Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How to use REKA checks

For the last four years, my husband has been getting pay slips to order REKA checks from his company at a discount of 20%. REKA checks can be used to pay for holidays in Switzerland and have been around for decades.

But like most things during our first few years here, my expat brain could handle only so much stimulation, and so the REKA check stuff would get recycled with all of the other mail that wasn't absolutely necessary to figure out.

But now, after being here for almost four years, I have energy to figure out some new stuff. So when the REKA info arrived a couple of weeks ago, I actually ordered CHF 500 worth of REKA checks, which meant I got them for CHF 400 with the 20% discount. After receiving the checks in the mail, I went directly to the train station to buy overnight train tickets to Lake Bled and used them all up in one big payment. And they worked so great, the very next day, I ordered another CHF 400 worth.

So here's what you do if you get REKA stuff from your company: take the pay slip to the bank and pay it. About a week later, the mailman will ring your bell and you'll sign to receive your checks. If you order CHF 500 worth, you'll get one envelope with CHF 300 (all in CHF 10 denominations) and two envelopes, each with two CHF 50 denominations.

REKA has a website that shows all the places you can use REKA checks, but this website, like many Swiss websites, has much to be desired and almost never functions properly. So here's all you need to know:

You can use REKA checks for anything SBB/CFF/FFS. And that should be all you need to make them worth it. You can use the checks for buying local train tickets in the automated machines. You can use to checks to buy a ticket to Paris. You can use the checks to pay for an entire SBB vacation. And you can use them to buy your GA or half-price card.

If your company doesn't give you REKA checks at a discount, you can also buy them at COOP, but this is not such a great deal as you will only get a benefit of 3% (what a typical Swiss discount!). But still, if you're buying a GA or something pricey, it's an option if you want to save a bit of money.

If anyone has experience with REKA checks or just wants to comment on how to save money in Switzerland, please leave a comment.


Amanda said...

Yay! I've been wanting to post about REKA checks but haven't gotten around to it, so I am so glad you did! I think they are fantastic for so many reasons. I've only used them for SBB tickets and local transport, but I read you can also use them at BP stations, if you have a car of course. According to their website, you can use them on most leisure and travel-related activities, though they may need to update their search function. It said we could use the checks at the Stiftsbibliothek (museum) in SG, but the clerk would not accept them. We're going to try and use them at a water park tomorrow... I'd be curious to know where other Swiss residents have used them!

One last thing, I think the most amazing thing about the program is it's nonprofit. By using REKA checks, you save money AND make a small social contribution. You see, REKA charges vendors a small fee to participate in the program which REKA then uses to help low-income families - get this - go on vacation!!! Leave it to Switzerland to provide a high quality of life for ALL of its residents...

Chantal said...

Hi Amanda,

I knew you would know about REKA checks! Thanks for the additional information. I think that's what made me skeptical at first--the fact that I didn't know if places would take them. But after my experience with the SBB, I didn't care about other places since I spend at least CHF 800 with them every year anyhow.

Greg Christensen said...

I've never even heard of these. Thanks for the heads up.

Chantal said...

Hi Greg,

Ask your company if they offer them at a discount. They're a great deal if you can get them.

Madeleine said...

I was in a similar boat... didn`t use them for the first year but then "got with the program" and ordered some. We have used ours exclusively for petrol for the car. Many service stations take them. We predominantly use ours at BP but there are others.
Well worth it!

bwana said...

Fantastic, thanks so much! I was confused whether these Reka checks would work, since they have the Reka Rail for SBB. This is great to know though!

BTW, I hear that you can also top up your prepaid phone at the SBB machine with these?

Stephersplatz said...

Do you know if Reka checks or the credit on reka cards expire at the end of the year?
I've been meaning to order these for a while now and the packet I got in the mail says I can do it through the end of the year?
Do you know if I ordered some now if I could use them next year too?


these things have baffled me for the last 2 years, but i'm now realizing i should have ordered them a long time ago! :-)

Tiffany said...

Thanks for your article! I was wondering how this works with payment. For example, if I fill up my car with 55 CHF, and pay with 100 REKA, will I get change back? Or do you pay 50 REKA plus 5 CHF?

Kitti Horváth said...

Sziasztok nekem van 150chf reka jegyem esetleg nem venné át valaki?nem tudom már felhasználni nem megyek vissza.akit erdekel irjon k921120@freemail.hu

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