Payments & Savings

Travel money and the most suitable method of payment

The following question preoccupies all travellers particularly during the holiday season: What is the best means of payment at my holiday destination? Should I pre-order cash in foreign currency from the bank, take traveller’s cheques with me or draw money out of a cash machine at my destination? Should I use my Maestro card or credit card to do the shopping? There are many alternatives and it’s not always easy to maintain a perspective in the payment jungle. This article provides you with helpful information and tips concerning travel money so that you know which method of payment is the most suitable – and cost-effective – in which situation.

Travel money

Your suitcase is packed and you’re really looking forward to your holiday. Whether you’re embarking on a shopping trip, a city break, holidays on the beach or a backpacking trip, you’ve probably already been thinking about your holiday budget. Most of us are a bit more free-spending when we’re on holiday – after all, we want to have a good time. But in what form should we take travel money with us and spend it when on holiday? You’re undoubtedly aware of the recommendation always to take coins and notes away with you as well as plastic. But does this still apply today? As well as your travel destination, that depends above all also on your habits. However, there are some basic tips you should always follow in order to ensure a carefree holiday.

Method of payment when on holiday: It’s the mix that counts

A mixture of notes and several cards is still generally to be recommended today despite the introduction of contactless payments in more and more countries. It is also advisable in terms of security not to carry too much cash around with you as if this is stolen from you it is generally not covered by your insurance. You should therefore beware of pickpockets at all times and only carry as much cash as is necessary with you, not just at your destination but also during the journey.

Foreign currencies for exotic destinations

There are certain countries in which cash frequently still remains indispensable – particularly for smaller expenses such as taxi rides, an ice cream or a tip. Order travel money for your next trip abroad before you leave Switzerland from Baloise Bank SoBa either by telephone or at the counter. The Swiss Bankers dispatch service will deliver the foreign currency quickly and conveniently to your home within 24 hours by post. This will mean that you have the notes at hand as soon as you arrive at your destination and can choose the denomination yourself. Among more than 80 currencies available, yours is bound to be included. And the best thing is that Baloise Bank SoBa not only sells but also buys these currencies so that there’s no problem exchanging back any travel money that remains over.

Trend towards “no cash”

Particularly in Scandinavian countries it is not uncommon to encounter a “no cash” café or restaurant. Customers are already alerted at the entrance to the fact that no cash is accepted at this establishment. The Scandinavians are in fact way ahead of the Swiss when it comes to cashless payments. According to a study conducted in 2016 by the Royal Institute of Technology, 80% of all transactions are already cashless. It is anticipated that Sweden will have abolished cash by 2030 at the latest. You should therefore always have a card – or your smartphone for making contactless payments – at hand in such highly developed countries.

Where is it better to withdraw cash?

If you’re wondering whether you should withdraw cash in Switzerland or your destination country, this also depends on where you’re travelling to. It is less expensive for those travelling to European countries to withdraw the cash from their bank in Switzerland in order to avoid fees, some of which can be high. If you wish to withdraw cash outside Europe, your best option is to use your Maestro card. The transaction fees incurred on debit cards are lower than with credit cards. If you wish to save money, you are in all events recommended to avoid exchange bureaux at airports. These often offer expensive exchange rates and also charge commission. 

Plastic: which card to take on holiday

It is wise to take at least two cards on holiday with you in case your Maestro card is swallowed up for inexplicable reasons by a cash machine or one of your cards suddenly goes astray. As well as your debit card, it is recommendable also to take at least one credit card as travel money (e.g. Mastercard or Visa). The advantage of credit cards is that they are more flexible and can be used throughout the world. While the amount spent is not invoiced to you until the end of the month, it does incur interest. It is practically impossible these days to reserve a hire car or book a hotel room online without a credit card.

Should I pay by Maestro or credit card?

Which card you should use to pay abroad also depends on the amount of your purchase. It can generally be said that it is less expensive to settle smaller sums below CHF 150 by credit card. A fixed fee is incurred in most cases when paying by Maestro card, while with a credit card the fee depends on the amount of the purchase. This means that the higher the amount, the more it is worth paying by debit card. The recommended minimum amount of payments by Maestro card is around CHF 150.

However, whichever card you use, the retailer or terminal will ask you whether you wish to pay for your purchase in Swiss francs or the local currency. Always choose the local currency as this will ensure that the exchange rate is directly determined by your credit card provider. If you opt instead to purchase in Swiss francs, the exchange rate will be set by the retailer. This will generally prove more expensive for you as the customer. 

Checklist at a glance

  • Take a mixture of cash and cards with you
  • Order exotic currencies in advance from your bank
  • EU trip: Withdraw cash in Switzerland
  • Cash withdrawals outside the EU: Use debit card
  • Credit card: Select local currency
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