Switzerland Currency (Swiss Franc History + Facts)

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The Swiss franc (CHF) is the official currency of Switzerland and is widely recognized as one of the world’s most stable currencies. As a traveler, it’s important to understand the basics of Switzerland’s currency to make your trip more enjoyable and hassle-free.

Switzerland Franc

One Swiss franc is divided into 100 centimes or rappen, and you’ll find Swiss banknotes in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 1000. 

Understanding Switzerland’s currency is an important part of planning your trip. Whether you’re planning on hiking through the Swiss Alps or exploring charming cities, having a basic understanding of the Swiss franc will make your trip more enjoyable and stress-free.

Historical Journey of Switzerland Currency

The Swiss franc (CHF) is the official currency of Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The franc has a rich history that dates back to the 18th century after Swiss cantons did not follow the pace of depreciation that occurred in France and Germany. 

Until 1798, about 75 organizations minted coins in Switzerland, leading to 860 distinct types of currency in circulation of different denominations, weights, and monetary structures. Some of the currencies contained thalers from Bern, Basel, Zurich, and Geneva, among others.

In 1850, the Swiss Federal Constitution introduced the Swiss franc as the single national currency.

The franc was initially linked to the French franc, but in 1865, Switzerland joined the Latin Monetary Union, which linked the franc to the currencies of other European countries, including France, Italy, Belgium, and Greece.

The Swiss franc was pegged to the French franc at a rate of 1.2 francs to 1 French franc.

During World War I, the Swiss franc was the only major currency in Europe that remained stable. This stability was due to Switzerland’s neutrality during the war and its strong economy.

As a result, the franc became a safe haven currency, and many investors flocked to Switzerland to invest in Swiss franc-denominated assets.

In 1936, Switzerland abandoned the gold standard, which had linked the franc to gold at a fixed rate. This move allowed the franc to float freely against other currencies, which increased its value. 

However, during World War II, the franc came under pressure due to inflation and the devaluation of other currencies.

To combat this, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) introduced a new currency, the Swiss WIR franc, which was only used for domestic transactions. This helped stabilize the Swiss franc and protect its value.

Today, the Swiss franc is one of the most widely traded currencies in the world, and it is considered a safe haven currency due to Switzerland’s political stability, strong economy, and sound monetary policy. 

The franc is also used as a reserve currency by many central banks around the world. In Switzerland, the franc is the only legal tender, and it is widely used for both cash and electronic transactions.

History of Coins

Swiss coinage has a rich history that stretches back before the 1700s, initially influenced by the French livre tournois and South German gulden systems.

Before the Helvetic Republic era (1798-1803), Swiss cantonal currencies varied in value and were limited to small change, often overshadowed by more widely accepted foreign coins like French francs.

During the Helvetic Republic, Switzerland introduced billon, silver, and gold coins aligned with French currency values. 

The Swiss Confederation, established in 1850, brought a new series of coins in various denominations, ranging from 1 centime to 5 francs, made of bronze, billon, and silver. Gold vreneli coins, circulated until 1936, were a notable addition.

Despite minor changes in composition over the years, including shifts in silver content and the introduction of cupronickel and nickel, the basic design elements remained consistent.

The world wars had a minimal impact on Swiss coinage, with temporary brass and zinc coins issued. However, the late 1960s saw a significant change when the metal value of silver coins began to exceed their monetary value, leading to illegal melting practices.

This prompted the government to outlaw the melting of francs, a measure that remained largely ineffective until the collectible value of the coins surpassed their material value.

The 1 centime coin, produced until 2006, gradually fell out of use and was eventually demonetized in 2007, followed by the 2 centime coin in 1978.

Throughout the years, the design of Swiss coins has seen only minor updates, such as the addition of a star to represent the new canton of Jura in 1979. The 10 centime coin, virtually unchanged since 1879, is recognized as the oldest original currency still in circulation.

Swiss coins are notable for their language neutrality, catering to Switzerland’s multilingual population with designs that include only numerals, the abbreviation “Fr.” for franc, and Latin inscriptions.

Commemorative, silver, and gold coins, while not legal tender, have been issued alongside general-circulation coins and can theoretically be exchanged at face value at specific locations, though their collector or metal value often exceeds their face value.

This extensive history of Swiss coinage reflects the country’s adaptation to economic conditions while maintaining a strong sense of tradition and stability in its currency.

History of Bills

Since 1907, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) has been responsible for issuing Swiss banknotes, introducing various denominations over the years, including 50, 100, 500, and 1000 francs, and later adding 20 and 5 francs. 

In 1914, the Federal Treasury also issued multi-language notes, and in 1952, the SNB ceased 5-franc notes, later introducing 10-franc notes in 1955 and a 200-franc note in 1996 while discontinuing the 500-franc note.

