I expect that Switzerland is like other countries in Europe where you buy train tickets from kiosks. Is that the only way to buy or do the major stations (Zurich, Basel, Luzern, etc.) also have a counter where you can purchase them? Do the kiosks accept US chip and sign cards?
All of the Major cities and many minor ones as well, have both the machines and counters to buy tickets. All of the counters that I went to had English speaking agents. They also offered information of connecting trains with the track information for me.
I had no problems with my credit card at the Kiosks.
I also had purchased the multi day pass which I activated at the train station in the Zurich Airport at the counter. I used it for travel and all of my museum entries. Just a thought.
All major stations (and some medium sized ones) have manned ticket counters. In the big cities and tourist areas they speak English, I wouldn't guarantee that in smaller towns. All stations have machines selling tickets. Using the machines is usually quicker than waiting for the manned ticket counter, provided you know what ticket you want. At Basel they have 6 ticket counters by the main entrance, and about 10 ticket machines at various places in the station.
The machines (and the counters) take Swiss Franks, Euros and credit and debit cards. Whenever I use a card in the machines I always put in my PIN, so I don't know what happens if you don't have a PIN, I guess the card would not work. But there is always the standby of paying by cash.
The machines allow you a choice of language, including English.
Everything about using Swiss rail probably could not be simpler, including services in the train stations. If you have multiple trips planned, you may prefer the hop-on convenience of a Swiss Travel Pass which covers most trains, buses, city trams, lake boats, and museums and gives discounts on higher mountain rides. You do usually stop to have it activated at a train station before using it the first time.
Every station that I've seen has a Kiosk, but I've found that even smaller stations like Lauterbrunnen or Spiez have a staffed ticket window (or at least they did the last time I was there).
You could also simply buy them on your mobile and avoid the chip and pen... The only rule is that the ticket must be bought before the train leaves the station. I saw a conductor do this recently with an American tourist who did not have a chip & pin! The phone app only requires card number and expiry date.
Does the phone app require that the user have a local (Swiss) phone number, or is the ticket delivered by internet (which may require cellular data)?
Does the phone app require that the user have a local (Swiss) phone
number, or is the ticket delivered by internet (which may require
The tickets are downloaded to the app via WIFI, they are then displayed as a 3D barcode on the app and the conductor can scan it with his ticket machine. In most of the larger stations there is also a free SBB hotspot that allows you to connect to their website to buy the tickets.
Here is their link.