What is The Best Credit card in Switzerland for 2021?

Mr. The Poor Swiss | Updated: | Save, Switzerland
What is The Best Credit card in Switzerland for 2020?

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A credit card is a powerful personal finance tool. But it is only a good tool if used correctly. And unfortunately, many people are not using credit cards correctly.

The first important thing is to choose a card with no annual fee. Contrary to what credit card companies want you to believe, it is often better to get a credit card with no fee and smaller cashback than an expensive card with a lot of cashback. The important thing is to do your research and compare it with your actual credit card spending.

But there are many options, making it difficult to find the best credit card in Switzerland. So, this article will explore the different credit card options that are available in Switzerland.

I am going to assume that you carry no credit card debt and always pay your balance in full. Otherwise, it is an entirely different issue!

What do I use my credit card for?

To choose the best credit card for your, you need to know how you are using it. For this, we are going to use my case as an example. So, what do I purchase with my credit card?

I use my credit cards for all my shopping in Switzerland. As long as the shop accepts credit cards, I tend to use one. Except for tiny amounts when I have the cash on me. Why? The reason is simple, I am trying to maximize my cashback bonus.

I also use them for all my online shopping. It means online shops and travels mainly. If there is no fee for using a credit card, I use it. Again this is to get some money back. The only case I am a bit more careful is when I cannot pay in CHF. In these cases, you pay a penalty fee for foreign currency transactions. We will discuss this in detail later in the article.

Never use your credit card to withdraw money! They all have terrible fees for withdrawal. Your debit card is here to withdraw money. And there is no bonus on the money you withdraw. Therefore, there are only disadvantages.

I have checked my credit card statements for the last 12 months and summed my expenses. I have spent around 15’000 CHF on my credit card. Of those, I spent around 5000 CHF in foreign currencies. I will use this as the base to compare different credit cards.

Keep in mind that I am not a big spender. We do not spend that much overall, and only a small portion of our expenses can be paid with credit cards.

And since we talk about credit cards, it is probably important to mention: Never carry a credit card debt! You will pay huge interest rates on any credit card debt. Always pay your balance in full at the end of the month. There is no such thing as a credit score in Switzerland. Do not try to optimize your credit.

PostFinance MasterCard as an example

Let’s analyze the credit card I had before I realized it was bad. We will take this card as an example (not a great one!).

I had a MasterCard Standard card from PostFinance. I was paying 50 CHF per year for it. The cashback bonus was 0.3%. That means that for every 1000 CHF I spend, I get 3 CHF back. And I have to pay 1.2% for transactions in foreign currencies (USD and EUR for me). I was with PostFinance for a long time. And I used the credit card they offered me without really comparing. This is a mistake that many people are making.

Let’s see how much was costing me for one year:

  • Bonus: 15’000 x 0.3% = +45 CHF
  • Annual fees: 50 CHF = -50 CHF
  • Foreign fees: 5’000 x 1.2% = -60 CHF
  • Total: 45 – 50 – 60 = -65 CHF

I know I should compute the bonus before the transaction fees. But it makes a 50 cents difference. So it is better to keep it simple ;)

So each year, my credit card was costing me 65 CHF. I would have been better off using a free card with no cashback. All my cashback money was paying my fees. Let’s see if we can do better with other credit cards.

To break even with this card, you will need to spend 16’666 CHF per year and not use it for foreign fees.

Other PostFinance credit cards

PostFinance offers other cards as well. All their Visa offers are the same as their MasterCard offers, so let’s focus on the MasterCard offers:

  • MasterCard Gold: For 90 CHF a year and with 0.5% cashback. This would cost me 75 CHF  a year.
  • MasterCard Platinum: For 250 CHF a year and with 0.5% cashback. This would cost 235 CHF a year.

Unfortunately, I cannot have better fees by changing for another offer from PostFinance. So, we need to look at other banks and their credit card offers.

