For members


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

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.

A person holds euros
A person holds a handful of euro notes. Photo by Christian Dubovan on Unsplash

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.

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.

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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For members


Reader question: Can I use my EU health insurance instead of buying Swiss cover?

Given the high cost of the obligatory health insurance in Switzerland, you may be tempted to avoid purchasing one. Are you allowed to use insurance from another country instead?

Reader question: Can I use my EU health insurance instead of buying Swiss cover?

The announcement on Tuesday September 26th that health insurance premiums in Switzerland will go up by 8.7 percent on average in 2024 has upset many people, as such a significant hike is likely to strain their budgets. 

If you come from an EU or EFTA state, you may be wondering whether your health insurance from your home country can be used instead of the Swiss one.

The answer depends on your status in Switzerland.

If you are just a visitor who is staying in the country for up to 90 days, you are not required to take out Swiss insurance. Your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will cover you, free of charge, for medical emergencies (just as a Swiss tourist would be within the European Union / EFTA).

But if you are a permanent resident with a B, C, or L permit, you can’t rely on your EHIC to get you medical care in Switzerland.

Swiss law clearly states that “anyone settling in Switzerland must obtain insurance within three months after taking up residence.”

How do Swiss authorities know you are a resident and not a tourist?

If you comply with the law (as you should), you must register with your commune of residence within 14 days of your arrival. When you do so, you will no longer be able to remain under the radar, especially in a well-organised country like Switzerland.

Once you register, you will receive a letter from your canton saying that you must take out a Swiss health insurance policy within 90 days, and send them proof that you have done so.

Not complying with this rule will affect you in many ways, none of them good.

Firstly, the canton will keep sending you several letters reminding you of your obligation to buy insurance. If you still abstain from doing so, authorities will purchase a policy on your behalf and send you a bill.

If you still refuse to pay it, then legal proceedings will be filed against you. You will be ‘harassed’ by the debt enforcement office in your municipality and eventually taken to court.

There are other consequences as well.

Without proof of (Swiss) health insurance you will not be able to get a job or rent an apartment, and showing your EHIC instead will get you nowhere.

And, you will not be entitled to medical help without a proper insurance coverage, and will be treated only in case of emergencies.

All this to say that any attempts to beat the system will turn against you.

READ ALSO: What happens if I don’t buy Swiss health insurance?

However, there are some situations (aside from being a tourist) when you can be legally exempted from purchasing a Swiss health policy.

For instance, you are not required to take out insurance if:

  • You are retired and get a pension exclusively in an EU or EFTA state
  • You are a cross-border worker with healthcare policy in a EU or EFTA state
  • You are a foreign student and have comparable insurance from your country
  • You work for international organisations or are a diplomat