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Italy: Take euros or get there?

Old Dec 20th, 2017, 02:48 PM
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Italy: Take euros or get there?

Hi guys, I’m looking for some advice from seasoned travelers to Italy. My husband and I are going on our first European trip to Italy in March (Rome & Venice for 7 nights) and unsure about what to take cash/card wise. Are cards accepted at most places? If so, which ones (Visa, Discover, Master Card)? Should we get some euros before going or is it better, economically, to get them there? Are atms widely available in the major cities? If you think it’s better to get it here in the U.S. before leaving, how much do you recommend we take? Also, is there anything else you wish you had known before your first trip to Europe or Italy? Thanks for any advice!
Bowenc11 is offline  
Old Dec 20th, 2017, 02:58 PM
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You are always better off getting your Euros in Europe. Yes, there are plenty of ATMs in Italy. Credit cards are widely accepted. Not Discover - I think it is only accepted in the US. Visa is the most popular card, MC is also accepted. Make sure you have a back-up ATM card just in case your. card gets eaten by ab ATM.
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Old Dec 20th, 2017, 02:59 PM
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All the usual credit/debit cards are widely accepted. be sure yours have a 4-digit pin.

It's cheaper to withdraw euros from an ATM once you arrive in Italy than to get them beforehand from your local bank. ATMs are everywhere, including airports.
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Old Dec 20th, 2017, 03:01 PM
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I opened the thread to answer -- had to answer a phone call and in two seconds they beat me to it . . . Ditto
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Old Dec 20th, 2017, 03:05 PM
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Yup. Use your cc for big purchases and ATM card to get cash for the smaller stuff. It never pays to get euros ahead of time. Discover won't work. Visa is best, Mastercard second best.

There are a million things I wish I had known before I made my first trip to Europe, but you will learn, too,hopefully with the help of good guidebooks and maps.
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Old Dec 20th, 2017, 03:29 PM
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I suggest that you each set up a free account with Charles Schwab brokerage so that you will receive a debit card which we have used all around the world with no problems, and no fees! You should carry these separately just in case you get pickpocketed.
ATMs are everywhere and the rates are much better than buying Euros in the US.
You should each have a no-transaction fee credit card (either MC or Visa, preferably with a chip) because in Europe everything is paid with credit cards at the best bank rate. You may find that you won't need very much cash (in Euros) so don't take out more than you will actually need because it costs at least 1-2% to convert your Euros back into USD at your departure airport and remember you can't convert coins, only bills.
When you use an American bank credit card, you will have to sign for every transaction, but this is still the best and cheapest way to pay for everything.
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Old Dec 20th, 2017, 03:30 PM
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Always take out EUROS (or local currency if not EUros) and NEVER let an ATM or merchant charge you in US Dollars! That's a scam called Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) and just adds more fees. Do the math in your head or on your phone to convert currency and save the fees.

Understand what it costs YOU to take money out of an ATM in Europe and to use your credit cards there.

Many banks charge up to 3% currency conversion fee to withdrawal from an ATM - on top of a per-use fee! (Most bank-owned ATMs in Europe charge no fee - I've never been charged one.) It's possible to get an ATM card that charges you 0% conversion fee and no per-use fee (e.g. some credit unions) or a little more.

US credit cards often charge up to a 3% foreign transaction fee - but it's relatively easy these days to get a card that charges 0%. Try to use the credit card as much as possible (but NOT to withdrawal cash!). Most US credit cards have chips now but almost all of them are "chip and signature" - meaning you have to sign a receipt if a person is involved, whereas Europeans have chip and PIN cards where they type in a 4-digit PIN to make purchases. Chip and signature credit cards work at many machines in Europe without a pin, with notable exceptions (train ticket machines in Italy, France, and the Netherlands come to mind as exceptions).
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Old Dec 20th, 2017, 03:51 PM
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My Barclayscard works as a chip-pin. No, I don't get a cut of any new customers' transactions I bring them.

Get your money there. If your cash card has a Plus or Cirrus symbol, you're set.

And don't use discover or Amex, use Visa or MC. Use one with no foreign exchange fees - Citi, Chase, Barclays, CapOne, pick a credit union, others all offer this.

As for the dynamic currency conversion discussed by Andrew - he's completely correct. Pay in local wampum only, withdraw local wampum only WITHOUT conversion. Never convert your money - your bank and card issuer will do that on their end and get you far better deals.
BigRuss is offline  
Old Dec 20th, 2017, 03:52 PM
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Here’s my take on it and we have been going to Europe yearly for 16 yrs.

Use credit card (Capitol One, Master Card is our go to card) for anything you can. But watch if your card charges an extra fee, Capitol One does not.

For us it’s the same price to get some Euros ahead of time, but my husband worked for a bank so we get a good deal. Regardless, check your bank to get 200-400 Euros before you go. Why? How are you getting to your hotel? Prepaid booking? If not, will the taxi take a credit card? ATM in the airport? On 2 separate occasions we came across ATM’s in an airport that didn’t work...frustrating.
Also came across ATM’s in a foreign language with no English attached. Maybe Google the directions in Italian before you leave. A hotel clerk in France wrote out the directions in French for us one time that saved us.

Best advice IMO, use an ATM attached to a major bank that is open during the day and probably has English directions, in case it eats your card.