Other bank credit cards

Since I already had the best fit at PostFinance, let’s see how it compares with other banks. I am only going to consider real cashback. This is cash you are sure you can spend. Most of the other bonus systems are too dependent on your shopping style.

Let’s see the cheapest cards we can find:

  • UBS Basic MasterCard: No fees (for 24 transactions per year), no bonus, and 2% foreign fees: cost 100 CHF per year
  • UBS MasterCard Standard: 100 CHF per year, no bonus, and 1.75% foreign fees: cost 187.50 CHF per year
  • Credit Suisse MasterCard Standard: No fees (for more than 10000 CHF per year), no bonus, and 2.5% foreign fees: cost 125 CHF per year
  • Viseca MasterCard Silver: 100 CHF per year, no bonus, 1.75% fees: cost 187.50 CHF per year
  • Valiant MasterCard Silver: 100 CHF per year, no bonus, 1.75% fees: cost 187.50 CHF per year

All these cards are more expensive than the PostFinance card! And these are only the cheapest ones. There are some much more expensive cards out there. For instance, the UBS MasterCard Platinum would cost me 587.50 CHF per year.

Again, no better choice for me here. If you do not want to do the math yourself, you can also use the comparator from moneyland. But I believe it is almost always better to do the research yourself. You will avoid finding biased data.

Now that we have considered banks, we can look at alternatives. And we will see that the best credit cards is not with banks.

Best credit card – Migros Cumulus

Best MasterCard in Switzerland
Cumulus Mastercard
Free

The Cumulus MasterCard is a free credit card with 0.3% cashback. This is currently the best Swiss credit card.

Migros and Coop are the biggest retailers in Switzerland. Together, they own around 70% of the retail market in Switzerland. And, unsurprisingly, they offer a very similar points system. Migros offers Cumulus points while Coop offerSuperpoints.  For both, 100 points are worth 1 CHF.

Migros will give you cash coupons for the values of your points as soon as they reach 500 points. You can use these as cash without limitations in all the shops operated by Migros. For Coop, it is a bit less practical since you need to use the points for some of the services.  But, sometimes you can have a bit more value for your points.

Because I prefer Migros and their cashback system is more practical, I will focus on them. Their cards have the same properties. So the results will be the same regardless of the retailer. If you prefer Coop, feel free to get their credit cards.

Let’s see how much a Migros Cumulus MasterCard will cost me for one year:

  • Bonus: 15’000 x 1/3% = 50 CHF
  • Annual fees: 0 CHF = -0 CHF
  • Foreign fees: 5’000 x 1.5% = -75 CHF
  • Total: 50 – 0 – 75 = -25 CHF

My card would only cost 25 CHF a year. Compared to the 65 CHF I pay now, this is 40 CHF saved each year! This is not a lot, but I’d rather keep the money for myself!

Highest cashback – Swisscard American Express

High Cashback
Swisscard Cashback

Swisscard Cashback offers the free credit card with the highest cashback!


Use the WC40XKEXBcode to receive 40CHF for free!

If you want more cash back, you have another option: The Swisscard American Express Mastercard. This card is also entirely free and will offer you a 1% cashback. And they even have a 5% cashback for the first three months.

For a free card, this is definitely the highest cashback you can get in Switzerland. Even non-free cards do not have higher cashback. And this cashback will be counted towards your bills at the end of the year.

But there is a catch! In Switzerland, American Express is not as well supported as MasterCard and Visa. However, I found out that you can still use it in some major places:

  • All gas stations
  • Aligro, Migros and Coop shops
  • Most large shops but not Aldi and Lidl
  • You can use it on few online shopping websites

If you want to optimize your credit card usage to the maximum, the Swisscard Amex is the best credit card for cashback! But this would mean having two credit cards and not one.

For more information, I have an entire article about the Swisscard cards.

Neon for Foreign Currencies

Great Swiss Digital Bank
Neon
Free

Neon is the best digital bank in Switzerland. And it is free!

Use the F9YMGT code to receive 10CHF for free!