During World War I, the Federal Treasury issued 5, 10, and 20 franc notes in French, German, and Italian versions, and the State Loan Bank issued 25-franc notes. 

In 1952, the 5-franc note was discontinued, but a 10-franc note was introduced in 1955, followed by a 200-franc note in 1996, while the 500-franc note was discontinued. The SNB has released nine series of banknotes, with the fourth and seventh reserved and never issued.

These notes were recalled in 2000 but could still be exchanged at the National Bank. Originally, the exchange period was set to end in 2020, but a proposal in 2017 removed the time limit on exchanges for the sixth and future recalled series.

The seventh series, printed in 1984 as a reserve series, was never used and ultimately destroyed after the decision to develop new security features. The eighth series, designed by Jörg Zintzmeyer and released in 1995, focused on the arts. This series was quadrilingual and tailored to reflect Switzerland’s linguistic diversity.

It introduced a vertical design and replaced the 500-franc note with a new, more practical, 200-franc note. The base colors of the notes were similar to previous ones, except for the 20-franc note, which changed from blue to red, and the 10-franc note, which changed from red to yellow. 

The eighth series was withdrawn in 2021 but remains indefinitely redeemable at the SNB.

In 2005, a competition for the design of the ninth series, themed “Switzerland open to the world,” selected Manuela Pfrunder’s designs. This series started circulation in 2016 with the release of the 50-franc note, followed by other denominations.

All notes in this series had the same height but varied in width according to their value. This series incorporated more visible and widely advertised security features compared to the secretive approach of previous series.

Inflation and Buying Power of The Swiss Franc

The Swiss franc (CHF) is one of the world’s most stable currencies, and its value has been rising steadily in recent years. The Swiss National Bank (SNB) has been fighting inflation by keeping interest rates low and intervening in the currency markets to prevent the franc from appreciating too much.

Switzerland has a low inflation rate, which means that the purchasing power of the Swiss franc is relatively high.

Inflation in Switzerland was 0.9% in 2021, which is lower than the average inflation rate in the eurozone. This means that your money can buy more goods and services in Switzerland than in other countries with higher inflation rates.

The Swiss franc is also known for its strong buying power. According to a comparison of USD and Swiss franc purchasing power, the same good (such as a Big Mac) costs less in Switzerland when converted to US dollars. This is because the current exchange rate of 1 USD implies that the Swiss franc has higher purchasing power.

Inflation can erode the value of a currency over time, but Switzerland’s low inflation rate has helped to maintain the value of the Swiss franc. The SNB’s efforts to keep the currency from appreciating too much have also helped to keep the cost of living in Switzerland relatively low compared to other countries with strong currencies.

Overall, the Swiss franc is a stable and valuable currency that offers strong buying power and low inflation rates. If you are planning to visit Switzerland or invest in Swiss currency, you can be confident that your money will hold its value and buy you more goods and services than in other countries.

Swiss Franc

The 9th (current) series of Swiss banknotes, issued since 2016, showcases Switzerland’s diverse characteristics through innovative designs and themes. Each denomination represents a unique aspect of Swiss culture and achievement.

All notes share the same height but vary in width according to their value. They are known for their advanced security features and quadrilingual design, displaying information in Switzerland’s four national languages.

This series not only reflects Switzerland’s cultural and scientific heritage but also its commitment to innovation in currency design.

10 francs

The 10-franc note features a yellow color scheme and symbolizes Switzerland’s organizational talent, illustrated by a pair of female hands conducting time. The front depicts clock faces and a globe showing the International Date Line, while the reverse includes rail tracks and the world’s longest railway tunnel, the Gotthard Base Tunnel.

20 francs

The 20-franc note is red and represents Switzerland’s creativity. It shows a hand holding a prism dispersing light and a background resembling a kaleidoscope. The reverse depicts light beaming a movie at the Locarno Film Festival and includes a butterfly and an iris.

50 francs

The 50-franc note is green and focuses on the wealth of experiences Switzerland offers. It displays a hand holding a dandelion with silky pappi carried by the wind, with a globe and wind flow arrows in the background. The reverse side features wind streaming around Swiss Alps peaks and a paraglider.

100 francs

The 100-franc note, blue in color, issued on 12 September 2019, celebrates Switzerland’s humanitarian tradition. It depicts hands holding water and a globe showing atmospheric pressure. The reverse side features water flowing alongside a Valais mountain and references the traditional Suonen water channels.

200 francs

The brown 200-franc note highlights Switzerland’s scientific expertise. It shows a hand indicating the three dimensions, with a globe displaying the Earth’s landmasses during the Late Cretaceous. The reverse side includes particle collision signals from CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.

1000 francs

The 1000-franc note, in purple, emphasizes Switzerland’s communicative flair. It portrays two hands shaking and a globe with IPA letters. The reverse side shows speeches in different languages in the Swiss parliament.