After many trips we now take about 400,Euros gotten at our bank, ahead of time. Even if it costs a bit more for you, as a first time visitor you do not want to deal with any “OMG, now what do we do” experiences.

I know that most European travelers here will say to use the ATM’s in Italy. This is just my “I wish I had known” tip.
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Old Dec 20th, 2017, 03:56 PM
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Agree with everything Andrew said except my Capital One Visa chip and signature (no PIN) credit card has been working in machines in train stations, etc. last few years. Only place it didn't work was toll booths in France.
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Old Dec 20th, 2017, 04:02 PM
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I see no point at all in buying Euros ahead of time before going to Europe, unless you really can get them for free and at no big inconvenience. (Some people might need a lot of Euros immediately to pay for an apartment up front or something - a situation I would prefer to avoid myself.) If the ATMs at the airport don't work, I still have a couple of credit cards. If I really must have cash, I bring a few hundred USD with me just in case I need to change some in an emergency - there always seem to be currency conversion places like TravelEx at the major airports. It might be expensive - but it's a last resort, and I've never needed to do it.

The chance that I'll have a problem at the ATM, that I can't find anywhere to change USD, and that my credit cards won't work to pay for transportation, all at the same time, seems extremely remote. I'd guess the chances of losing my wallet or having it stolen are higher.

I don't mind having a few Euros from the last trip in my wallet when I land on the next one, but not 100 Euros or anything - 10 or 20 is plenty in case I just need to make a small purchase at an airport convenience store or something, but it's not something I worry about.

And I've never encountered an ATM anywhere in Europe that didn't have an English option in the last fifteen years, certainly not in Italy. That too is something I just wouldn't worry about, unless I were headed to a small town in a remote area. I've used ATMs in some pretty small towns (e.g. Bosnia) and still never had the problem.
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Old Dec 20th, 2017, 04:06 PM
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isabel: Agree with everything Andrew said except my Capital One Visa chip and signature (no PIN) credit card has been working in machines in train stations, etc. last few years. Only place it didn't work was toll booths in France.

I used a chip and signature Visa card from a major US bank in Italy and France last May and it worked almost everywhere - but not at the train station ticket machines in Italy or France. So I wouldn't count on any old chip and sig credit card working at those machines, unless you confirm ahead of time you have a specific card that someone else has verified as working (e.g. Cap One). I used my chip and PIN credit card instead at those machines.
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Old Dec 20th, 2017, 05:31 PM
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I'll disagree with everyone else here who suggests waiting till you get to Europe before you get Euros. We travel to Europe 2-3 tomes every year from the US and have been doing so for 18 years. Before that - once a year since 1977.

I don't want to land at an airport and hunt for an ATM machine. I'm just not in the mood and I want to "get going". First thing I usually do is to take a taxi to a hotel/apt, etc. Cash is usually best to pay for a taxi. Next day or two I seek out an ATM machine.

Also, don't carry the same cards/accounts as you husband. If you get your wallet stolen - you don't want to cancel every card the two of you own.

Stu Dudley
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Old Dec 20th, 2017, 05:40 PM
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PS - in about 2001, there was an ATM strike in France and all the ATMs were drained.

Stu Dudley
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Old Dec 20th, 2017, 05:46 PM
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You've gotten some great advice already!

When possible, I would suggest using an ATM that is physically connected to a bank and using it during the bank's open hours -- if anything goes wrong with your ATM card (an ATM "ate" one of my cards once), the bank should be able to help. Don't worry too much about that -- just be sure you have a back-up option.

I also agree that you should reject DCC, but I've had two experiences in which my explicit refusal of the DCC was not honored. If that happens, don't panic -- do what you can to fight the charge (e.g., pay it, but write on the receipt that you had declined DCC) and ask your CC to fight it, but if they won't, remember, it's unlikely to be an extraordinary cost, so shake it off and move on.

Hope that helps!
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Old Dec 20th, 2017, 05:49 PM
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To each his own, Stu. I've never had a problem looking for an ATM at the airport after a long flight- though to be honest, more than once I haven't even bothered getting cash at the airport, if my credit card works for transportation. I almost never take taxis, and credit cards usually work for buying transit passes. These days, you can buy tickets on your phone for many modes of transportation using, say, your Paypal account and not even need a physical credit card. I did that in Venice this last year.
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Old Dec 20th, 2017, 07:26 PM
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>>I don't want to land at an airport and hunt for an ATM machine.
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Old Dec 20th, 2017, 08:10 PM
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Many airports have websites with maps showing locations of ATM machines.
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Old Dec 20th, 2017, 08:25 PM
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Get your money in Italy. You won't need to "hunt" for a working ATM; sheesh it's Europe. The last airport in which I had real problems getting cash from an ATM was Kigali, Rwanda. And even that was 7 years ago.
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Old Dec 20th, 2017, 08:50 PM
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I am old fashioned. I like to take about $200 of Euros with me. There is a crazy place near us, that offers good rates. He is in a plexiglass box instead a tchotchke shop near Penn Station. Even if that costs a few dollars more, I like to know I have money the first day.

Once in Europe we try to charge as much as possible in Euros and use the ATM machines that have a connection to our bank.
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