirs, transportation and other little purchases.
Most ATMs impose a withdrawal limit of 5,000 CHF. Make sure you know your bank’s limit before making a withdrawal so you don’t exceed either maximum amount.
Should I use my credit card to get cash?
No, avoid using your credit card to get cash from an ATM at all costs. You’ll end up paying a cash advance fee as well as interest, which will start adding up from the day of the transaction. If you need to withdraw cash from an ATM, use your debit card.
Do taxis in Switzerland accept credit cards?
Most taxis in Switzerland only accept cash. You may find a few that do accept cards, so you’ll need to ask the driver before getting into their car or ask your hotel to call a taxi that accepts credit cards.
Alternatively, you can call an Uber and pay with your credit card through the app.
Is it safe to use my credit card in Switzerland?
Using your credit card in Switzerland is very safe, although you’ll need to exercise at least the same level of caution as you would in Canada.
- Protect your PIN. Don’t write your PIN down anywhere. When entering your PIN, use the other hand to hide it from hidden cameras and onlookers.
- Select ATMs carefully. Use ATMs found in banks, shopping centres and otherwise busy areas. Avoid ones in isolated areas or unsafe districts.
- Keep an eye out for skimmers. If you feel that the card slot is not as smooth as it should be or if you think there’s a problem with the keypad, cancel your transaction and use a different ATM. Someone might have installed a card skimmer on the machine.
- Keep your card physically safe. Instances of pickpocketing and theft are common in big cities like Geneva. Take extra care when venturing out after dark and always keep a close eye on your wallet or purse when on public transportation.
How to prepare before travelling to Switzerland
Credit card usage in Switzerland is very safe, but as always, use caution.
- Carry at least two credit cards. Ideally, take at least two credit cards with you, with at least one being a Visa or Mastercard. That way, you can avoid being left without money if your primary credit card is lost or stolen or if a merchant doesn’t accept Amex.
- Think about foreign transaction fees. Paying foreign transaction fees does not make sense when you can find cards that come with no foreign transaction fees. For each transaction, you’ll save yourself 2.5%.
- Inform your bank. Banks monitor accounts to minimize fraudulent transactions. If your bank sees an unexpected purchase made in Switzerland, it will have a good reason to temporarily block your card. Let your bank know of your travel plans in advance.
- Carry emergency numbers. If your card ends up lost or stolen, you should know which number to call. Write down your credit card providers phone number and carry it on you at all times.
- Know how you’ll get cash. You should carry at least some cash on you at all times. Use your debit card to withdraw cash in order to avoid the cash advance interest rate that comes with using a credit card. You can also exchange Canadian dollars for Swiss francs or make use of travellers’ cheques.
You can avoid unexpected problems by asking yourself these simple questions before you leave for Switzerland:
- Which cards should I take? Carry at least one Mastercard or Visa card and have at least two credit cards with you.
- Did I inform my bank? Unless you want to deal with the possibility of a blocked card, inform your bank before you head overseas.
- Will I pay extra fees? Check if your current credit card charges foreign transaction fees. If it does, consider applying for a card that charges no foreign transaction fees.
- Where will I get money from? Use your debit card to withdraw cash from an ATM – avoid using your credit card unless it’s an emergency. You can also consider converting Canadian dollars to Swiss francs or cash in travellers’ cheques.
Using a credit card in …
Frequently asked questions
More guides on Finder
Bullion Mart review
Bullion Mart sells a variety of precious metals, plus it offers storage options for your investments. Find out more in our Bullion Mart review.
How to find the best financial advisors in Canada
If you want to make the most of your money, or just need advice on what financial product to get, a financial advisor can help.
GoPeer Personal Loan review
GoPeer is Canada’s first consumer P2P lending platform, connecting Canadians looking for a personal loan with Canadians looking to invest.
How to invest in the BTCX Bitcoin ETF
Another Bitcoin ETF has launched onto the stock market. Here’s how to invest if you’re in Canada.
Loan Away Personal Loan review
Loan Away is an online-only lender offering personal loans of up to $5,000.
Top sites to buy basketball shoes online 2021
Whether you are on or off the basketball court, these shoes give you the edge. Desgined with performance and style in mind.
How to use beta when considering stocks
Learn to calculate stock beta to help you assess how volatile a stock is.
Newfoundland travel restrictions: Where you can go in 2021
What you need to know about the latest travel rules and restrictions in Newfoundland as well as where to stay, places to visit and how to travel around the area.
3 million Canadians to stop using a financial advisor in 2021
In 2021, more than 3 million Canadians plan to stop using their financial advisor and three times as many Canadian millennials plan to stop working with one vs hiring one – wanting to save money on fees and have more control over their money.
How to earn Bitcoin on everyday purchases
SPONSORED: Earning cashback and points on credit cards has been popular with Canadians for years, but there’s a new card reward emerging: Bitcoin cashback.
Ask an Expert
You must be logged in to post a comment.