When you travel, you will have to pay in foreign currencies with your credit card. With most credit cards, this is very expensive. But fortunately, there are some ways to do that for free.

Neon started offering free purchases abroad with their Mastercard. It could be awesome to save on all the currency transaction fees. You could use this credit card only for foreign currencies. In my case, this saves me about 100 CHF per year.

Revolut

Revolut offers a credit card without any fees for currency exchange.

Another idea is to use a prepaid credit card such as Revolut. They offer a prepaid credit card. It has free foreign currency transactions for online payment. You can even withdraw small amounts anywhere in the world for free. And you can also have a physical credit card for a small fee. It is a great service.

However, there are problems with Revolut. First, topping up the card is not instant. It is a normal bank transfer. It takes at least one working day. I do not want to go to the trouble of topping up the card every time I need it. I could consider moving a large amount to cover small regular fees in foreign currencies.

Another problem with Revolut is that it is expensive during the weekend. You need to read the small prints because not everything is free with a Revolut card. Finally, there were many issues with Revolut, where accounts have been closed. So, use Revolut at your own risk. For me, Neon is now the best credit card for foreign currencies.

To help you choose, I have an article about Neon vs Revolut.

In both cases, you may still have to get another card in some cases. Indeed, both Neon and Revolut are prepaid cards. And some services are not allowing prepaid cards.

Why no travel hacking credit card?

Miles And More Credit Cards
Miles And More Credit Cards

Finally, the last option for a credit card is to use it for travel. You can read so many stories on how people are traveling for free using their credit card bonuses. These are mainly stories in the United States. In Switzerland, the best travel points credit card is the Swiss Miles & More MasterCard. This credit card will give you one award mile for every 2 CHF spent. And you will also get 1000 award miles every year. All this for 120 CHF per year. If we run the computation once again:

  • Bonus: 15’000 x 50% = 750 + 1000 = 8500 miles
  • Annual fees: 120 CHF = -120 CHF
  • Foreign fees: 5’000 x 2.5% = -125 CHF
  • Total: -120 – 125 = -245 CHF

The credit card would cost me 245 CHF per year and give me 8500 miles. The most expensive flight I take is to go to Hong Kong for around 800 CHF. I need 70’000 miles to get it for free. Then, I would get it free after 8.23 years. At which point, I would have spent 2000 CHF in fees. Not a very good deal! Even including the 20’000 welcome miles, it would not be interesting. I do not spend enough on my credit card for this to be interesting. And the foreign fees are way too high.

Note: You can earn more points with the Swiss Miles & More American Express. But it is not well supported in Switzerland.

Do I really need cashback?

No, not really. Getting cashback on your credit card is just a small optimization. If you are a reasonable spender, like me, it will not make a huge difference in the long-term.

On the other hand, you need a free credit card and a way to cut foreign exchange fees! It is important to cut your expenses!

With my level of spending, I make between 50CHF and 100CHF per year on cashback. So, it is more important to cut my credit card spending than to optimize my cash back. Now, if you can spend more on your credit card (with cashback, so no foreign currencies), it could be interesting for you.

So, if you really want to keep it simple, use one free credit card! It is perfectly fine. I am currently using three credit cards, but I am strongly considering getting rid of my Amex. The benefits are minimal overall, and it means one more card in my wallet, and it means having to choose between cards.

For me, the best single card would be either using Neon directly or the Cumulus Mastercard. But Neon would have the advantage of allowing you a single card for every purchase (domestic and foreign). The Cumulus Mastercard would have the advantage of being a real credit card (emergency money, and sometimes prepaid cards are refused).

So, it is up to you to decide how far you want to optimize!

Conclusion

Currently, the best credit card in Switzerland is the Migros Cumulus MasterCard. This card saves me 40 CHF each year compared to my previous credit card from PostFinance. Of course, this is only the best credit card for me! If you spend more (or less), it may be different.

If you want higher cashback, you can use the Swisscard American Express. However, you will need two cards because many shops do not take American Express.

