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Created on 12.11.2018 | Updated on 14.08.2019

Payments abroad – mistakes you can avoid

Making payments when you’re abroad can be quite tricky – is it better to pay by debit or credit card? Should I change my money in Switzerland or abroad? How do I avoid high fees when I withdraw cash or pay by card? We will show you how to be smart with your money when you’re abroad and avoid having to pay high fees or accept poor exchange rates.

When we’re away, we tend to be so relaxed that we’re less careful with our money than usual – we’re on holiday, after all! Exchange rates can also sometimes be annoying. We recommend you follow these tips to ensure you don’t get any nasty surprises.

Don’t take too much cash with you

As a general rule, you should take only as much cash in the local currency as you will actually need for essential expenses – this avoids the risk of losing all your travel money in the event of theft. You should take more cash to countries where credit and debit cards are not so widespread than to countries where you can easily make cashless payments everywhere. It’s often a good idea to get money in foreign currencies from your bank in Switzerland, as customers generally don’t have to pay any extra costs or fees. 

Compare exchange rates before you travel

Before you travel, find out the exchange rates in the country you’re visiting and in Switzerland. You can now find this information for a lot of countries either online or using an app. This will give you a good starting point for finding out how much you’ll pay for a specific currency in specific countries. This will help you weigh up your best options and keep track of your costs. Most banks offer a currency calculator to help you do this. You can actually withdraw euros from Swiss ATMs. If you need other currencies, however, you will generally have to visit your bank or an SBB railway station counter.

Withdrawing money by debit card

If you want to withdraw money from your account when you’re abroad, the rule of thumb is that you should use your debit card. This is because the fees you will pay for withdrawing cash are much lower than if you use a credit card. You could also use the Swiss Bankers Travel Cash card, if you have one.

Travel Cash card

The Travel Cash card is a reloadable prepaid card that works like a Mastercard and can be used worldwide for withdrawals in CHF, EUR or USD. The next time you travel, you can top it up again without having to pay any annual fees. You can order the Travel Cash card online, and it will be delivered conveniently to your home. If you lose your card, you can have it blocked and replaced – anywhere in the world, free of charge.

More about the Travel Cash card

When should I pay by debit card and when by credit card?

Simply put, it is advisable to withdraw cash by debit card and pay for goods by credit card, as this is the most cost-effective option. 

Should I pay in the foreign currency when abroad?

If you make cashless payments either by debit card or credit card when you are abroad, you will normally be asked whether you would like to make the payment in francs or the local currency. Exchange rates and fees are often not clearly displayed, however. This is why it is almost always a good idea to pay in the foreign (i.e. local) currency, because this usually involves lower costs. 

Checking your account using mobile data

Wi-Fi in hotels is often unencrypted, which means hackers can infiltrate the network with ease and access your data. This is why using mobile devices to log in to your e-banking app is a more secure option. It also means you can check your account securely abroad.

The general rule for every trip is that you should find out beforehand what payment methods and options are best suited to your destination. It’s useful to check out a few tips and tricks which will help you to save on fees and commission – and leave you with more money for your trip.

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