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Travel money guide: Italy

Ciao, amico! Traveling to Italy? Start comparing different ways to spend and prep your wallet for all of the pasta, pizza and gelato.

The official currency of Italy is the euro, but the country is still somewhat a cash-based economy. You won’t pay in cash all the time, as there are shops and merchants in Italy that are well-equipped to accept card payments — Visa and Mastercard are more common than American Express.

Look for a card that doesn’t charge for international ATM withdrawals or currency conversion and you’ll have a vacation without paying numerous extra fees — the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a great choice for this. Once your wallet is prepared, enjoy what is arguably one of the most beautiful countries on Earth.

Our picks for traveling to Italy

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card logo

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Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

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Travel card, debit card or credit card?

Credit cards and debit cards with travel features are as suitable to take on a trip to Italy and Europe as a prepaid travel money card. Use your Visa or Mastercard in Italy without issue, though American Express typically has a higher surcharge and isn’t as commonly accepted. Use your card to pay for train tickets, souvenirs at gift shops, hotels, trattorias (Italian eateries) and more.

What you’ll need cash for is to pay for street food, taxis, to pay tour guides and for purchases under 10 or 20 euros. When you compare cards, look for a product that lets you forego the foreign ATM transaction fee.

A combination of travel money is the best approach for spending in Italy. Take more than one way to withdraw cash as there have been claims that Italian ATMs can be temperamental with foreign cards. You don’t want to be in a foreign country without access to money if one of your cards is lost or stolen.

Make your vacation memorable for all the right reasons and travel with peace of mind that you’re getting the most from your budget with a travel card, credit card or debit card.

These are your options for spending money in Italy

Using a credit card

A credit card like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card will let you make over-the-counter purchases without paying any foreign transactions fees. Be aware: Interest applies immediately when you use your card for cash advances at an ATM — avoid this unless absolutely necessary.

Some travel-friendly credit cards also offer perks such as complimentary international travel insurance and purchase protection guarantees. Different travel cards offer various benefits, so take care to compare your options beforehand.

  • Tip: Make sure you tell your bank about your travel plans, as they may put a block on your account if they see a transaction in another country.
Pros
  • Protected by PIN and chip technology
  • Access to funds up to your credit limit
  • Some have no currency conversion or transaction fees
  • Interest-free days when you pay your account in full
  • Perks like complimentary travel insurance and reward points
  • Emergency card replacement
Cons
  • Can charge high withdrawal and cash advance fees
  • Attracts an annual fee

Which credit card issuers are accepted in Italy?

Mastercard and Visa are most widely accepted in Italy, but you can find large establishments that accept American Express and Discover cards as well.

Merchant acceptanceATM acceptance
Visacheck mark iconHighcheck mark iconHigh
Mastercardcheck mark iconHighcheck mark iconHigh
American Expressexclamation point iconMediumcheck mark iconHigh
Discoverexclamation point iconMediumcheck mark iconHigh

Compare travel credit cards

1 - 3 of 29
Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

2x miles on every purchase, every day, 5x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, 5x miles when you book on Turo, the world’s largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
$95
Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months ​from account opening.
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
Earn unlimited 1.25x miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
$0
Earn 20,000 bonus miles once you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card
70,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after you make $4,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.
3 miles per $1 on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases and 1 miles per $1 on all other purchases
$50
Get 70,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after you make $4,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Using a debit card

A travel debit card that waives the fee for currency conversion, or the fee for international ATM withdrawals, with no annual fee is ideal. For example, Betterment Checking reimburses all charges associated with foreign transaction fees and international ATM fees.

Research if your bank is part of the Global ATM Alliance to find out if you can make cash withdrawals for free. If not, you can access cash in Italy for roughly the same price you would at home.

  • Tip: Your debit card will work in more places if it has a CHIP. A debit card with a CHIP will work at unstaffed point-of-sale terminals such as gas stations, ticket kiosks, toll booths and parking payment machines.
Pros
  • Protected by PIN and chip technology
  • Access to your own money without needing a separate “travel account”
  • Cheap and convenient access to cash
Cons
  • International ATM fees and currency conversion fees
  • Foreign transaction fees
  • No emergency funds available though a cash advance facility

Using a prepaid travel card

Preload a travel card with euros and avoid the fees that usually go hand in hand with international purchases. Compare these cards by their ATM fees, initial load and reload fees.

Some ATMs in Italy don’t charge an ATM operator fee. Choose a product that waives the international ATM withdrawal fee so you should have no problem accessing your money at Italian bancomat machines.

  • Tip: A travel card lets you lock in the exchange rate when you transfer funds between different currencies. This feature can be handy if you think it will become more expensive to purchase euros during your trip.
Pros
  • Preload euro and spend without incurring fees for currency conversion
  • Protected by PIN and chip technology
  • Emergency card replacement and backup cards
  • Reloadable and keep track of your spending
Cons
  • May still be charged for ATM withdrawals
  • Reload fees could be high
  • Foreign exchange rates are usually less competitive

Paying with cash in Italy

Italy is a cash-based society compared to other major economies in Europe: Cash is king.

