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Italy: Take euros or get there?

Old Dec 21st, 2017, 12:16 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 7,816
"The last airport in which I had real problems getting cash from an ATM was Kigali, Rwanda. And even that was 7 years ago."

Haha, that brings back memories! It was even worse 15 or 20 years ago when there were no ATMs at all in Rwanda, and the only places that accepted credit cards were international hotels. Even ORTPN, where you booked gorilla tracking, accepted only cash.

For Europe, I always bring the euros left over from my last trip and hit the ATM at the airport to top up.
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Old Dec 21st, 2017, 02:07 AM
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Thank you, everybody! I think we’ll get a few euros from our credit union (like 200, not the 1000+ my husband initially wanted!) just for our own peace of mind and then take our cc’s. Thanks for the heads up re DCC!
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Old Dec 21st, 2017, 04:35 AM
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This is a favorite topic so I'll just emphasize a few points that have been made. Western Europe's electronic banking is well ahead of the US so you can use plastic extensively. But do not expect to charge purchases at tiny shops, especially on a debit/ATM card. It may be possible, or maybe not. Spain is the only country I have encountered recently where an ATM machine charge is made by the operating bank, and even then not by the majority of banks. Usually the charges come from your own bank. For me, the most economical use of foreign currency returns to the old days of cash. Withdraw a big amount when you arrive and then use cash for all but the biggest purchases, minimizing the service fees.
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Old Dec 21st, 2017, 04:40 AM
Join Date: Oct 2013
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I live in Italy, so I don't get euros when I travel. I do get a small amount of foreign currency when travelling to a non-euro destination, especially if it's a long trip. I prefer to make cash withdrawals at a bank ATM, when I'm wide awake, and not encumbered with luggage. I never get as much as €200, just enough to get a taxi or whatever.

Don't use a credit card to withdraw money; interest charges commence immediately. Use a debit or ATM card.

Unless you expect to travel frequently outside your home currency zone, opening a special account to avoid a 3% conversion fee is overkill. If you use credit cards where possible, you won't need much cash. Even if you use €1000 (which is more cash than I spend on trips), you're talking about €30, a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of your trip.

Finally, someone said above " be sure yours [credit cards] have a 4-digit pin." This is not necessary. Maybe it once was.
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Old Dec 21st, 2017, 05:09 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
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You can get airport maps that show where ATMs are.

You can check with your bank to determine their corresponding bank in whatever city you are visiting.

For a few dollars, in the scheme of the whole trip, buy yourself maybe even just $25-50 in euros.

What are you doing in both cities? You may be able to prepay hotel, train, museum, city cards and really only need euros for a drink, ice cream.

Landed in Brussels in Sept, immediately took train to Bruge and had 50E from previous trip, $100 bill for emergency conversion, a debit card and credit card. I notified all banks prior to trip.

Found an ATM and on first try, card got declined. 2nd try took the 70E that was on the screen instead of the 210E I wanted, tried 2 more times at 70E each. Unfortunately racking up charges each time (got those reversed when I got home).

Went to other ATMs, card declined, went to bank, card declined. Alone, so had hubby in States call bank but all was good. Finally went back to only ATM I could get euros out of and took out the most I could to last me the rest of my 2 week euro portion of my trip.

That's why i like to know how much I will need.

Hint: take out odd amount so you get some small bills. Awkward to break a 200E bill for a soda.

My other alternative would have been to get an advance on my credit card and again, you would need to have a ballpark figure of how much money you would need.

Just my experience and thoughts.
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Old Dec 21st, 2017, 05:43 AM
Join Date: Oct 2013
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Virtually all debit and credit cards with a Visa or Mastercharge logo work in Europe. It's true that you may need to inform your bank of your travel plans, but my daughters come to Europe (from the US) once or twice a year, and have never done this, and never had a problem. Better to play safe, though.

