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Italy: home of the Roman Colosseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa…and pizza!
Of course, you may be wondering whether you can use your credit card in Italy to upgrade from one slice to the whole pizza. The answer is: you usually can. Visa and Mastercard credit cards are widely accepted; you’re able to use your American Express card in some places, too.
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Look for an ATMs in Italy linked to the Plus or Cirrus systems so that using your Visa or Mastercard card will be easy. Before you travel, be sure to let your bank know you’ll be out of the country to keep your card from getting frozen.
Once you insert your card, you will be prompted to choose your language, and English will be one of the choices. Then you’ll enter your 4 digit PIN number. Be aware that the maximum withdrawal limit is €250 at most Italian ATMs, and also be aware of additional fees that may incur with this withdrawal.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 23.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £3 per month, your representative rate is 29.8% APR (variable).
Even if you are able to use your credit card at all the restaurants and shops you encounter on your trip, you will still need cash for small items, such as coffee bars, taking the metro, or even using a public toilet! If you visit small towns, some places will only accept cash, so be sure to have an adequate amount of euro on you.
Italy has moved from magnetic-stripe to chip cards.
If you use a chip-and-signature card, you can use it in Italy just about everywhere you find a manned credit card machine. However, some businesses are hesitant in accepting them because they’re not sure if it’s allowed and some others don’t accept them to cut down on credit card fraud. If you’re getting tickets from a machine, you’ll need to enter a PIN, in which case your chip-and-signature card won’t work.
By exercising some caution when using your credit card in Italy, you’ll have a relatively trouble-free experience.
Remain alert to street crime, especially where two or more people work in distracting victims before decamping with their valuables. Instances of theft at airports are not uncommon, so stay vigilant while arriving and departing.
Credit card fees can leave a noticeable dent in your pocket when you’re travelling overseas, so know what you’re up against well in advance and choose a card with no or low fees.
British credit card issuers typically charge a fee equivalent to 1% to 3% of your transaction, so carefully review your card’s fine print to avoid statement surprises. Some cards designed for travel come with no foreign transaction fees, so this could be a good time to switch.
If a retailer offers to bill your credit card in sterling, dynamic currency conversion comes into play. While this might sound like a good deal, you’ll actually end up getting a worse exchange rate, and you might also end up paying currency conversion fees. Whenever you’re presented with an option, choose to pay in euro.
Using your credit card to withdraw money from an ATM may not make sense unless it’s a bona fide emergency. Each time you withdraw funds from an ATM, you’re likely to pay a cash advance fee. Your APR for cash advances is typically higher than your purchase APR, and you’ll typically get no grace period on interest — instead, you start paying interest immediately. Again, some cards designed for overseas spending will waive the cash advance fee.
The table below serves as an example of how much extra you may pay to use your credit card for in Italy.
A cash advance fee is calculated (and 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, “2.5% of the transaction, minimum £3.00”.
Ask yourself these simple questions before you leave so your spending in Italy does not hit any roadblocks.
When you’re in Italy, you don’t have to worry about where and when you can use your credit card. Just keep some cash handy to pay for small purchases.
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