Statistics from the Swiss National Bank (SNB) show that Swiss credit cards are used just as frequently outside of Switzerland as they are used inside the country. At 145 francs per purchase, the average credit card transaction abroad is higher than the 130-franc average local transaction.
But using credit cards has its costs and if you prefer to spend your vacation money on fun instead of fees, consider these moneyland.ch tips:
- Choose the right credit card ahead of your trip. Different cards have their own sets of costs and benefits. The credit card comparison tool from moneyland.ch helps you find the payment card best suited to your needs.
- When choosing a credit card to use outside of Switzerland, always check the total cost of foreign transactions. These fees are made up of a processing fee (1.2% to 2.5% depending on the card) and the currency exchange rate mark-up. Both of these costs are factored into the credit card comparison (exchange rate mark-ups are based on current euro to Swiss franc rates).
- Check your credit card’s expiry date before you travel. You will want to make sure that your card remains valid for the duration of your trip.
- Double-check your card’s payment limit. If necessary, request a short-term raise to your payment limit, especially if you plan to use your card to make large payments ahead of your trip.
- Research the best payment method to use at your intended destination. You may find that certain credit cards are not widely accepted in some countries. For example, in some African countries, as well as Cuba and Venezuela, credit cards may only be accepted by a limited number of merchants. In certain countries merchants and ATMs may primarily accept cards from one or two credit card networks (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, UnionPay, Discover/Diners).
- Never choose the so-called dynamic currency exchange option for foreign currency transactions. Always pay in local currency and never in Swiss francs. Payment processors often charge very high fees (3% of the amount changed or even more) for dynamic currency exchanges.
- Try never to use your credit card to get cash, whether in Switzerland or abroad. Use your debit card (Maestro, V-Pay, Postfinance) to make cash withdrawals instead, where possible. Doing so will save you a lot of money. Make sure that your card is not subject to limits that restrict the countries it can be used in. If it is, make sure to get your bank to lift or extend limits to allow you to use it at your destination.
- Using your credit card to get cash outside of Switzerland (at an ATM, for example) comes at a price, with cash advance fees reaching up to 4% of the transaction amount. On top of that, you will have to reckon with administrative fees of up to 2.5% of each cash advance and mark-ups on currency exchange rates. Then there are any additional fees added by the bank or ATM operator in the foreign country.
- A debit card is also a better choice for making large payments outside of Switzerland, in most cases. The rule of thumb is: When making payments of 100 to 200 francs, using a credit card is generally more affordable. Any amounts higher than that are best paid via debit card. But costs do vary depending on the card issuer, and there are exceptions to this rule.
- If your credit card is lost or stolen, make sure to have your account frozen immediately. The fastest way to do this is to phone your card’s issuer as quickly as possible. Make sure to store the customer service number on your phone or in another handy location. The customer support phone number on your credit card won’t do you much good if the card is lost or stolen.
- Keep copies of receipts for major payments made using your credit card during your vacation. If information on your credit card statement is inaccurate, these will serve as proof that could help you correct the errors.