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Credit card or Debit card

Which card is best to use in Switzerland. I have a Chase Bank ATM card and credit card. If I use the credit card I understand that that's considered a cash advance and Chase charges me a foreign transaction fee of 3% and 5% of the total withdrawal.
I believe the ATM card has the foreign transaction fee of 3%.

I'm confused about using credit card vs. ATM card.
What if we just use the ATM card one time and withdraw 400 Swiss Francs? Please advise! Thank you!!!

Posted by
8889 posts

Horses for courses.

  • Use the Debit card to get cash out of an ATM, just like you do at home.
  • Use the credit card when paying for purchases (hotel, restaurant). Do not use a credit card to get money out of an ATM, that does count as a cash advance and you are charged interest.

You are liable to get a foreign transaction fee for either card. How much depends on your bank.

Using the ATM card to withdraw CHF 400 is OK, as long as it doesn't exceed your card's daily withdrawal limit. You are likely to get CHF 100 or CHF 200 notes, but those are normal denominations in Switzerland and you will have no trouble paying with them. Some machines even dispense CHF 1000 notes!

Standard Warnings:
1) Do not assume a credit card is accepted, especially for small transactions. If in doubt, ask. Anything other than Visa and Mastercard has limited acceptance.
2) Make sure you tell your bank in advance you are going to use these cards in Switzerland, Otherwise they may block the transaction as suspicious. Also applies to making purchases on Swiss websites (tickets etc.)
3) If you get the offer to "pay in your currency", either withdrawing at an ATM or when paying by credit card, always, always say no. Only accept the transaction if the amount shown is exactly what the bill/amount withdrawn is in local currency. It is always cheaper to let your card company do the conversion.

Posted by
23425 posts

Do you understand the difference between a credit card and a debit card? A debit card and sometimes referred to as an ATM card should only be used to get local currency from a bank owned ATM. Your card issuer (probably your bank) solely determines the fees charged when using your debit or credit card. Call them and ask them. When using a debit card you are taking your money from your checking account. Some banks will charge as much as 3% of total and perhaps a usage fee of $5 and some do not or only charge 1%. IF you use your credit card to obtain cash from an ATM that is consider a loan from the credit card company and all kinds of fees will attach to that withdraw. Unless it is an extreme emergency you should never get cash with a credit card. And it is good idea to carry two debit cards attached to two different account just in case something goes wrong with one of the debit cards.

Posted by
2769 posts

Neither card!

For foreign cash withdrawals, CapOne, or Schwab, or some credit union. With those banks you will pay no ATM fees, no foreign transaction fee, and the conversion rate will be under 1/2 of 1%.

For a credit card, get a card that charges no foreign transaction fee. For example, CapOne Quicksilver or Amazon VISA via Chase. Not only are transactions converted at the exact interbank rate, but the Quicksilver has 1.5% cashback and the Amazon has 2% cashback on restaurants, 1% on anything else. Unless a place is giving you a cash discount, using these cards is less expensive than cash.

And of course never - abroad, US, anywhere - use your credit card to get a cash advance as among other fees this also incurs an interest rate of 20+ % starting the day you take the cash.

Posted by
5687 posts

Anyone in the US with a Costco Citi Visa should know that Citi recently got rid of the foreign transaction fee, so now it's 0%. This is the card I plan to use (NOT FOR GETTING MONEY FROM AN ATM, for purchases!!!) on my next trip (2% cash back for travel-related charges too).

Posted by
1838 posts

I’ll just add that it’s best to check the details of the particular card you have or want to get. For instance not all Chase credit cards will have foreign transaction fees and similarly there are probably some Citi issued cards that do charge such fees.

Posted by
3521 posts

Don't assume anything. Check with your card issuing banks and get exactly what they charge for foreign transactions. You don't want any surprises.

With the numbers you provided, why would you even think about using the credit card to get cash? In addition to paying 5% more for the transaction over what your ATM card will charge you from the stated numbers, you will also start paying interest on the withdrawal immediately. This can be up to 29%.

Use an ATM card to get money out of an ATM. Use a credit card to pay for larger purchases that you can. Use the cash to pay for smaller transactions or in places that don't take credit cards. But with the fee your credit card charges, I would get cash and use that to save the 5%.

Also, don't forget to tell your card issuers you where you will be and when you will be there for all the countries you may visit on your trip. If you don't there is a possibility your cards may be cutoff for suspected fraud.

Posted by
138 posts

The most important thing is to follow the advice in Rick's guidebooks and take two cards with you. One should always be in the hidden under-the-clothes wallet, in fact they should both be safely under your clothes except for when you actually use one at an ATM-type machine or at a bank. I was on a Rick Steves tour and my room mate had a card ruined in a scam ATM-type machine. The card still looked the same but would no longer be accepted in any machine or any bank, and four withdrawals were taken from her card in Thailand by the time she called her bank! She had brought a second card with her but had never had it activated, so she had to call her US bank at 11PM Rome time in order to have the second card activated. That was when she found out about the four withdrawals from the scammed card. The guide said, if I remember correctly, that some machines have a false front on them and can actually be corrupting any card which is put in them.