Currency in Switzerland: Your Complete Guide - 2023
Switzerland’s official currency is the Swiss franc.
Read on to learn all about getting and using Swiss francs ready for your trip abroad. We’ll also throw in some top tips to help you get the best possible deal, whether you change your currency here or on arrival.
Before you head to Switzerland, learn about:
Using a card in Switzerland
Can you use GBP in Switzerland?
How to buy Swiss francs before your trip
How to buy currency when you get to Switzerland
What franc notes and coins look like
What currency is it used in Switzerland?
Switzerland’s official currency is called the franc.
The international currency symbol for francs is CHF, and it’s also shortened to Fr.
It’s helpful to know that, because Switzerland has several official languages, you may find your money is called different things depending on where you are. If you’re in a German speaking area, you’ll use franken. Somewhere that uses French, you’re spending the franc. Heading somewhere in Switzerland that speaks Italian? That’s be franco and in Romansh - franc.
Can you use GBP in Switzerland?
No. You can’t use British pound coins or notes in Switzerland.
Just as you couldn’t spend CHF in the UK, in Switzerland prices are shown in francs, and you’ll need to pay in CHF, wherever you are. You can do this by either exchanging pounds to pay in cash, or using a card, which will convert pounds to francs automatically at the point of payment
More on how to manage your money in Switzerland - including how you can convert currency for your holiday cheaply and conveniently - coming right up
Using a card in Switzerland
One of your most convenient options is to use a card in Switzerland. Most major card networks are widely accepted to pay and to make cash withdrawals at ATMs. To make your money go further when you’re away from home it’s a smart idea to get a travel money card, which offers a convenient and cheap way to spend in francs.
Travel money cards are available for online order from specialist providers. All you need to do is to open an account and order your card - which can be done with just your phone. Your card will be sent to your home address, and you can then add money to your account in GBP, to convert to CHF in advance or at the point of payment using the card’s automatic conversion features. The main benefit of travel money cards is that you’ll usually find you can get lower fees and better exchange rates compared to using a bank card when you’re abroad.
Here are a couple of popular travel debit cards you could take to Switzerland, to give an idea of their features:
Wise travel debit card
Hold and exchange 40+ currencies including GBP and CHF - use your Wise card in Switzerland and 150+ other countries
Exchange money with the mid-market rate and low fees from 0.43%, whenever you spend with your card
Some fee free ATM withdrawals every month, with low fees after limits exhausted
No ongoing fees and no minimum balance requirements
Revolut travel debit card
Choose from different account tiers depending on your needs and preferences
Hold and exchange 25+ currencies in your Revolut account, including CHF
Some fee free ATM withdrawals and currency conversion - limits depend on your account tier
Top tier accounts come with many other features and benefits including insurance and cash back opportunities
Is it cheaper to convert currency in the UK or Switzerland?
Unfortunately, there’s no single best way to exchange your travel money - it’ll all depend on the rates and fees you can find either near you, online or in your specific destination in Switzerland. You’ll need to do some research before you choose what to do about your currency conversion, to make sure you find the best deal - this guide will help, and you can also find lots of live rate information online, from individual providers or with Exiap.
Using a travel money card to spend in CHF, and make ATM withdrawals when you need cash can offer a good balance of convenience and cost. Travel cards from services like Wise or Revolut, also come with a good exchange rate and cheap or free withdrawals, plus extras like ways to send and receive dozens of currencies.
It’s always worth avoiding currency exchange desks at places like airports and hotels. High fees and poor rates mean you’ll pay a big premium for the convenience of picking up your CHF just before your flight. Instead, use a city centre exchange to convert cash on arrival, for a better deal overall.
Buying Swiss francs before your trip
Let’s walk through some key options if you’re planning on getting your CHF before you travel.
Using a travel card
Order a travel money card from a service like Wise or Revolut, which can be delivered to your home before you leave the UK.
Add money to your card in pounds and then either convert to francs within your account, or just let the card do an automatic conversion when you make a purchase.
The main benefits of using a travel money card are in safety and cost. As your card isn’t linked to your normal current account it’s secure, and the costs are usually lower than using your bank card, as there will be no foreign transaction fee and low, transparent charges.
Ordering your travel money online is fast and convenient, although depending on the service you use and the day of the week you order on, you might have to wait a day or two to collect your cash.
Banks like Barclays and Lloyds, the Post Office, and services like Travelex may offer a better GBP-CHF rate for online orders. Plus you could get your money delivered conveniently to your home or office, or collect it at a local branch.