As you can see from this article, there is not much you can do with Switzerland’s credit cards. The best you can do is minimize your fees. Take a credit card without an annual fee. And also minimize spending in foreign currencies.

If you can use a credit card in a shop, use it! If you can use a credit card online without extra fees, use it! Do not think of traveling for free using your credit card unless you spend enormous amounts of money on it. In which case, you are probably not on the correct blog.

One other thing you can do is to change your credit card often. A lot of services are waiving the fees for the first year. And a lot of services are also increasing cashback in the first year. Or giving you a welcome package. If you do the math and be careful, it is possible that you can save a bit more money with this.

However, be very careful! And do not forget to cancel the card before the second year. And there could be some minimum time for the contract. Personally, I do not think it is worth the trouble.

If you want to keep it simple, I recommend using a Neon Mastercard or a Cumulus Mastercard (but not for foreign currencies). For more information, read my Review of Neon.

If you want to go all-in like me, you should read about my credit card strategy! This will minimize your fees (the most important) and also maximize your cashback. But this will require you have to have several cards!

What about you? What credit card do you use? Do you have any tips to maximize cashback?

Mr. The Poor Swiss is the author behind thepoorswiss.com. In 2017, he realized that he was falling into the trap of lifestyle inflation. He decided to cut on his expenses and increase his income. This blog is relating his story and findings. In 2019, he is saving more than 50% of his income. He made it a goal to reach Financial Independence. You can send Mr. The Poor Swiss a message here.

63 thoughts on “What is The Best Credit card in Switzerland for 2021?”

  1. Hi!

    I don’t get the logic.
    why is it paying 25CHF per year better than receiving 0,2% of what you spent?
    If you get the cashback card and never contact them or request papers you literally are recieving money for spending money. so why do you prefer the Cumulus card?

    1. Hi Gabriela,

      I do not understand your comment. To what are you referring to?

      I am not paying 25 CHF per year since I am using the Neon card for foreign currencies (two sections after Migros card).

  2. Hello, there,
    I have just started reading some posts on your blog, and I must say, I am very positively surprised – well-done, substantive content.

    As to the topic of the best CCs, I have been using the SWISS Miles&More, since my work is connected with a lot of travelling and, I thought, it was a good way of keeping my miles from expiring, yet I realized it was not so good in the end.
    However, it gave me a good starting point and the availability to compare my potential cashback on AMEX and MCard transactions.

    Recently, I have made an overview of my spending from 2019 up until now (2020 not being a good reference, and needed more data), to compare the Cashback solution and the Migros CC, and found out the following: If you can focus your spending on AMEX (in my case it is ~80%), the Cashback option from Swisscard is the best.
    I have checked multiple scenarios, including additional points from buying my food in Migros with their card, and it was not as good as the Cashback’s AMEX return.

    However, an interesting fact I have learned is that a synergy between both Cashback and Migros CC is slightly better than only Cashback.
    To elaborate – use AMEX from Cashback, and Migros MasterCard whenever AMEX is not accepted. In my case, this gave me another 5% more (not so bad, since I am already optimizing stuff anyways).

    In conclusion, this scenario works best for me, and if you have been using AMEX mainly, it should work for you too – it is just a little more work to start with.

    P.S.
    I can without hesitation fully recommend Revolut for abroad spending! It has the best exchange rates by far, and allows you to withdraw money, essentially, anywhere in the world.
    And regarding the top-up, I have never had to wait more than 30s to get the money on the account while using a credit card. Perhaps there is some limitation in the one that you were using at the time.

    Thanks & keep up the good work!

    1. Hi Xanoso,

      Yes, I agree with your conclusion. The Swisscard cashback is really worth it but you need to use it a lot for the difference to be significant.
      Now, if you shop at Migros, you actually get 2% cashback (1% from the Amex and 1% from your cumulus code).

      This is actually what I am doing unless I did not understand your scenario. I am using both, AMEX whenever possible and then Mastercard. But I am thinking of getting rid of the AMEX. Not because it’s not better, but because I do not want to carry too many cards for a few tens of CHF of difference.

