Using cash or credit card in Switzerland?

Using cash or credit card in Switzerland?

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pvonk
pvonk
39 posts
active member
Sep 29, 2017 - 5:05 PM

My son and I are traveling in Switzerland in October, and we have already purchased our Swiss Travel Passes as well as made reservations at hotels. About the smallish stuff - like the discount trains/trams (with STP), purchases of snacks, etc - how wide spread is the use of credit cards like VISA? I will use ATMs to get some Swiss Francs for the very small purchases, but other expenses of, say, 20sf or more, is VISA generally available at the various small shops, tram stations? I'm assuming that credit card use at restaurants is generally available - right?

Also, I've made hotel reservations at hotels through the travel sites, like Bookings.com. Should I contact the individual hotels via email before leaving to be sure they have us in their computers? I will bring along the print0uts of bookings from these travel sites, but I have no idea how reliable such reservations turn out to be.

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
4489 posts
expert
Sep 29, 2017 - 8:05 PM in reply to pvonk

Hi pvonk...it depends. ;-(

In major tourist areas, generally no problem, but there are some places that only take cash.

Trams may only take cash at their ticket machines. Trains stations, no problem with credit cards.

In the countryside, it is more common for small places to be cash only, but most inns of 2 or 3 star quality take credit cards.

There a lots of ATMS, if no where else, at the Post Offices.

I carry a few hundred CHF just in case, and usually only spend it on minor purchases.

Some credit cards no longer charge an automatic 3 CHF/USD fee for each transaction, but many still do. Not so good if you do a lot of small transactions. Check your the policy of your credit card issuer.

Slowpoke

Lucas
Lucas
5577 posts
expert &
moderator
Sep 30, 2017 - 7:38 AM in reply to pvonk

Hi Pvonk,

I would recommend, like Slowpoke, that you keep maybe 200chf on you and use for small purchases (that way you aren't looking for an ATM often if at all (depending on your length of stay).

The smaller the town/village the fewer places that take credit cards is the rule.

I use bed bank companies like (booking.com and hotelscombined.com) frequently in my travels around Europe and I've never had a problem. But I hear of the odd issue and certainly calling ahead will take any worries off your mind. :) Also a very good idea to bring the reservation confirmation with you if you aren't using their app.

Lucas

lkdf62
lkdf62
30 posts
active member
Sep 30, 2017 - 4:51 PM in reply to pvonk

Hello Pvonk,

Some restaurants impose a surcharge if you choose to pay with a credit card but the surcharge is clearly shown on your bill.

I use cash almost exclusively for meals and incidentals but I use my credit card for transportation tickets, hotel, etc., because of the liability limits against fraudulent transactions. I use both VISA and MasterCard as some online purchases. The VISA transactions are sometimes rejected and MC seems to be approved more readily. The SBB online ticket app most often rejects my VISA credentials but always accepts my MC credentials.

When making purchase with my credit card I always choose USD$ for the charge as my credit card has very attractive exchange rates.

Also, regarding the convenience of ATM's.

I ALWAYS open a separate checking account for use when I travel! Some of my banking accounts are linked to my primary ATM/Debit card and I do not want to risk the exposure of the accounts to hackers or skimming device on the ATM. These "travel checking accounts" are generally free of monthly fees but sometimes have minimum balance requirement AND the bank does charge an exchange fee. I "stock" the card with the cash I think I will need and make withdrawals as required. My bank charges a few for each withdrawal. So plan your withdrawals carefully.

Recently at a Raiffeisenbank ATM in the Bahnhofstrasee of Zermatt a young man stood too close to me as I attempted to make a withdrawal so I just canceled the transaction and came back later. If you are careful and don't present any opportunities you probably won't have any problems. I feel very safe and secure in Switzerland and I always employ an abundant amount of situational awareness.

Also, I always disable apps such as Google Pay, etc. incase my phone is lost or stolen.

Enjoy your travels!

ikdf62

pvonk
pvonk
39 posts
active member
Sep 30, 2017 - 5:25 PM

Thanks to all for your input. Two followup questions -

We will be arriving in Geneva via train from Paris and then will use a swiss train to proceed to Lausanne for the first night. Will I find an ATM at the Geneva train station, or are the machines mostly in post offices, banks or stores? Yes, I will take out about 200 chf for minor spending. I have one debit card that my wife (the world traveler) uses on her many international trips to get local cash at ATMs. This one reimburses any ATM fees and has good exchange rates.

One other question, my wife will be giving me euros that she has left over from a past trip. I'll use the notes in Paris, but if I have more left when in Switzerland, are they accepted at stores or are they easily exchanged in Switzerland?

