In this article I’ll address two FAQ, or frequently asked questions, about Italy:
Can I use my credit card? and What is the best way to get euro?
Using Your Credit Card in Italy
You can use your credit card many places in Italy, especially if you are visiting mainly big cities and tourist areas. If you are going to small towns, rural places, or getting away from the usual tourist itinerary, though, you may encounter family-run restaurants, shops, and even places to stay that don’t accept credit cards.
Credit Card Tips:
- Important: Before you go, call your credit card company to let them know that you will be using your credit card in Italy and in any other countries you plan to visit.
- If you do plan to use your credit card a lot, look for a card that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee. Try to get a credit card with a chip, as it’s more secure.
- Have 2 different credit cards and carry them separately in case of theft or a problem with one of the cards. If you’re traveling with someone else, it’s a good idea to carry 2 different cards for the same reason.
- American Express cards are not accepted as widely as Visa or Mastercard so it’s not a good idea to rely on using only an American Express card.
- Find out how to contact your bank if you have a problem while away.
How to Get Cash in Italy
- Note: Use your debit card only to get cash at Bancomats or Postamats, not to pay for purchases directly (use your credit card or cash for that). There have been recent reports of people’s debit card information being stolen when used to pay for purchases at stores or places like parking meters. Best to play it safe.
Even if you are able to use your credit card at all the restaurants and shops you visit on your trip, you will still need cash (euro) for small items, such as having a coffee at the bar, taking a city bus or metro, or even using a public toilet. If you go away from main tourist areas, some shops and places to eat accept only cash.
You can use your ATM card in most Italian cash machines – called Bancomat at the bank or Postamat at the post office. They usually have an English language option on the screen. Most cash machines in Italy do not charge a fee but your bank may add on a flat fee for foreign exchange, a percentage of the amount you get, or both.
Another option is a pre-paid cash card that you can use to get money from a cash machine (or several cards with small amounts each). Getting euro with a credit card is usually expensive. It is difficult to find places to change traveler’s checks or US currency and the exchange rate you’ll get is usually bad.
Tips for Using the Bancomat:
- Important: Before you go, call the number on your ATM card to let them know that you will be using your card to get cash in Italy and in any other countries you plan to visit.
- Be sure you have a 4 digit pin number.
- Try to get an ATM card from a bank that doesn’t charge a foreign fee.
- Find out your current daily limit for cash withdrawals, you may need to raise it before you go.
- Many bancomats only let you withdraw 250 euro a day. The bancomat may display a confusing message that makes it sound like something’s wrong with your card, but in most cases it is either that you’re trying to withdraw too much or that the lines are down. Some bancomats just don’t accept US cards. So try asking for less, using a different bancomat, or trying again later.
Keep Your Cards, Cash, and Passports Safe
When I’m going to a big city or crowded area, especially where there are lots of tourists, I carry as little as possible with me. I carry my passport, credit card, and other important items in a neck pouch under my clothing (you can also use a hidden wallet or money belt that does around your waist).
Anti-Theft Security Pouches:
- Lewis N. Clark Neck Stash Anti-Theft Hidden Wallet
- Venture 4th Travel Neck Pouch
- Venture 4th Travel Money Belt
More Safety Tips: