For members


Reader question: Is it a good time to convert Swiss francs into euros?

If you are planning to travel within the EU this spring, you may be wondering whether you should exchange Switzerland’s currency into euros now, or wait a little longer. Here's the outlook.

Reader question: Is it a good time to convert Swiss francs into euros?
You don't have to hurry to exchange francs into euros. Image by Aleksandar Radenkovic from Pixabay

The relationship between the franc and the euro can be compared to a dance: at times one leads and the other follows the footsteps, and at other moments the roles are switched.

Looking back to the not-too-distant past, the franc was slightly weaker than the euro at the beginning of 2022, with the reversal occurring later in the year, when the two currencies reached parity in March, and the Swiss franc had continued to strengthen against the single European currency throughout summer and fall.

This meant that residents of Switzerland could travel, and shop in, the eurozone for less money than before.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What the weakening euro means for Switzerland’s residents

This was the case even though products and services in the EU became more expensive due to high inflation, while Switzerland’s rate was much lower.

What is the situation now?

In recent weeks, the franc has been appreciating again, though at the moment of this writing it is at the 1:1 parity with the euro.

The surge has been driven by a tense banking situation in the United States, which impacts the euro and then the Swiss franc, as a safe haven.

Given that the franc’s rise (or fall, for that matter) is based more on general monetary and economic forecasts than on exact science, is now a good time to buy euros?

This may be an important issue, especially if you are planning to spend Easter holidays in the eurozone .

According to Sergio Rossi, professor of economics at the University of Fribourg, there is no rush.

“I don’t think the Swiss franc will depreciate again” from where it is now, he said in an interview with Watson news platform.  

This means that people who recently converted francs into euros, or will do so soon, “are not going to lose”. 

What is the longer-term outlook for the franc-euro ratio?

Even despite the banking crisis that has hit Switzerland in recent days, the forecast for the franc is good.

While there are various forces at play, including whether the European and Swiss central banks will adjust their key rates this week, “in any case, the franc should gain in value by the summer,” Rossi said.

This is undoubtedly good news for residents of Switzerland who are going to holiday abroad, but not so good for the country’s economy as a whole.

The reason is that Switzerland relies heavily on exports — particularly pharmaceuticals, machinery, instruments, and watches. Over 40 percent of the country’s production is sent to its main trading partners in the European Union. 

Exports are the backbone of Switzerland’s prosperity and economic growth. But when the franc rises, it makes Swiss products less competitive — that is, too expensive — in eurozone markets.

Throughout the years, the government has tried to keep the franc’s value from rising.

In 2011, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) had capped the franc at 1.2 euros, devaluing the Swiss currency by 8 percent. The central bank took this drastic step by printing billions of francs and using them to buy foreign money, pushing its foreign currency reserves to record highs.

However, in 2015, the SNB abandoned the cap, saying it was no longer justified. The franc’s value immediately soared by around 30 percent. 

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why does Switzerland want to keep the Swiss franc weak?

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For members


Reader question: Do I have to pay for prescription drugs in Switzerland?

Generally speaking, medications prescribed by a doctor are covered by healthcare insurance. But this doesn’t mean you won’t have to pay any costs at all.

Reader question: Do I have to pay for prescription drugs in Switzerland?

As is the case everywhere else, there are two types of medicines in Switzerland: those you buy without a prescription (over-the-counter — OTC) and those who are by doctor’s orders only.

As a general rule, compulsory health insurance (KVG in German and LaMal in French and Italian) reimburses medicines prescribed by a doctor, as long as they are included on the list of drugs officially approved by Switzerland’s regulatory body, Swissmedic — in total, about 2,500 medications.

The list is quite extensive, comprising not only brand-name and generic meds but also many biosimilars — medicines that are almost an identical copy of an original product manufactured by a different company.

Also covered are some alternative-medicine drugs, including homeopathy and physiotherapy. 

What happens when a doctor prescribes a drug that is not authorised in Switzerland?

In principle, the compulsory health insurance will not cover the costs and you will have to pay for it yourself.

However, there are exceptions to this rule.

For instance, even if a particular medication is not approved in Switzerland, but is imported from a country where it is authorised by a body that is considered equivalent to Swissmedic (for example, the European Medicines Agency), then KVG / LaMal will pay for it.

Also, if the cost of a drug is not covered by the compulsory health insurance, and you have taken out a complementary policy, it is possible the latter will pay for it.

These insurance providers have their own lists of medicines which they cover, though certain conditions and limitations may apply.

In general, neither basic nor supplementary insurance will pay for so-called  Pharmaceuticals for Special Application (LPPA). This list mainly includes “comfort” products, for example appetite suppressants or products that reduce hair loss.

READ ALSO: Should you buy supplemental health insurance in Switzerland?

How much of the cost does insurance pay?

As is the case for medical treatments in general, KVG / LaMal will pay 90 percent of the cost of medication for which no generics exist.

If, however, an equivalent generic drug is available, but you still choose the brand medicine, then your insurance carrier will cover 80 percent of the price. This means that you will have to pay either 10 or 20 percent of the cost yourself.

This will happen until you use up our entire deductible (franchise), in addition to your 10-percent share of the costs that exceed the deductible — a maximum of 700 francs per year for adults and 350 francs for children.

If you have a low deductible (300 francs), this means that once you use up 1,000 francs toward your medical costs (doctor’s visits, treatments, and medicines combined), you will then not have to pay anything toward your prescription drugs.

By the same token, if you have chosen the highest franchise — 2,500 francs — and add to it the 700-franc co-pay, you may never get to the point where all your medications will be completely covered by the insurance.

READ ALSO: Which Swiss health insurance deductible makes most sense?