If you regularly spend and/or earn money in both euros and Swiss francs, take care that you don’t lose too much money changing currencies. Although many retailers in both France and Switzerland will accept the other country’s currency, you are bound to lose out in the exchange.
UBS and some French banks, including Banque Populaire des Alpes and Crédit Agricole de Franche-Comté, offer accounts which allow the account holder to operate in both euros and francs without charging foreign exchange rates.
For peace of mind, you could consider establishing a garantie de change with your bank. This is a contract in which the bank guarantees a fixed exchange rate for a predetermined amount, generally for a 6- to 12-month contract.
Find out exactly what your bank charges before accepting and making payments in foreign currencies and be sure to find out if there is a fee on the other end as well. Some are exorbitant! Consider using a foreign exchange service such as UK Forex. Exchange rates are much more competitive than banks’ rates and you can conduct the transaction between two designated bank accounts online.
Groupement transfrontalier européen has a wealth of information about banking, and other aspects of life for cross-border workers.
Switzerland has one of the world’s best electronic banking systems. Americans in particular should forget about writing checks and make the electronic switch. But do check who pays what fees on each end. In general, if you are transferring money, this is the cheapest route.
Those prerequisites of modern life, the fixed line, the mobile, and Internet access can add up to substantial costs. It is definitely worth shopping around for your communication needs.
The best provider will depend on your usage patterns. If you make frequent calls to mobiles, the best two providers suggested by Comparis.ch were 10787 and Netstream Voice. Be aware that even with fixed phone lines you are charged for incoming mobile calls.
Watch out for high cost calls such as 1811 (directory assistance) at CHF2.50 CHF per call, and for 0900 numbers, for which you are charged higher rates.
If you like to know your communication costs in advance or have children with mobile phones, buy a prepaid mobile package. Use pre-paid cards for international calls from phone booths.
Consider the relatively new technology of using your internet connection to make all your telephone calls using VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). Suppliers such as Bluewin, Green.ch and My Tel offer a variety of packages which generally require a set-up fee as well as a monthly fee that is well below the cost of the average household’s phone bills. French providers include Free, Neuf, and Tele2.
Many VoIP providers offer free calls to fixed lines, including international calls. Find out what the rates are for calls to mobiles and other pay-by-the-minute calls before you receive a nasty surprise in the form of a huge phone bill.
No matter what solution you opt for, do ask questions and make sure you understand the answers to avoid getting the shock of an $85,000 phone bill, as just happened to a young Canadian oil worker.