Currency Usage in Switzerland

In Switzerland, the Swiss franc (CHF) is the official currency, with each franc divided into 100 rappen. Rappen coins are less commonly used in daily transactions.

Cash remains popular for small purchases, but credit and debit cards, including Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Maestro, are widely accepted across the country. 

Contactless payments are increasingly popular, especially in larger cities and for public transport. Although Switzerland is not in the European Union and uses the CHF, Euros may be accepted in some tourist areas, but this is at the discretion of the merchant, and change is usually given in CHF. 

Visitors to Switzerland should bring some Swiss francs for smaller expenses and places where cards are not accepted. They can also consider using a travel card like the Wise Swiss Franc card to avoid exchange fees. 

It’s advisable to check if Euros are accepted before using them. Swiss banknotes are known for their high security and unique design, making them one of the most secure and forgery-proof currencies in the world.

Understanding the Swiss currency is essential for a smooth and hassle-free trip to Switzerland. Be sure to exchange your money at a reputable location and carry cash with you, as not all businesses may accept credit cards.

Is USD accepted in Switzerland?

While US dollars are widely accepted in some countries, they are not commonly accepted in Switzerland. It’s best to exchange your US dollars for Swiss francs at a bank or currency exchange office. You can also withdraw Swiss francs from ATMs, which are widely available throughout the country.

When making purchases in Switzerland, it’s important to note that many smaller shops, market stalls, and kiosks only allow payment in Swiss francs. While some larger businesses may accept credit cards, it’s always a good idea to have some cash on hand.

Overall, understanding the currency usage in Switzerland is an important part of planning your trip. By familiarizing yourself with the Swiss franc and its usage, you’ll be able to make the most of your time in this beautiful country.

Exchanging Currency in Switzerland

Exchanging currency in Switzerland is relatively simple, but knowing a few things beforehand can be beneficial. Banks generally offer the best rates, but might have limited hours and minimum exchange requirements. 

Currency exchange offices are found in major cities and tourist spots, though their rates might not be as good as banks. ATMs are a convenient option, dispensing Swiss francs (CHF) directly, but may involve fees. 

Airports and train stations also provide currency exchange services, but typically at less favorable rates due to high markups.

To get the best rates, compare them online or at various locations, and exchange only what you need to avoid large amounts. Watch out for additional fees or commissions. A travel card preloaded with CHF can be a good alternative, offering competitive rates and avoiding ATM fees.

Remember, Switzerland uses the Swiss franc, and while Euros may be accepted in some tourist areas, it’s not widespread. Carrying smaller denominations of CHF is useful for daily expenses.

Keep your exchange receipts as they might be required to convert leftover francs back to your home currency after your trip.

Where can I exchange Switzerland currency?

The easiest way to exchange currency in Switzerland is to use ATMs or cash machines. You can find ATMs all over Switzerland, and they usually offer the best exchange rates. Make sure to check with your bank before you leave to see if they have any partnerships with banks in Switzerland to avoid extra fees.

Another option is to exchange currency at a bank or currency exchange office. Banks usually offer competitive rates, but they may have limited hours and charge higher fees.

Currency exchange offices can be found in tourist areas and airports, but they often have higher fees and less favorable exchange rates.

What to know before exchanging currency in Switzerland

It’s important to note that Switzerland is not part of the European Union, and therefore, the euro is not widely accepted. However, some businesses may accept euros, but the exchange rate may not be favorable. It’s best to use Swiss francs when making purchases in Switzerland.

Before exchanging your currency, make sure to check the current exchange rate. You can find this information online or by using a currency exchange app. Keep in mind that exchange rates can fluctuate throughout the day, so it’s best to check right before exchanging your money.

Also, be aware of any fees or commissions that may be charged for exchanging currency. Some banks and exchange offices may charge a flat fee or a percentage of the transaction amount. Make sure to ask about these fees before exchanging your money.

Finally, make sure to only exchange money at reputable banks or exchange offices. Avoid exchanging money on the street or with individuals, as this can be risky and may result in counterfeit money.

By following these tips, you can ensure that you get the best exchange rate and avoid unnecessary fees when exchanging currency in Switzerland.

Choosing Between USD and Switzerland Currency

When traveling to Switzerland, you will need to decide whether to use USD or Switzerland currency. Here are some factors to consider:

Exchange Rate

The exchange rate between USD and Switzerland currency fluctuates constantly. It is important to keep an eye on the exchange rate to ensure you are getting the best value for your money. You can check the current exchange rate on websites like Xe or Forbes.


Switzerland is a cash-based society, and many businesses do not accept credit cards. It is recommended to carry some cash with you at all times. 