      They have improved the top up since I wrote the first version of the article, I should review that part. It’s now possible to top up for free with Credit Card and with bank account. My primary issue now with Revolut it’s their reputation and all the bad press they get.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      1. Hey there,

        that is correct, at Migros, regardless whether you use the Migros CC or Cashback AMEX, you get 2% return (if owning Cumulus account).
        In all other places the Migros CC gives you 0.33% (3CHF = 1point), where the MasterCard of Cashback gives 0.20%.
        That is why the synergy is performing better in my case (1% + 0.33% instead of 1% + 0.20%).

        Nevertheless, recently I have been reviewing if not to give away the Migros CC, since it does not make much difference, especially when 80% spending are done with AMEX. And it brings another CC company to deal with, more statements, and payments to remember…

        We will see what 2021 will bring in this field…

        Cheers

        1. Hi Xanoso,

          It makes sense indeed if you shop often at Migros. We do not shop much at Migros these days. And most of our groceries are done in shops that do not support AMEX. So, we are probably paying around 50% with AMEX.
          If you are able to use the AMEX 80% of the time, you are indeed in a good spot to ditch the Migros CC. You just need to make sure to have a payment option for the shop refusing AMEX.

          The credit card offer has become better these last few years, maybe 2021 will become even better!

          Thanks for sharing :)

        2. One should take into consideration that Migros CC does not cashback any payments to Migros companies.
          E.g. if I pay my groceries at Migros with my Migros CC, I won’t get any Cumulus points for this.
          The same applies for paying groceries at Coop with the Coop CC.
          In both cases, you only get the Cumulus Points / Superpoints on the loyalty card, which is a 1% cashback only.
          As far as I remember this rule has been implemented in early 2020. I only found this out when my cashback became dramatically low, and I found the reason why only in the latest CC contract smallprint. Both retailers claim that otherwise one would become double cash backed… which was no problem in the earlier days.

          However, what I realy like to use whenever possible are the multiplying Cumulus checks that double, tripple or even tenfold the cashback on the Cumulus loyalty card. Which accumulates in a 2%, 3% or 10% cashback. Sometimes it is even possible to combine several of such checks, which results in even higher cashbacks – not on the CC but on the loyalty program. I love these cashback checks since they can be used the same like cash in any Migros shop.

  3. Thanks Mr Poor Swiss – helpful as always. Do you know if the free cards have the same ‘protection’ as the more expensive cards? I use the UBS Platinum and the coverage for cancelled flights, delays, accidents, luggage, keys, car rental, purchase protection etc seems very comprehensive. I was under the impression that was what I was paying the fees for. But I have not researched to see if all Swiss cards offer similar protection. Thanks!!

    1. Hi Stoo.d,

      That’s a good point.
      Yes, free cards have some level of protection. For instance, the cummulus mastercard insures you against canceled trip for up to 50’000 CHF.
      However, higher-end cards such as Platinum cards will have much higher limits and much better coverage: luggage coverage, medical expenses, …
      So, if this is very important to you, that’s something you can consider. Just make sure that it’s actually worth the cost.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. I keep it simple : I use my neon MasterCard to spend and purchase abroad and I use my checking account (Maestro + Twint) for purchasing in Switzerland. One more thing, for cashback, I use the Cumulus Card (not the credit card).

    Basically I’m using two cards (three with the cumulus) because I’ve never spent a lot with my previous credit card (less than 2000 CHF a year) so the cashback is not interesting in my point of view. In addition, I preferred to have a prepaid credit card to avoid problem of hacking or stealing, at least they could only steal the amount on the prepaid card (often less than 500 CHF).

    1. Hi Yanikuza,

      It’s true that prepaid cards have an advantage if they are stolen unless you have a ton of money on them.
      As you said, if you do not spend too much, the cashback won’t make a ton of difference. Even for me, we are talking about 100 CHF per year. This is not life-changing.

