Italy bound? A guide to using a credit card in Italy | July 2018
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Using a credit card in Italy

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How easy is it to use a credit card in Italy?

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.

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 You’ll also immediately start accruing interest on your transaction until you pay back the amount withdrawn.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.

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® credit card, Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® 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 no foreign transaction fee credit cards

Updated July 23rd, 2018
Name Product Currency Conversion Fee Annual Fee APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases
$195
16.74% variable
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
$495
16.74% variable
Mastercard Black Card members receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
$0
16.74%, 22.49% or 25.49% variable
Get 4% points back on dining, 3% on travel, 2% on Uber rides and online shopping and 1% on other purchases, and redeem points for Uber credits, gift cards or cash back.
$0
16.74% to 24.74% variable
20,000 online bonus points offer. Ditch the restrictions of typical airline rewards cards. Any airline, any hotel, anytime. No blackout dates.
of the transaction amount
$0
14.74%, 18.74% or 24.74% variable
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases. See Rates and Fees
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
14.74%, 21.24% or 24.74% variable
Earn 50,000 bonus miles once after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
17.74% to 24.74% variable
Earn 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of your account opening, and an additional 30,000 points when you spend a total of $30,000 on purchases within the first year of your account opening.
of the transaction amount
$95
17.74% to 24.74% variable
Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
$450
17.74% to 24.74% variable
Earn 50,000 BONUS POINTS after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening* — that's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
$550
None (Charge Card)
Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and 5X points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com.
$995
16.74% variable
Earn points every time you spend. Luxury Card enhances your purchasing power by providing you with one (1) point for every one dollar ($1) you spend. Every purchase gets you closer to the rewards you want.
None
$450
17.74% to 24.74% variable
Enjoy United Club membership, Premier Access® travel services, free checked bags, plus earn miles on every purchase.
$75
16.74% to 24.74% variable
Buy one ticket, get one for just the taxes and fees ($0 fare plus taxes and fees from just $22) after you make $1,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of your account opening. There are no blackout dates.
$195
17.49% to 26.49% variable
Earn 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card in your first 3 months.

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.

  1. 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® credit card, Barclaycard Arrival Plus and Platinum Card® from American Express don’t charge foreign transaction fees.
  2. Highly consider getting a Visa or Mastercard. Visa and Mastercard are pretty universally accepted in Italy. AMEX and Discover are not always accepted.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!

How to use a credit card in…

Frequently asked questions

Megan Horner

As the assistant publisher of credit cards at finder.com, Megan is passionate about helping you compare and find the best credit cards for your situation, whether that is earning great rewards or improving your credit score. In her previous position, Megan worked as an assigning editor at Credit Karma, where she focused on editing and publishing educational articles on credit cards. Megan started her career as a writer at a comparison website, so she has a longstanding background in surfacing the best deals and helping people make decisions. In her spare time, Megan likes to hike, camp, surf, and read.

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2 Responses

  1. 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.

    • finder 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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