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Using a credit card in Italy
Heading to the land of fashion and food? Find out how easy it is to use a credit card in Italy.
You’ve bought the plane ticket, planned the itinerary, packed your suitcase and now you’re ready to visit Italy – and eat all the delicious Italian food that you can get your hands on.
Of course, if you plan on using a credit card in Italy to buy that second bowl of pasta or extra gondola ride in Venice, here are some key things you should know.
Compare cards for use in Italy
Should I use my credit card to get cash?
ATMs are everywhere in Italy – just as they are in Canada – only they’re called Bancomats. At the beginning of your transaction, you’ll be able to select English as your language of choice and proceed as you would on an ATM in Canada.
- If you decide to use an ATM to get cash, it’s a good idea to use your debit card. Using your credit card to withdraw cash is one of the most expensive financial decisions you can make with your card – aside from being charged a cash advance fee when you withdraw money, you will immediately start accruing interest on your transaction until you pay back the amount withdrawn in full. As a rule of thumb, a credit card should only be used to withdraw cash in emergencies.
- Don’t forget that you might still pay an ATM fee when you use your debit card – but you’ll avoid paying interest. If you want to completely avoid ATM fees altogether, consider applying for a debit card with a provider that has a global network with other banks around the world. This means you can use the ATMs in the network without incurring a fee.
What's a cash advance fee?
A cash advance fee is charged when you withdraw cash from your credit card. It’s usually the greater of a flat fee or a percentage of the transaction. For example, the cash advance for a card may be either $10 or 5% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
What other credit card fees should I look out for?
- Foreign transaction fees. When you use your card overseas, you can incur a foreign transaction fee that’s usually 3% – 5% of each transaction. Most credit cards have foreign transaction fees.
- Currency conversion fees. A merchant may offer to convert your bill into Canadian dollars instead of charging you in euros. This is called a dynamic currency conversion (DCC), and is expensive because you’ll pay a currency conversion fee for it. You can simply avoid this fee by paying in the local currency.
Using cash in Italy
It’s an excellent idea to carry some euros with you during your trip. Big tourist locations and hotels will often accept credit cards, but if you plan on exploring small towns or street markets, you should keep in mind that they probably won’t accept plastic as often, so plan on carrying at least some cash with you.
How to prepare before travelling to Italy
Before arriving in Italy, make sure you can use your credit card there easily.
- Get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. Most credit cards will charge a 3% foreign transaction fee if you try to use it internationally. Consider applying for a card well in advance that charges no foreign transaction fees.
- Consider getting a Visa or Mastercard. Visa and Mastercard are both usually accepted in Italy, while American Express will likely be accepted at much fewer locations across the country.
- Give your card provider a heads–up. Always notify your bank or credit card provider of your overseas travel plans. If they see a foreign transaction on your card, they may put a hold on your account for suspicious activity. To avoid declined charges, let your provider know you’ll be travelling to Italy.
- Know who to call if you’re having problems with your card. Your card might get lost or stolen while you’re travelling. In both cases, you’ll need the right number to call for a replacement card.
- Know where you’ll get cash once you arrive. To minimize stress, plan where you’ll take out cash beforehand. To save on ATM fees, find out if your bank has international partnerships that allow you to use some Bancomats for free.
You’re almost ready to leave for Italy! Before you take off, consider the following:
- Which credit cards will I take? Consider bringing at least two credit cards in case you have any issues with one.
- Have I called my bank? Keep your bank in the loop, and know what number you’ll call if you run into any trouble.
- Do I understand the possible fees? Knowledge is power — and it can save you a lot of money on your travels.
- What’s my plan to get cash? Have a debit card ready, and know which ATMs you’ll be able to get cash from.
- How can I keep my card safe? Keep your credit card with you at all times, cover your PIN with your hand when at an ATM and cancel your ATM transaction if anything seems off.
How to use a credit card in…
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