      So keeping it simple makes total sense!

      Thanks for sharing!

  5. Hi, you propose the Cumulus Mastercard as the best for 20/21. I might agree with the addition “ONLY in Switzerland. ONLY in CHF.”
    Cumulus is issued by Cembra Money Bank (former GE Money Bank). The bank it self is no problem, but they add a hefty 2.5% for Forex. So only CHF.
    ..
    But biggest problem: The IT of Cembra is completely OUTDATED. You cannot manage your acct online, nor do they have an application for your smartphone.
    It ‘s unbelievable that they survive with this stone age standard. You can not even use e-Bill to pay the invoice.
    ..
    I used Cumulus / Ceembra for many years. But now Viseca, SwissCard AECS, Neon, Zak, TFW all come up with modern and very usefull applications (some even with Webclient), Cembra really got so much outdated.
    Therefore I cannot imagine why you propose it as Card of the Year.
    What about the Coop CreditCard, issued by TopCard owned by UBS? No application, a little better IT, supports e-Bill, free to get, the only with unlimited partner cards, but also very high fees on Forex.

    1. Hi Rasmuss,

      I agree you should never use your Cumulus Mastercard for foreign currencies. I mentioned using Neon for that.
      And I also mentioned Coop being the same as the Cumulus Mastercard. I just do not shop at Coop ever, so I would not know what to do with the points.

      Regarding the IT, I could not agree more, it really sucks. It’s just plain bad. Since I only touch the interface once a month to pay my bill, I can deal with that. But they are really in need of a refresh.
      You cannot compare the Cumulus master with Neon, Zak or TFW, these three have no cashback. And I already mentioned Swisscard that has higher cashback.

  6. Hidden secret of the Cumulus credit card: you can withdraw cash for free at any Migros counter (the shopping counter, not the atm).

    0% interest, 0% fees, I don’t know if there is an annual limit, a possible practical limit is how much cash a specific counter at Migros has in that moment (they refused my withdrawal of x*10^2 francs a couple of times).

    Best

    1. Hi wandering,

      Thanks for the tip. I had no idea you could do that. I will have to ask the next time I am in Migros.
      I have withdrawn cash several times in Migros with my Maestro but I have never tried with the Cumulus Mastercard.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Hi.
    Great article. Really helpful. A question: so if I just moved to CH and I use my credit card for online purchases let’s say for a website based in UK, it will count as a foreign transaction?

    1. Hi Zhaan,

      It depends on which credit card you are talking about. If you are talking about a Swiss credit card, anything abroad or in foreign currencies will count as a foreign currency.
      If you are coming from the UK and still have a UK credit card, you should be OK for the website in the UK, but will pay foreign transactions in Switzerland.

      Does that make sense?

  8. hi there
    Hasn’t this stopped working now – the Cumulus Mastercard + Revolut Mastercard combo? I mean, Cumulus will no longer reward you credit for spend on charging Revolut card.
    What is the best way to download statements such that they can be consolidated in an Excel file for annual overview? The Excels I download are only by month and contain merged cells….
    Thanks
    Simone

    1. Hi Simone,

      It still works in the sense that it’s free. But if there are no rewards, the only advantage is that you will get your money instantly and will not have to wait until the wire transfer.
      As for the statements, I have no idea, I have never download an excel statement from any card, sorry.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Late comment here, but I use the Cumulus Mastercard + Revolut Mastercard combo. I get between 4 and 10 CHF of Migros points as cashback per month. I grocery-shop there anyway so that works well for me.
    For trips in Europe : Revolut & I withdraw Euros in cash from UBS before leaving. I’ll have to see how it works out with the new Revolut limit for free payments

    1. Hi Claire,

      Thanks for sharing :) That’s nice cashback results!
      If you do not have enough with the new Revolut limits, you have alternatives:
      * Convert some money in advance. If you convert 1250 CHF the month before, you will have 2500 CHF ready for your vacations :)
      * Use Neon as a secondary (or primary) travel card.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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