SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

Is Swiss rail hiding cheap first class fares?

Switzerland’s Supersaver fares were designed to encourage public transport usage while helping commuters save money. So why is the SBB making them difficult to find?

An SBB train sits in the track in Basel, Switzerland
Switzerland's SBB has been accused of hiding cheaper first class fares. Here's how to make sure you get a good deal. Image: Pixabay

Switzerland’s Federal Railways (SBB) expanded Supersaver fares in 2018 to boost stagnating passenger numbers. 

Supersaver fares are up to 70 percent cheaper than regular fares and are popular among residents and tourists alike. 

However, according to reporting from Swiss news outlet Watson, the SBB has been hiding cheap first class fares from travellers in its online platforms. 

EXPLAINED: How to find cheap train tickets in Switzerland

Instead, the cheapest second class fares have been shown, which are often more expensive than those in first class, particularly when the second class supersavers are sold out. 

Watson looked at several journeys between major Swiss cities, showing that the cheapest fares were often not shown when they were in first class. 

This has led to complaints from travellers, who argue that most who use the SBB app or online booking platform believe they will be shown the cheapest fares available. 

‘Incomprehensible’

Swiss consumer protection advocate Sara Stalder told Watson the “concealment tactic of the SBB is incomprehensible”. 

“If you travel by train in Europe, you will notice that other providers clearly and transparently identify such campaigns as a booking option, even if a first class ticket is cheaper than a 2nd class ticket. 

“Why the SBB maintains this lack of transparency is a mystery to me.”

The SBB for their part said the issue is caused by a bug which shows the cheapest second class fare rather than the cheapest fare overall. 

A spokesperson told Watson that a fix was being developed, but that the SBB “cannot say when an adjustment will take place”. 

How can I be sure to get the cheapest fare when travelling in Switzerland? 

When booking a train through the SBB platform (online or app), make sure to also check the first class offerings. 

By doing so, you will be able to see first class Supersaver fares and work out if they are cheaper. 

Generally speaking, second class Supersaver fares will be cheaper in most cases, but first class Supersavers will be cheaper overall when the second class Supersavers are sold out. 

For those wanting to save on first class travel, the SBB has announced a range of new first class upgrades at a fraction of the normal cost. Some first class upgrades are actually cheaper than a point-to-point ticket.

Train travel: How you can save on first class upgrades in Switzerland

What are Supersaver fares? 

These fares are only available online – whether via your browser or the SBB app – and not at the SBB machines on the platforms and at stations. 

Booking a Supersaver fare requires a bit of foresight, as they are not available for spontaneous trips. 

They can however be booked for travel a few days in advance (they go on sale 60 days before the date of travel). 

The earlier you book a Supersaver fare the better, although be aware that it must be used for that particular train on that particular day, i.e. you cannot take a later or earlier train unlike with normal Swiss rail tickets. 

Almost nine million Supersaver fares were sold in 2019, the last year before the pandemic. 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

HEALTH INSURANCE

How to save money by changing your Swiss health policy

Switzerland’s compulsory health insurance is notoriously expensive, but you can lower the cost of premiums substantially by changing your company or coverage.

How to save money by changing your Swiss health policy

The cost of health insurance premiums usually represents at least 7 percent of a typical household budget.

An adult spends nearly 4,600 francs a year on average on the mandatory basic coverage (KVG / LaMal) alone – covering only medical care, not dental. If any extra policies are taken out, the cost is even higher.

Not only that, but premiums have been rising practically each year, and look set to go up again in 2023, possibly by as much as 10 percent — the sharpest hike in 20 years.

READ MORE: Why Swiss health premiums are set to rise — and what you can do about it

Even though these costs are high and climbing, many people keep the same health insurance for years.

However, significant savings — to the tune of thousands of francs a year — could be made simply by switching carriers or plans, from the more expensive to the cheapest ones, according to a new study by the cost comparison site Comparis.

How much and where

The amount of the savings varies depending on policyholder’s place of residence, because rates are determined by cantons.

However, Comparis calculated that over a 10-year period, people living in Zurich could have saved 33,396 francs in premium costs and for those living in Bern this amount is 30,064.

Lausanne residents could cut their costs by 36,494 francs over 10 years, 31, 032 in Geneva, and 33,490 in Basel-City.

“With the strong premium increases expected this fall, the savings potential is even greater,” said Felix Schneuwly, health insurance expert at Comparis.

So how can you save money? Here are some of the ways:

Increase your deductible

In Switzerland, the deductible (franchise) ranges from 300 to 2,500 francs – this represents the medical costs that you have to pay out of your own pocket before your health insurance kicks in.

As with most types of insurance, the lower your deductible, the higher your premiums, and vice-versa.

If you are young, healthy, and are not on any long-term medication then you can save substantially with the highest franchise.

Keep in mind, however, that if you choose the highest deductible and end up having an accident or falling sick and needing medical care, you will have to pay a greater proportion of the costs.

Switch to a less expensive plan.

The standard model for healthcare in Switzerland is that you can consult any medic that you want, and you do not need a referral to see a specialist.

However, there are some types of health insurance plans that have cheaper premiums, but impose certain limits on your access to non-emergency medical care.

For instance:

Health maintenance organisation (HMO)

Under this model, policyholders are required to consult a particular HMO practice. Two disadvantages of this alternative is a limited choice of doctors and you also need a referral to see a specialist.

However, the benefit is a premium reduction of up to 25 percent compared to the conventional insurance.

Family doctor model

Your family doctor, a general practitioner, will be designated by your insurance company and will be in charge of all your non-emergency medical treatment.

He or she will refer you to a specialist if necessary. 

If you opt for this option, you could save 20 percent on your insurance.

READ MORE: Five tips for getting cheaper health insurance in Switzerland

The Telmed alternative

If you choose this option, you have to call a telephone service and get a referral to a doctor or hospital.

This does not apply to medical emergencies and there are other exceptions, such as eye exams and annual gynaecological check-ups.

Total savings could range between 15 and 20 percent. 

Cancelling or changing your policy

If you want to cancel your current insurance policy and take up a cheaper one , you have to do so by registered letter before November 30th.

By then, you will know what your premiums will be in 2023 because your carrier must notify you of the new rates by October 31st.

SHOW COMMENTS