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Easy Going

Travel stories + tips from seasoned explorers

The Nitty Gritty of Trip Departure: Get your Cards in Order

April 21, 2016

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IT’S DEPARTURE TIME….and I get many questions this time of year regarding how to handle credit and debit cards (in case of loss or theft), as well as which cards are most widely accepted in Italy; what about ATM machines; how much cash should I take; etc. Below are some answers to these frequently asked questions:

Scan copies of all your IDs and other important documents and email them to yourself in a password-protected document before you leave. Also have copies in a safe place back home that someone can access if necessary. Make sure all electronic devices are password protected. You can also keep credit card numbers, bank contact info, and passport details on an encrypted storage app like ewallet (iPhone, iPad) or awallet (android).

Call your banks and credit card companies to advise them of your travel dates so they won’t shut down your cards when “unusual charges” occur. Check with them about your daily withdrawal limits as well, and raise them if necessary.

Most banks charge 1%-3%, as well as a per-use convenience fee, for use of the ATM machines in Europe. Still, we feel that withdrawing money from an ATM machine as needed is the best way to access cash, and often offers better rates than other methods. Every airport I’ve visited in Europe had at least one ATM machines. Remember that many European ATM keypads only have numbers, not the corresponding letters. So, memorize your access code in numbers, if you haven’t already. Do not fall prey to the money exchange vendors found in the airports – they offer terrible rates! You should arrive in Europe with at least Euro 200 (or Euro 100 per person) in case you have problems operating the machines. Check with your local bank about their rates and lead time for purchasing Euros and compare to the going Internet rate.

Dollars are not accepted and travelers’ checks are rarely used any more. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted, AMEX less so. As with debit cards, you will normally incur a 1% to 3% transaction charge for all credit card purchases, unless you have one of the few credit cards (Capitol One comes to mind) that doesn’t charge this fee. Note that Italy, like most of Europe, is moving to the more secure “chip technology” on their credit and debit cards. Some US cards still have only the magnetic stripe, and may not be widely accepted. Please verify with your bank that your credit card is usable in Italy. Most US banks are now issuing “chip and signature” cards, and you are advised to obtain one before traveling in order to avoid unpleasant surprises. Some smaller establishments (small restaurants, etc) and most taxis do NOT accept credit cards

Keep in mind that you cannot add a tip on a credit card receipt in Italy. Contact Adagio Travel if you’d like our advice on tipping in Italy.