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.

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The official currency of Italy is the euro, even though the country is still somewhat a cash based economy. You won’t be paying cash all of 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.

Just look for a card that doesn’t charge for international ATM withdrawal, or currency conversion, and you’ll have a vacation without paying all of the extra fees in what is arguably one of the most beautiful countries on Earth.

Why you’ll need a combination of travel money options

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.

Compare travel credit cards

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
50,000 miles after spending $2,500 in the first 3 months
2x miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, at gas stations and restaurants and 1x miles on all other purchases
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($99 thereafter)
Earn 50,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles after you spend $2,500 in the first 3 months.
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
20,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
1.25x miles on all purchases
$0
Earn 20,000 bonus miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
60,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months, plus 10,000 miles after your first anniversary
2x miles on Delta purchases, restaurants and at US supermarkets and 1x miles on all other purchases
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($99 thereafter)
With a welcome offer worth up to $980, plus rewards on everyday purchases and Delta flights, this card offers value even for occasional flyers. Rates & fees
CardMatch™ from creditcards.com
See terms
See terms
See terms
Use the CardMatch tool to find cards you're likely to qualify for with your credit score, without a hard pull on your credit.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
$95
This popular travel card's signup bonus is worth up to $750. Get even more value out of your travel, dining, and Lyft rewards by transferring them to miles.

Compare up to 4 providers

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 – off-season, prices drop dramatically. 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, it can be expensive.

Find out some typical vacation prices in Rome.

A quick summary of travel money options in Italy
BudgetMid-rangeLuxury
bldg

Camping in Rome
$12 per night

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

*Prices are for example purposes only.

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.

Compare money transfers to italy

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Should it be a travel card, a debit card or a credit card?

Credit cards and debit cards with travel features are just as suitable to take on a trip to Italy and Europe as a prepaid travel money card. You can 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), restaurants 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.
How to use a credit card in Italy

A quick summary of travel money options in Italy

Travel money optionProsCons
Debit cards for travel
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Access to your own money, without needing a separate ‘travel account’
  • Cheap and convenient access to cash
  • International ATM fees and currency conversion fees
  • Foreign transaction fees
  • No emergency funds available though a cash advance facility
Prepaid travel money cards
  • Pre-load euro and spend without incurring fees for currency conversion
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Emergency card replacement and backup cards
  • Reloadable and keep track of your spending
  • May still be charged for ATM withdrawals.
  • Reload fees could be high
  • Foreign exchange rates are usually less competitive
Credit cards for travel
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • 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
  • Can charge high withdrawal and cash advance fees
  • Attracts an annual fee
Traveler’s checks
  • Secure and can be easily replaced if lost or stolen
  • Photo ID needed to cash checks
  • Not accepted everywhere
  • Can be costly with initial purchase charges
Cash
  • Greater payment flexibility
  • Convenience
  • Difficult to manage expenses
  • Higher risk of theft

This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.

How travel money products work

Using debit cards

A travel debit card that waives the fee for currency conversion, or the fee for international ATM withdrawals, with no annual fee is ideal. Research if who you bank with 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 unmanned point of sale terminals such as petrol stations, ticket kiosks, toll booths and parking payment machines.

Using prepaid travel money cards

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, by choosing a product which waives the international ATM withdrawal fee, 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.

Using credit cards

A credit card like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard will let you make over the counter purchases without paying any foreign transactions fees. Be aware when it comes to cash advances, as interest will apply immediately when you use your card at an ATM – this should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.

Some travel friendly credit cards also offer perks such as complimentary international travel insurance and purchase protection guarantees.

  • 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.

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.

Taking cash with you

Cash is king. Italy is a cash based society compared to other major economies in Europe. You can still use your card in almost as many places as you would in the US and other countries; however, there’s a reluctance among Italians to let go of cash as a method of payment for things like rent, food, clothing and so on.

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Case study: Interview with Frank in Italy

OurTeam_Frank

On a trip to Europe, Frank visited Italy on his way to Greece. Coming from France, he visited The Last Supper in Milan, he headed east to see the canals of Venice and then finished his Italian adventure with the Colosseum and Vatican City in Rome.

What cards did you take with you?

  • Capital One 360 Debit Card
  • Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard

Why did you take these cards?

Frank uses Capital One 360 for his day to day banking and his The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard racks up points both at home and abroad. He used the Barclaycard for over the counter purchases for the perks of rewards points and the free travel insurance he received when he paid for his return airfare from Europe.

Frank was able to use his Capital One 360 debit card for free international ATM withdrawals when he needed cash, which he says you will need in Italy.

Where could you use your cards?

Frank says that he was able to use his card for most purchases over 20 euros. He stopped at small cafes for coffee, bars for beer and some smaller restaurants quite often – these establishments were cash only.

Did you use ATMs?

Frank says he made cash withdrawals frequently in Italy because his debit card gave him free international ATM withdrawals and has no currency conversion fee. Frank heard he might have problems using his card to withdraw cash in Italy, but never ran into a problem.

What is your travel money recommendation for Italy?

Frank says you can’t go wrong using a checking account that offers free ATM withdrawals and no fees on foreign transactions.

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 cafe 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 hot spots, 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 also cheaper if you book in advance.
Our pick for a prepaid travel card
Travelex Money Card

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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 euros. You have the following options for purchasing euros in the US.

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

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 do not charge a local ATM operator fee – avoid using independent ATMs. These third party ATMs charge like a wounded bull, it will be obvious which ATMs are affiliated with a bank and which aren’t.

Tips:

  • Italian bank ATMs generally have a maximum withdrawal limit somewhere between 250 to 300 euros per day and you can select English as a language option when you insert your card.
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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

Use the form below to compare travel insurance quotes from a range of insurers. Get access to exclusive coupon codes.

Name Product Trip Cancellation Emergency Medical Expenses Baggage Coverage Trip delay
Travelex Travel Basic
100%
$15,000
$500
$500
Essential travel coverage — with the option to customize — that can protect the cost of your trip.
Travelex Flight Insure
$10,000
$1,000
$100
Protect the cost of your flight and choose the coverage amount that meets your needs — trip delay protection included.
RoamRight Essential Travel Insurance Plan
100%
$15,000
$750
$500
Basic policy with coverage that includes trip cancellation insurance, tourist health insurance and baggage insurance.
Travel Guard Silver
100%
$15,000
$750
$500
Budget-friendly coverage with basic travel protections that include trip cancellation and trip interruption.

Compare up to 4 providers

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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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