I've never got a €200 note from an ATM! However, it's good to have small notes. Especially, it's best not to pay a taxi with anything bigger than €10 notes, because some crooked drivers claim that you gave them a 10 rather than a 50 or a 5 rather than a 20. (The colors are similar.) If you must pay with a larger note, make sure to hand it to the driver slowly and say, "This is €50, right?" and get confirmation before letting it out of your hands.
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Old Dec 21st, 2017, 05:50 AM
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Canadian banks generally don't want to know if you are travelling:
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Old Dec 21st, 2017, 08:02 AM
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As for availability of ATMs in Italy, the smallest town will have at least one. Many more in larger towns.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2017, 06:35 PM
Join Date: Dec 2017
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I have a question - I believe my American Express does not have a foreign transaction fee. I have traveled in Europe with my AMEX previously. Is there some reason that those responding to this question are not recommending to take their AMEX with them to Europe?
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Old Dec 23rd, 2017, 06:47 PM
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@ mjs01: AMEX (and most, if not all, other CC companies) have different cards and different kinds of accounts that differ in their foreign transaction fee policies.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2017, 06:55 PM
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Amex just isn't as widely accepted in Europe in my experience as Visa/MC. I've used my Amex in Europe before, but I ran into more than once place that would not accept it.

Your Amex card may not have foreign transaction fees, but all of mine did (I don't use them anymore even in the US). One of them had 2% cash back on travel-related charges, so using it with a 3% foreign transaction fee effectively meant 1%, which was usually acceptable. Nowadays, I have Visa and MC cards with 0% fees so just use those.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2017, 08:15 PM
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I threw away my Amex card when I moved to Europe. No one wants it here - it costs them too much. Might be fine in big cities, but is useless where Iive and where you might want to visit.
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Old Dec 24th, 2017, 03:42 PM
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I'm with StuDudley about the cash and with Andrew about DCC (so I hope to please both the two arch-travelers on the board...) Buying cash ahead doesn't cost that much for the small amount we need (we have chip CCs, and paid for lots of stuff like museum entrances with them. We also had pre-bought stuff on-line beforehand like train tickets since doing so saved us money).

CDG airport in particular is just not a place I want to spend a second more than necessary after arrival, not for the sake of a few bucks. But it's more than that. At home, we get to explain to the teller the denominations we want, scrutinize the notes (got the newest version of euros this time, had time to go online before departure to study the differences and how to identify the anti-counterfeit features.) Last time out, we didn't visit a single ATM after arrival. Came home, reconverted the unused cash (we spent very little) save for the coins and one or two small bills. Total cost of the entire operation was only a few bucks.

But as for DCC -ugh. No, just no. THAT one is worth everyone fighting.
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Old Dec 24th, 2017, 04:39 PM
Join Date: Jan 2009
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Just out of curiosity, is pay wave now everywhere in Europe? It's become the most common way of purchasing with a credit card in my home country. Waving your phone at the card machine is also becoming popular although less so.
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Old Dec 24th, 2017, 05:54 PM
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"Waving your phone at the card machine" may not take off for a year or two yet. The feature your phone needs to do that is called NFC, and it's still not available on many low-end phones. I just ordered a new Android and it doesn't have NFC, so I won't be using Android Pay on it. I'll live.
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Old Dec 24th, 2017, 06:19 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
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We use credit cards for everything possible, preferably AmEx since we get great points and other benefits, but some smaller/modest places take only Visa or MC so we have those as back up. Also we both have at least 2 CCs and a debit card.

We take about 200 euros (or whatever) usually left over from previous trips, but if not we will just change in the departure airport. And I bring $100 US in case of electronic emergency - but have bringing the same $100 back and forth for about 15 years.

For walking around money we just pull cash from a bank ATM using our Citibank ATM cards. We are not charged more than the 1% over Interbank rates, but they may be connected to other accounts we have with them.
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Old Dec 27th, 2017, 04:01 AM
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It's amusing to revisit this thread after several days. A question that takes one post and four sentences to answer thoroughly somehow took 35 replies and thousands of words.
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Old Dec 27th, 2017, 04:53 AM
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Yes Edward, and one highly extraneous post.
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Old Dec 27th, 2017, 11:31 AM
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Edward must be new in town.
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