If you are using USD, you will need to exchange your currency at a bank or exchange office, which may not be convenient or cost-effective. On the other hand, if you use Switzerland francs, you can easily withdraw cash from ATMs or use your credit card at most businesses. 

The Swiss franc is widely accepted throughout the country, and you’ll rarely have trouble finding an ATM to withdraw cash. However, keep in mind that Switzerland is known for its high cost of living, and you may find that prices are more expensive than what you’re used to. 

It’s always a good idea to have some cash on hand, especially if you plan on visiting smaller towns or villages where credit cards may not be accepted.


When exchanging currency, you may be charged fees or commission by the bank or exchange office. These fees can add up quickly and reduce the value of your money.

Additionally, your bank may charge you foreign transaction fees when using your credit card in Switzerland. To avoid these fees, consider using a credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees or withdrawing cash from ATMs that do not charge withdrawal fees.


When deciding between using USD and the Swiss currency in Switzerland, consider the following tips: It’s advisable to exchange your currency to Swiss francs before arriving to avoid high fees at airport exchange counters. 

If you plan to use a credit card, inform your bank beforehand to prevent it from being declined. Opt for a credit card that provides travel rewards or cashback to enhance your savings. 

When withdrawing cash from ATMs, choose those affiliated with reputable banks to avoid higher fees that standalone ATMs might charge. Lastly, always carry some cash, as some businesses might not accept credit cards.

By considering the exchange rate, convenience, fees, and tips, you can make an informed decision about whether to use USD or Switzerland currency during your travels.

Cost of Living in Switzerland

If you are planning to move to Switzerland, it is essential to understand the cost of living in the country. Switzerland is known to be one of the most expensive countries in the world. The cost of living in Switzerland is influenced by various factors, including the cost of housing, transportation, food, and healthcare.

Housing in Switzerland is expensive. The cost of housing varies depending on the location, size, and type of property. Generally, the cost of renting an apartment in the city center is higher than in the suburbs.

According to Expatistan, a single person’s estimated monthly cost of housing in Switzerland is CHF 1,400 (~$1590 USD), while a family of four’s estimated monthly cost of housing is CHF 3,600 (~$4090 USD).

The transportation system in Switzerland is efficient and reliable. However, it is expensive. The cost of transportation varies depending on the mode of transport and the distance traveled. According to Wise, the cost of a monthly pass for public transport in Zurich is CHF 78, while the cost of a liter of gasoline is CHF 1.70.

Switzerland is known for its high-quality food, but it comes at a cost. The cost of food in Switzerland is relatively high compared to other countries. According to Expatistan, a single person’s estimated monthly cost of food is CHF 600 (~$680 USD), while a family of four estimated monthly cost of food is CHF 1,200 (~$1360).

Switzerland has one of the best healthcare systems in the world, but it is expensive. The cost of healthcare varies depending on the type of treatment and the hospital. According to Expatica, the cost of a doctor’s visit in Switzerland is around CHF 150 (~$170 USD), while the cost of a day in the hospital is around CHF 1,000 (~$1136).

In conclusion, Switzerland is an expensive country to live in. The cost of living in Switzerland is influenced by various factors, including the cost of housing, transportation, food, and healthcare. It is essential to factor in these costs when planning to move to Switzerland.

Don’t Get Scammed Tips

When traveling to Switzerland, it’s important to be aware of potential scams and rip-offs. Here are some tips to avoid getting scammed when it comes to currency:

1. Avoid Currency Exchange Desks at Airports and Hotels

Currency exchange desks at airports and hotels often markup the exchange rates they use, and may charge hidden fees. Avoid this expensive option whenever you can. Instead, consider using a Wise debit card to spend in Switzerland without rip-off fees. You’ll get the real exchange rate, with no hidden fees.

2. Be Wary of ATMs That Charge High Fees

Some ATMs in Switzerland may charge high fees for withdrawals, especially if they are not affiliated with your bank. Before you travel, check with your bank to see if they have any partnerships with banks in Switzerland that offer fee-free withdrawals. Additionally, be sure to read the fine print before using an ATM to avoid any surprises.

3. Don’t Fall for Counterfeit Bills

Switzerland is known for having some of the most secure currency in the world, but that doesn’t mean counterfeit bills don’t exist. To avoid getting stuck with a fake bill, make sure to inspect your cash carefully before accepting it. Look for the watermark, security thread, and hologram to ensure that the bill is genuine.

4. Watch Out for Pickpockets

Pickpocketing can be a problem in tourist areas, so it’s important to keep an eye on your belongings. Don’t carry large amounts of cash with you, and consider using a money belt or a secure wallet to keep your valuables safe. Additionally, be aware of your surroundings and avoid crowded areas where pickpockets may be lurking.

By following these tips, you can help protect yourself from scams and rip-offs when it comes to currency in Switzerland.

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