Credit card use in Switzerland has continued to gain momentum. This year’s survey by independent online comparison service moneyland.ch revealed that 85% of adult participants hold at least one credit card. Around 40% of Swiss consumers hold two or more credit cards. After cash, credit cards are the payment method which Swiss consumers are least willing to forego.
Card fees in 2018
Although credit card use is on the rise, most cardholders still do not understand the fees attached to their use. For this reason, moneyland.ch has conducted a thorough analysis of more than 150 Swiss credit cards this year as well. The verdict: Differences between individual Swiss credit cards and prepaid cards are still major.
Over the first two years of card use, occasional credit card users may pay up to 500 Swiss francs more for the most expensive credit card (excluding platinum cards) than they would for the most affordable credit card. Frequent users can save more than 800 francs over the first two years, or more than 1800 francs when platinum cards are included in the comparison.
Contactless payments with credit cards
57% of survey participants have already made contactless payments using their credit cards, as the results of this the 2018 survey show. Mobile payments are less popular, but their use has increased somewhat. Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Fitbit Pay and Garmin Pay can now be used by Swiss consumers which hold certain credit cards. Purchases made with these mobile wallets are charged to underlying credit cards. “The fees charged to consumers for payments settled using mobile wallets are identical to those which apply to direct credit card use,” clarifies moneyland.ch credit card expert Daniel Dreier.
“However, many Swiss credit cards and prepaid cards are not currently compatible with some or all of these mobile wallets,” explains Dreier. Consumers looking for credit cards which can be used with specific mobile wallets can quickly find compatible cards using the relevant filters in the moneyland.ch credit card comparison.
The most affordable cards in 2018
The Migros Cumulus Mastercard (Cembra Money Bank) is the most affordable credit card for occasional users in 2018, at a cost of 38.15 francs for the first two years. It is followed by Coop Supercardplus (Swisscard) with total costs of 47.45 francs. Both cards do not have annual fees, which means that cardholders who only use them in Switzerland and do not get cash advances do not pay fees at all. It is worth noting that Migros Cumulus Mastercard can get cash advances at Migros stores without paying cash advance fees.
Foreign transaction fees and currency exchange spreads are applied when the cards are used to pay for purchases from merchants outside of Switzerland. This year, rates recorded across 20 randomly selected days show a somewhat lower average currency exchange spread for the Migros Cumulus Mastercard (Cembra Money Bank) than for Swisscard (Coop Supercardplus). The Coop Supercardplus showed a lower average exchange spread in 2017. Currency exchange spreads are subject to change without notice.
This year, the most affordable card for frequent users is the TCS Travel Mastercard Gold (Cembra Money Bank), thanks to its relatively high cash back rate and low cash advance fees, with total costs of 350.75 francs over two years. It is followed by the Cumulus Mastercard (427.70 francs) and the Coop Supercardplus (483.35 francs).
Prepaid cards compared
Major cost differences are also found between prepaid cards. Consumers should take care to review not only the annual fees, but also the loading fees and foreign exchange fees of prepaid cards. It is also worth noting that contrary to popular belief, prepaid cards are not generally more affordable than credit cards. On the contrary: With every user profile used in the analyses, the most affordable credit cards matching the user profile are more affordable than the most affordable prepaid cards for the same user profile.
Card benefits analyzed
Credit cards differ not only with regards to their fees and charges, but also in terms of the benefits they deliver to cardholders. “As a general rule, more expensive credit cards typically provide more benefits,” says moneyland.ch CEO Benjamin Manz. Benefits may include discounts, reward points, frequent flyer miles, insurance coverages and access to airport lounges. The obvious deciding factor is whether or not a cardholder will use the benefits provided. To help consumers to find cards with benefits that match their specific needs, moneyland.ch compared and rated 18 different credit card benefits and insurance coverages across 150 Swiss credit cards. Cards can be filtered and sorted based on the benefits they provide with the interactive, unbiased credit card comparison on moneyland.ch.
Tipps for using credit cards while traveling
A number of fees and charges apply when credit cards are used to pay at foreign merchants. The following simple tips can help cardholders avoid biggest pitfalls.
Firstly, cardholders should avoid using credit cards for cash withdrawals and use debit cards instead. Debit cards, such as Maestro and V Pay cards, have significantly lower charges for cash withdrawals. “Unfortunately, the number of consumers who use credit cards to withdraw cash is still large,” states Manz.
Secondly, cardholders should pay foreign merchants in local currency and never in Swiss francs. In many cases, high third-party charges apply to payments in Swiss francs. Additionally, most Swiss card issuers now charge foreign transaction fees for foreign purchases even when these are paid for in Swiss francs.
Thirdly, using debit cards to pay for purchases in foreign currencies with a value of several hundred francs or more is more affordable than using credit cards. “Credit cards are generally the cheaper option for paying for smaller purchases,” explains Daniel Dreier of moneyland.ch.
Fourthly, consumers planning a trip abroad should obtain a credit card with low fees and charges.
Credit card comparison