I receive loads of questions about money when my clients are preparing to travel to Italy. I’ve put together tips and advice on handling money with updates for 2017.
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ATM Machines Italy
The world is a smaller place these days Travelers’ Checks are a thing of the past and no one uses the bank tellers directly. There are ATM’s in every town and on every corner in the big cities which you can use to get cash. While you will incur a charge for this service, it is comparable to the best rate at any bank and a steal compared to the corner exchange windows. Many banks will also credit these international fees after you are home. Wells Fargo was kind enough to give me credit for each interaction. The big plus is the time you save and the ease of use. Most banks have a daily limit of around 200-300 euro. You will need to verify this limit with your bank and make sure that you can use your card internationally. I always bring a back up card just in case. That way if for some reason one card is denied or eaten by the machine you have immediate access to cash.
The ATM machines in Italy alert you to take your card and money within 30 seconds of dispensing. This usually comes with nerve racking beeps. Don’t panic, but don’t delay. They aren’t kidding and the machine will make good on its warning. Bills are usually in large denominations, which can be frustrating. Great places to make change are at large tourist venues, museums and strangely when paying your toll after exiting the autostrada.
Some machines are located inside the bank or between two sets of doors. During the day these can be staffed with a stern looking guard. Don’t be intimated, just act like you belong there and do your business.
Be mindful when using and choosing an ATM machine. I do a quick check and make sure I feel comfortable with those in the vicinity. Using the buddy system in busy, high density tourist areas is great. Before inserting your card, check to make sure there isn’t a thin film (similar to Cling Wrap) on the machine. This is a technique used to gain your information.
Once your euros are dispensed and your card returned, tuck everything safely away. While I do count my money, I do so discreetly at the machine and then I quickly wrap up my transaction. Tourists that linger unaware without securing their money are always a big target.
Credit Card Precautions Before Travel
You will need to call your bank and your credit card company before departure to let them know of your travel plans. Due to increased security some companies will stop your card until they are able to contact you to verify its use. You must notify the company AND then have them transfer you to the fraud department and do it all over again. This is redundant, but it is better than getting stuck trying to fix problems while in Italy.
Most on-line banking has an option to set travel plans. This is a great tool, but I still recommend speaking with a live person as well.
I also make sure that I have the international number for the credit/debit card in case it is lost or stolen and I give all of my information to a trusted person back home.
Bank Fees and Charges while Traveling
Be aware that all banks and all credit cards will charge an international fee. It is maddening but it is just a fact of life. The fees have typically been 1-3%, but with the recent changes going on I would not be surprised to see that increase. When taking out money in the ATM, I always take out the max to make better use of my machine fee.
Bringing Euros to Italy
Make sure you bring some euros with you, usually 100-200 is enough to get you to the first ATM. Having this cash immediately available can come in handy in those ‘just in case’ situations. You can purchase these through the larger branches of most banks. If you are flying through another city in Europe (besides the UK) and have a long layover, it is possible to use your debit card at one of the airport’s ATM’s and will save you the local bank fee.
The Exchange Rate
The exchange rate has been an up and down affair since its introduction, but for the first time ever we are steadily approaching a near equal value. With that being said, I still take things with a grain of salt and I know we live in a volatile world. Between our political climate, the European economy, Brexit and the uncertainty of the immigrant situation I believe anything can happen. So, be prepared for any changes but feel free to pat yourself on the back for your luck of timing.
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