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Using a credit card in Italy

Know the potential fees and what’s accepted before you take off.

You’ve bought the ticket, planned the itinerary and even made a Facebook post about how excited you are — 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 those extra-special guided tours at the Coliseum, here are some things you should know.

If you’re taking along a variety of cards, debit cards and cash, read our full guide on spending money while traveling in Italy.

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

What other credit card fees should I look out for?

Foreign transaction fees

When you use your card abroad, you can incur a foreign transaction fee that’s usually 3% of each transaction (though can be more, depending on your card).

Most credit cards have foreign transaction fees. However, all good travel cards come with no foreign transaction fees. For a few excellent cards, look into the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, PenFed Pathfinder® Rewards Visa Signature® Card and BankAmericard Travel Rewards.

Currency conversion fees

A merchant may offer to convert your bill into US dollars instead of charging you in euros. This is called dynamic currency conversion, and it’s expensive because you’ll pay a currency conversion fee for it. If a merchant offers it, take a hard pass.

Compare cards for travel in Italy

Before packing your suitcase, check to be sure that your credit card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. If it does, consider these great picks that won’t charge you a fee each time you use your card abroad.

Name Product Foreign transaction fee Annual fee Purchase APR Filter values
American Express® Gold Card
None
$250
See Pay Over Time APR

Rose Gold is Back

Earn up to 4x points on select purchases, a bevy of travel perks, and a welcome offer worth up to $600 based on our valuation with this upper-mid tier travel card. Terms apply, see rates & fees
The Platinum Card® from American Express
None
$695
See Pay Over Time APR

New Platinum Exclusive Offer

One of the most valuable premium travel cards, featuring two welcome offers worth up to $7,000 based on Finder's valuation, multiple travel credits and unrivaled lounge access. Terms apply, see rates & fees
Luxury Card Mastercard® Titanium Card™
None
$195
14.99% variable
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
loading

Compare up to 4 providers

Cash is king

It’s an excellent idea to carry euros with you during your trip. Big tourist locations and hotels will often accept credit cards, and sometimes even US dollars. But, if you plan on exploring the beautiful farmer’s market in Venice, you should keep in mind that they probably won’t accept plastic, so plan on carrying some cash with you. Plus, while some places may accept US currency, they’re likely to give you poor exchange rates.

How much is a US dollar worth in euros?

Magstripe and chip credit cards

Your credit card provider has probably sent you a new credit card with a chip inside to replace your magstripe card. The chip card has a chip inside of it and you insert it into a credit card reader, while a magstripe can only be swiped.

In the US, most stores use chip-and-signature cards, meaning that you insert your chip card and sign for it. However, in Europe chip-and-pin cards (where you insert your chip card then enter your PIN) are more common.

Using a chip-and-signature card in Italy usually won’t be a problem. The attendant will often just ask for a signature. However, if you are in a place where there aren’t attendants – like a train station late at night – then you may be facing a bit of a conundrum.

You can avoid this problem either by simply carrying cash or by calling your card provider and asking for your credit card PIN. Make sure that you leave a few weeks to receive your PIN by mail.

If you’re still worried about using your chip-and-signature card, you can cover your bases by picking up an actual chip-and-PIN card. Two such cards often recommended by travelers are the State Department Federal Credit Union Visa Platinum and the Andrews Federal Credit Union Visa.

How to prepare before traveling 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. However, cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, PenFed Pathfinder® Rewards Visa Signature® Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express (Terms apply, see rates & fees) don’t charge foreign transaction fees.
  • Highly consider getting a Visa or Mastercard. Visa and Mastercard are pretty universally accepted in Italy. AMEX and Discover are not always accepted.
  • Give your card provider a heads–up. Your card company hates fraud because it loses them money. 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 traveling to Italy.
  • Know who to call if you’re having problems with your card. Your card might be stolen while you’re traveling, or you could lose it. In both cases, you’ll need the right number to call for a replacement card. Ask your provider for an Italian phone number you can dial in a pinch.
  • Know where you’ll get cash once you arrive. So you don’t waste time, plan out beforehand where you’ll get cash. See if your bank has international partnerships that allow you to use some Bancomats for free.

Next Steps

You’re almost ready to leave for Italy! Before you take off, know your answers to these questions.

  • Which credit cards will I take? Consider bringing at least two, preferably chip cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees.
  • Have I called my card provider? Keep your card provider in the loop, and know what number you’ll call if you run into trouble abroad.
  • 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 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.

Once you’ve made these arrangements, you’re all set to use your credit card on your next trip to Italy. Safe travels!

See more guides on using a credit card in other countries.

Should I use my credit card to get cash?

ATMS are everywhere in Italy – just as they are in the United States – only they’re called Bancomats. Don’t let the Italian name fool you, by the way. At the beginning of your transaction, you’ll be able to select English as your language of choice and they operate just like American ATMs do.

If you decide to use an ATM to get cash, it’s a good idea to use your debit card. Credit cards will often charge you a cash advance fee when you withdraw money. You’ll also immediately start accruing interest on your transaction until you pay back the amount withdrawn.

What’s a cash advance fee?

A cash advance fee is assessed 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 fee for the Chase Sapphire Preferred is either $10 or 5% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.

Don’t forget that you might still pay an ATM fee when you use your debit card, but you’ll avoid paying interest. Choose a low-fee card like the Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account. It reimburses you for any fees you may incur at ATMs, doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees and won’t stick you with cash advance interest because it’s not a credit card.

Bottom line

Credit cards are widely accepted across Italy, with Visa and Mastercard being the most popular options. However, larger establishments may accept American Express and Discover cards too.

Before you go to Italy, consider applying for a travel credit card to avoid paying foreign transaction fees.

Frequently asked questions

Images: Shutterstock

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2 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    SusanApril 9, 2018

    I have 3 credit cards that I want to use in Italy. I don’t have a PIN number. I am leaving next week . Just presumed it was possible to use them. Don’t want to pay everything with cash, need to know if I have to transfer money to use them at the ATM.

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JeniApril 9, 2018Staff

      Hi Susan,

      Thank you for getting in touch with finder.

      Since you mentioned that you are travelling to Italy and have 3 credit cards, I suggest that you better use them in purchases or paying your bill in the restaurants rather than withdrawing cash. Also check from those credit cards which has no/low foreign transaction fee because most credit cards have foreign transaction fees which is usually at 3% of each transaction (though can be more, depending on your card).

      You don’ have to transfer money to your credit card just to withdraw cash however you need to call your credit card company for your pin number.

      Please be advised that if you decide to use an ATM to get cash, it’s a good idea to use your debit card. Credit cards will often charge you a cash advance fee when you withdraw money. You’ll also immediately start accruing interest on your transaction until you pay back the amount withdrawn.

      I hope this helps.

      Have a great day!

      Cheers,
      Jeni

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