A fascinating country in Central Europe, Switzerland, officially known as the Swiss Confederation, is divided up into 26 cantons and has borders with Italy, Germany, France, Austria, and Lichtenstein. Home of the Alps, Switzerland is a popular place for skiing holidays and is also renowned for its cuisine and its world-famous watches.
An interesting aspect of Switzerland is how the language spoken by Swiss people can change from one region to the next. Most people in Switzerland speak German, but there are also Italian, French, and Romansh-speaking regions in the country. If you’re heading to Switzerland, here’s all you need to know about Swiss currency.
Official Currency in Switzerland
The official currency being used in Switzerland today is the Swiss franc. Switzerland is not part of the European Union, so does not use the euro. The Swiss franc is issued by the Swissmint and the Swiss National Bank. The symbol for the Swiss franc is Fr. or SFr. and its ISO code is CHF.
Interestingly, due to the many languages spoken in Switzerland, the Swiss franc is known under different names around the country. French-speaking Swiss people will refer to francs, Italian-speakers refer to franchi, Romansh-speakers say francs, and German-speakers say Franken. A single franc is made up of 100 centimes, known as Rappen in German, rap in Romansh, and centesimo in Italian.
Coins and Notes in Switzerland
The Swiss franc, like many currencies all over the world, features both coins and notes. You can find the following coins being used in Switzerland:
- 5 c
- 10 c
- 20 c
- 50 c (or half a franc)
- 1 franc
- 2 francs
- 5 francs
All of the Swiss franc coins are circular in shape, but their size varies. Those who are simply visiting Switzerland for the first time can sometimes struggle to differentiate between the coins, as many of them look quite similar at first glance.
They are, however, all clearly labeled with their values on one side. The other side usually features either an effigy of Libertas or an image of Helvetia, with a picture of a herdsman appearing exclusively on the 5 francs coin.
The 5 centimes coin is made from aluminum bronze, while all the other coins are made of cupronickel. The coins all get larger as their value increases, except the 50 centimes coin, which is actually smaller than a 10 centimes coin but just a bit larger than the 5 centimes coin.
You’ll also see these notes being used in Switzerland:
- 10 francs
- 20 francs
- 50 francs
- 100 francs
- 200 francs
- 1000 francs
Unlike the Swiss franc coins, the notes are very easy to differentiate. They all feature bold colors and are made in different sizes. The 10 francs note is yellow, the 20 francs note is red, the 50 francs note is green, the 100 francs note is blue, the 200 francs note is brown, and finally, the 1000 francs note is purple. The notes feature images of famous people from Switzerland's history like Arthur Honegger and Sophie Taeber-Arp. The notes all feature information written in all four of the different languages used in Switzerland too.
Using Credit Cards in Switzerland
Credit and debit cards are used very commonly all over Switzerland. You'll find that all of the big cards, including American Express, Mastercard, and Visa, are widely accepted in this European nation. You’ll also see that ATMs are present all over Switzerland’s big cities and even in smaller towns and villages too.
A lot of Swiss people use their cards for most payments and transactions, so many shops and restaurants usually take card. Some places, however, still only accept cash or may refuse to accept card payments unless you’re spending a minimum amount. This is why it’s always a good idea to have some Swiss francs coins and notes on your person.
Using US Dollars or Other Currencies in Switzerland
You probably won’t find any places that accept US dollars in Switzerland, but you might find plenty of shops and restaurants, especially in big city locations like Basel, that take euros. Switzerland is surrounded by countries using the euro like France, Italy, and Germany, and gets a lot of visitors from eurozone nations, so you’ll often see prices in stores listed in both Swiss francs and in euros. These places usually accept euros as payment too, but will give you change in francs.
Tips for Currency in Switzerland
To make the most of your time in Switzerland and not encounter any issues when paying for goods or services, be sure to remember the following top tips:
- Switzerland has a reputation for being quite an expensive place. You'll find that the costs of simple things like coffee and public transport can be quite high here, especially in big cities like Zurich and Geneva, so be prepared to pay more than you would elsewhere.
- If you need to get money converted, you can do so at railway stations, hotels, banks, and other exchange locations. The rates can vary quite a lot from one location to another, so it's wise to shop around.
- Often, ATMs provide the strongest exchange rates, so your best option might be to simply visit an ATM and withdraw some money that way.
- Your bank might charge you a small fee each time you make use of an ATM, so try and limit the number of times you use these machines.
- If you spend over 300 francs in a shop, you can ask for a tax-free form and get the VAT refunded on your purchase, so this is a great way to save money when buying gifts for your friends or family.
- Tipping isn’t part of Swiss culture. Some restaurants will automatically add tips onto your bill, so you don’t usually need to hand over any extra cash, but workers will always be happy to get a bonus tip.
- When entering shops in Switzerland, look out for little signs or notices to tell you if cards are accepted or if there are any special rules for card payments.