Home or Office Delivery
Here’s a quick look at the collection and delivery options for one popular UK service - Travelex:
Order for home or office delivery - or get your money in a store instead
Home delivery can be next day if you order Monday - Thursday before 3pm
Delivery is free if you exchange more than 600 GBP; fees apply otherwise
You’ll need to be home to collect your cash, and may be asked for ID
Exchange rates are likely to include a markup - which is a fee
You’ll usually be able to walk into money changers on the High Street with GBP cash in your hand, and get your travel money quickly. Not all services will have all currencies on hand though - so you’ll want to double check the money changer you’ll use has CHF in stock.
Bear in mind as well, that there’s likely to be a markup added to the exchange rate used to convert your pounds to Swiss francs.
It’s unusual to be able to walk into UK banks and get instant cash currency exchange, but some do let you order CHF online for branch collection. If you’re close to a branch of Barclays or Lloyds this may be a good place to start, but double check availability of CHF, and don’t forget to check the rates before you click confirm.
If you’ve got as far as the airport with no CHF, you may be considering using airport currency exchange services. Unfortunately, this is usually a very expensive option as there’s little competition nearby, which can lead to bad rates and high overall costs.
Taking CHF out of an airport ATM on arrival may well be cheaper than defaulting to the service in the airport you depart from. With ATMs you’ll usually get a reasonable exchange rate - just check the ATM charge and foreign transaction fee for your withdrawal, as some banks can add in costs here.
How to exchange currency in Switzerland
It’s easy to exchange pounds for francs in Switzerland if you find you need to. Your options include currency exchange services in major Swiss cities or popular tourist areas, banks and even exchange services in rail stations.
It’s helpful to know that where a Swiss bank offers travel money services you won’t usually need to hold an account with them to buy your cash. However, bear in mind that banks may not offer the very best available rate and lowest fees, making it important to shop around.
More about the currency used in Switzerland
Get set up for your trip with a quick lesson on the currency used in Switzerland.
Denominations of Swiss francs
Let’s take a closer look at the Swiss francs notes and coins, so you’ll be familiar with CHF money when you arrive.
Swiss francs notes are available in the following values:
Each franc is split into 100 subunits. As with francs, these have different names (and different short forms) depending on where in the country you happen to be. Here’s what you’ll see based on language:
In German speaking areas: rappen (Rp)
In French speaking areas: centime (c)
In Italian speaking areas: centesimo (ct)
In Romansh speaking areas: rap (rp)
No matter where you happen to be, the CHF coins you’ll see are in the following values:
Travel money tips for Switzerland
Switzerland is expensive. Let’s look at some tips to do more with your money when you’re travelling there:
Get a travel money card before you travel - services like Wise or Revolut have travel money cards you can top up in GBP, to spend in CHF with the mid-market rate and low fees in Switzerland
Keep several payment methods handy - it’s smart to have options, such as a travel money card, your UK debit card, and some cash, as a plan B for times when your preferred payment method isn’t accepted
Don’t buy your CHF at the airport - you’ll usually find high fees and bad rates, which makes getting cash from an ATM in Switzerland a more attractive option
When you’re in Switzerland, pay in CHF- you may be asked if you’d rather pay in GBP when using your card. In this case it’s best to say no. When you pay in pounds the merchant chooses the exchange rate, which usually means higher overall costs
Double check your card fees - some cards have ATM fees each time you withdraw. If that’s the case it’s cheaper to take out fewer, larger amounts, as long as you have a safe way to store and carry your cash
Don’t use a credit card at the ATM - cash advance fees, foreign transaction fees, and interest add up quickly making this an expensive option
Don’t carry too much cash - tourists are frequently victims of opportunist theft
How much does a trip to Switzerland cost?
Let’s take a quick look at some key costs you may encounter when you visit Switzerland from the UK. Each trip is different so you’ll need to research and draw up your own budget as well, but this gives a flavour.
Visa cost: No visa usually required for trips for up to 90 days
Transport in Switzerland: Local transport tickets are around 3.6 CHF each way
Taxi: Around 6.5 CHF to start, then just over 6 CHF per mile
Car hire: Cheapest compact cars are likely to start from 40 CHF per day (around 35 GBP)
Room at a hotel: Very varied - you may struggle to find rooms for much less than 100 CHF or so per night (in the region of 90 GBP)
Dinner at a mid- range restaurant: 110 CHF for 2 people (around 100 GBP)
Where comparisons are given to GBP, the exchange rate is correct at time of writing, 14th August 2023 - rates and costs change all the time, so do double check before you plan your trip.
Track GBP-CHF exchange rate
Keep an eye on the mid-market rate for Swiss francs, to compare the rates offered by different currency exchange services and pick the one that offers the best value for you.
Use the Exiap rate tracker to view and track the live mid-market exchange rate for GBP - CHF, so you know you won’t get ripped off by bad rates when you switch your pounds to francs.