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Reader question: Can I use euros to pay in Switzerland?

Sandra Sparrowhawk
Sandra Sparrowhawk - [email protected]
Reader question: Can I use euros to pay in Switzerland?
A person holds a handful of euro notes. Photo by Christian Dubovan on Unsplash

Although the national currency of Switzerland is the Swiss franc, you can also pay in euros in many places. However, you may not always get a fair exchange rate. Here's what you should know.

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Switzerland is not part of the European Union, so its official currency is the Swiss franc – not the euro. The Swiss franc is widely considered one of the world’s most stable currencies and indicatively worth 1.02 euros. One euro, on the other hand, is currently worth around 0.98 francs.

For tourists travelling to Switzerland for pleasure or work as well as for cross-border commuters with a spare chunk of change, it is good to know that Swiss merchants will accept payment in euros, but the exchange rate will often be unfavourable and you’re always better off sticking to the local currency if you're hoping to save money.

Where in Switzerland can I pay in euros?

You can pay in euros in every major Swiss department store as well as many other shops, such a souvenir shops, hotels, businesses, and restaurants. However, note that your change will always be given in Swiss francs, if you pay in cash rather than card.

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Is it a good idea to pay in euros?

The short answer is, no. While keeping a few euros in your pocket is not the end of the world, you will often be offered a poor exchange rate when paying in euros in Switzerland and it is generally advised to pay as much as you can in Swiss francs.

In Switzerland, exchange rates are in fact not set by the bank, but by your payment partner. This means that in many places - particularly in tourist locations - companies profit from additional transactions with exchange rate surcharges.

A cafe in St Gallen, Switzerland.

A cafe in St Gallen, Switzerland. Photo by Niklas Tidbury on Unsplash

It's smarter to withdraw money instead

If you’re looking to enjoy a holiday on a budget, paying in euros is not the way to get around Switzerland. The cheapest option to get Swiss francs is to withdraw money from a bank ATM in the country. Those usually don’t charge locals or tourists for the withdrawal – with a few exceptions.

The ATMs from Euronet are known for their high fees in Switzerland, so you’d be wise to avoid those altogether. Additionally, many Swiss ATMs will attempt to charge you additional fees with the so-called dynamic currency conversion (DCC). Generally, it is smarter (and safer) to drop by a local bank to withdraw cash for your stay in Switzerland.

Cash is king

You may argue (and you would be right) that carrying a wad of money in your pocket or purse is very inconvenient, not to mention dangerous, as it can be easily stolen and you will never see the likes of it again (unlike a credit card, where suspicious transactions can be disputed).

You could argue all of the above, but you would still not persuade some Swiss to switch from cash to plastic.

According to a survey by Moneyland consumer platform, 67 percent of Switzerland’s residents consider cash to be completely indispensable, while 96 percent use cash for payments.

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In fact, the Swiss love their coins and banknotes so much that not every shop is equipped with ATMs and POS terminals, while others impose a minimum payment threshold for payment by card. It is therefore advisable to always carry a bit of cash – in Swiss francs – and not solely rely on the use of cards, whether they be credit, debit or prepaid.

Remember, in Switzerland you can pay with large bank notes (think 100-franc note) for the smallest item. The shopkeeper will simply hand you the change without batting an eyelash.

READ MORE: ‘Cash is freedom:’ Why do the Swiss love coins and banknotes so much?

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