Use your card in almost as many places as you would in the US and other countries. But Italy generally seems reluctant to let go of cash as payment for things like rent, food, clothing and so on.

Pros
  • Greater payment flexibility
  • Convenience
Cons
  • Difficult to manage expenses
  • Higher risk of theft

Using traveler’s checks

Traveler’s checks have become a financial product of the past. Many banks in Italy will refuse to cash them, so don’t bother with this travel money product.

Pros
  • Secure and can be easily replaced if lost or stolen
  • Photo ID needed to cash checks
Cons
  • Not accepted everywhere
  • Can be costly with initial purchase charges
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Exchange rate history

Predicting the movements of currency pairs is a difficult task, but you can lock in the exchange rate on a travel card if you believe euros will be more expensive to buy in the future.

Live Rate

= 1.0328

Refreshing in: 60s | Wed, Sep 28, 03:59PM GMT

Buying currency in the US

There’s no limit to the amount of foreign currency you can bring into the Italy or the eurozone. However, you’re going to have to declare your cash if you’re planning to enter or leave the country with more than €10,000. You have the following options for purchasing euros in the US.

A quick comparison of bank and nonbank providers shows that if you use the foreign cash services of a company like Travelex, you’ll end up with a few extra dollars. Nonbank providers like Travelex have locations in major airports where you can collect your euros before you depart the country.

Italian currency

Italian 5-eurosItalian 10-eurosItalian 20-euros
Italian 50-eurosItalian 100-euros

The main banks in Italy are:

  • Unicredit SpA
  • Intesa Sanpaolo
  • Cassa Depositi e Prestiti
  • Banco BPM
  • Banca Monte dei Paschi
  • UBI Banca
  • Banca Nazionale del Lavoro
  • BPER Banca
  • Mediobanca
  • Crédit Agricole Italia

Making ATM withdrawals

The best way to get cash in Italy is to make an ATM withdrawal when you arrive. The Visa or Mastercard exchange rate applies and is better than any rate you’re likely to get exchanging currency at an exchange office or a bank.

Italian bank ATMs are called bancomats and some don’t charge a local ATM operator fee — but avoid using independent ATMs. These third-party ATMs charge like a wounded bull, and it’ll be obvious which ATMs are affiliated with a bank and which aren’t. A debit card that waives some of these ATM fees, like the one from Betterment Checking, are a good way of sidestepping this issue.

Find ATMs in Italy

How many euros do I need to bring to Rome?

The summer season premiums — late June, July and August— will add to the cost of an Italian trip. However, prices drop dramatically off-season. The cost of vacationing typically depends on where you are in the country.

In smaller towns, especially in the South, Italy is surprisingly affordable. In the middle of the country, the north and especially in touristic places like Rome, Venice and Milan, expenses can run high.

Typical vacation prices in Rome

A quick summary of travel money options in Italy. All prices are in US dollars.

BudgetMid-rangeLuxury
MealsTrapizzino: $4
Sandwich: $3 – $5
Dinner for two with wine
$70
5-star restaurant
$100 – $600
ActivitiesColosseum entry
$14
Rome and Colosseum half day walking tour
$60
Imperial Rome golf cart tour
$215
AccomodationCamping in Rome
$12 per night
2-star hotel in Rome
$70 – $140 per night
5-star hotel in Rome
$180 – $600 per night

Prices are for example purposes only.

Case study: Frank's experience

Frank profile photo
Frank

Interview with Frank in Italy

Do you have any travel money tips for Italy?

  • Cash prices. Frank says a price can drop if you choose to pay cash over card. It doesn’t hurt to ask how much a purchase would be if you’re paying in cash.
  • Stand to drink. Frank says stand up to drink your coffee. By taking a seat at a café or bar, the price can double or triple.
  • Get away from the tourist areas. Especially in Rome, the further away you are from the tourist hotspots, the less you’ll pay.
  • Train speed and prices. Fast trains between cities cost twice as much as the regular train. Frank says he enjoyed taking the slow train because it gave him time to see the countryside — it’s also cheaper if you book in advance.
  • Tip: Find travel insurance for your trip to Italy

It doesn’t matter how cautious you are while traveling, nobody is exempt from the risk of unfortunate losses while traveling. Travel insurance can offer financial protection against such losses as:

  • Trip cancellation charges
  • Lost or stolen valuables
  • Medical emergencies including evacuation and hospital stay
  • Car rental coverage
  • Personal liability
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2 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    AlbertJanuary 14, 2018

    What’s the most inexpensive best coverage?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JoanneJanuary 15, 2018Staff

      Hi Albert,

      Thanks for reaching out.

      Here at finder we are unable to make recommendations, we can offer general advise.
      You can use the table above to compare travel insurance quotes from a range of insurers. The table should allow you to compare features between companies. Should you need additional details, you may go ahead and click on more info or go to site.

      Cheers,
      Joanne

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