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
4489 posts
expert
Sep 30, 2017 - 10:22 PM in reply to pvonk

Hi Pvonk -

<<"Will I find an ATM at the Geneva train station'>>

Yes. More than one.

<<"or are the machines mostly in post offices, banks ">>

Yes. Not so much in stores.

<<"One other question, my wife will be giving me euros that she has left over from a past trip. I'll use the notes in Paris, but if I have more left when in Switzerland, are they accepted at stores or are they easily exchanged in Switzerland?">>

In major cities and major tourist destinations, Euros are usually accepted at hotels and restaurants, and major stores. Change is routinely given in Swiss Francs. You cannot control the exchange rate.

Euros can be exchanged at banks and at currency exchanges at rail stations and airports, for example. Rates at rail stations are OK, but if you are way out in the country at a small station, they my not be precisely up to the minute.

Avoid Travelex everywhere. Their rates are much worse than banks such as UBS, Credit Suisse, Raifeisen, Zürich Kantonal Bank (ZKB) , for examples common in the German speaking regions. Their rates at US Airports are outrageous.

Slowpoke

Last modified on Sep 30, 2017 - 10:24 PM by Slowpoke
lkdf62
lkdf62
30 posts
active member
Oct 1, 2017 - 4:37 PM

Hello Pvonk,

As you exit the Geneva airport baggage claim area turn left (bypassing the currency exchange counters if you choose to deal with the Euros' latter) to walk to the Geneva Airport train station . There you will find ATMs.

ikdf62

pvonk
pvonk
39 posts
active member
Oct 1, 2017 - 7:40 PM in reply to lkdf62

Thanks, ikdf62, but I won't be arriving at the Geneva airport. We'll be arriving from Paris via train. But the reply above is that the train station has ATMs. That will be my first stop!

lkdf62
lkdf62
30 posts
active member
Oct 1, 2017 - 8:22 PM

Hi Pvonk,

Yes, I'm sorry I overlooked those very important facts in your post.

If your train arrives at the "Geneva Airport" station I believe you will have to go to the upper level of the train station by escalator, elevator or stairs to find an ATM. I am not familiar with the "Geneva" station.

I apologize.

ikdf62

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
4489 posts
expert
Oct 1, 2017 - 10:05 PM in reply to pvonk

Hi pvonk -

Mainline intercity trains in Switzerland and international trains arrive at Geneva main station (Station name Cornavin) in downtown Geneva a few blocks from the lake shore.

Swiss trains, at least , continue to the airport, a journey of aproximately 10 minutes. The name of the aeroport is "Cointrin."

There have been many "upgrades" at Cornavin since I was a regular user a few years ago, so I cannot say exactly where the foreign exchange desk(s) is, or the ATM's. However, I know that they are there. And, of course, there is always a tourist info office at the main stations to direct you.

I have also used the ones on the pedestrian mall on the ramp leaving the lower part of the station which becomes Rue du Mont Blanc.

So, i looked at a map.

The map named Mapsearch.ch

map.search.ch/

is very useful for finding things of interest to tourists.

map.search.ch/?pos=500050,118470&z=20 48&poi=service

I opened it, zoomed in on the train station in Geneva, and turned on the aerial view to help orient me better. I immediately saw the "cash dispensers."

map.search.ch/?pos=500050,118470&z=20 48&poi=service

I am not sure whether this link shows the exact information I am seeing, but it shows three icons for "cash dispenser" in the station, and more on the routes to the lake.

If they do not appear, open"Points of Interest" under the Menus, and turn on the entry for "Shopping/Service."

One is a "Postomat" at the post office, and will have good rates. Another is UBS, and the third is associated with the SBB ( or, rather CFF, which are the proper initials in the French-speaking regions).

All give good rates.

Another way to find things in Swiss rail stations, especially the main ones, is to use text information and the maps available through the main SBB/CFF web site.

Thus:

www.sbb.ch/en/station-services/railway-stations/geneva-station/shopping/shop-detail.html/currency-exchange-1000-1008

shows the icon and opening hours for currency exchange. The SBB exchange booths give acceptable exchange rates, unlike Travelex booths.

"Trafimage" maps and station plans are available for the larger stations and are very complete. They can be downloaded or zoomed in on-line.

www.sbb.ch/en/station-services/railway-stations/trafimage.htm l

plans.trafimage.ch/gen eve#?lang=en&layer=geneve_a ussenplan&x=499976&y=1 18524&r=0.19

and, this "shopping plan" map does not seem to show ATM's, but it does show the Tourist Info office at location # 100 in map section A8, which is just outside the station. You'll probably pass one of the ATM's there on your way to the Tourist Info office if you want to walk there.

Slowpoke

pvonk
pvonk
39 posts
active member
Oct 2, 2017 - 11:42 AM

Thanks, Slowpoke - a great resource!

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