Exchanging Currency in Italy: What Is The Best Solution?

Man holding banknotes of 100 euros and 100 US dollars

Picking the right way to exchange money is very important when you travel to Italy. It could make a huge difference in the total cost of your trip. But what exactly is the best practice? Which method is the most convenient? I will explain every aspect that you need to know to do it correctly.

The best way to exchange currency in Italy is to use your debit card at official ATMs after your arrival. However, you may be subjected to some commission and conversion fees. You should also convert some money before you leave your country. Consider the other options only in cases of necessity.

Everyone has a different option when it comes to exchanging money in Italy. So, I encourage you to keep reading if you want to save money and time.

Should You Exchange Money Before Going To Italy?

It is a good idea to get some euros before going to Italy. However, you should avoid taking a lot of cash with you. You will be fine using your debit or credit card. Usually, it is more effective to use plastic instead of paper. 

If you want to exchange money in the USA, I suggest you use AAA services or go to your local bank. Some small businesses, such as bars, won’t accept you pay with cards. 

Many people must have some local currency to feel confident. And this is the case of my father. He taught me to prepare myself in advance to don’t get surprised. You don’t know when you will need the money. It can be for paying the hotel, buying some food, or just leaving a tip. A good range is between €100,00 to €250,00 max.

If you want to learn more about tipping in Italy, make sure to check out this post. Here you will find helpful advice if you are interested in leaving it. 

Is It Better To Exchange Money in Italy?

Firstly, you should only get the essential cash for a couple of days. Most people prefer to get euros in their local bank. But others choose to bring some USD in cash to Italy and then change it. Personally, I like to get some local money in advance to have peace in mind. 

You should avoid or at least minimize exchanging your cash in any country. Most of the time, you will get very poor rates if you do so. Instead, you should use ATMs as much as you can when you’re out of cash. Simply withdraw your money in euros In Italy using your card when you need more.

Can You Use US Dollars in Italy?

In most cases, you won’t be able to use US dollars or any other foreign currency in Italy. So, you must have euros in order to pay for stuff. You are very unlikely to find a restaurant or market that accepts foreign money. 

Some tourist places such as hotels or resorts may take you dollars. However, I recommend you to only pay with euros all the time. You won’t have control over the exchange rates, so they can charge you what they want. When you pay with euros, you at least know how much you spent.

Should You Get Traveler’s Checks?

Nowadays, traveler’s checks are not as popular as they were before. You are unlikely to find someone who accepts them. The only places where you can change cheques are banks and exchange services.

I don’t recommend using the traveler’s cheques at all. You will have to pay commission, conversion, and many more fees. Most of the time, it is better to use a debit or credit card. The only advantage of the traveler’s cheques is that you can replace them quickly.

How Do You Exchange Currency in Italy?

There are many ways to exchange currency in Italy. However, some of them are not really convenient for most people. You should choose what is more flexible for you, depending on your situation. Sometimes it is best to sacrifice some money to avoid problems and save valuable time.

Before you travel to Italy, make sure to learn the current exchange rates. This will help decide which place is the most convenient. My favorite way to check the prices is by using the Yahoo Finances online tool.

Where Can You Exchange Money in Italy?

You have plenty of options available to exchange currency during your trip. But you must be aware of what places you choose. You could spend more than necessary if you pick the first thing that you find.

You can exchange currency at bankspost officesbooths, and at the airport. Also, don’t 100% rely on your credit or debit card to get money. You are unlikely to face problems with ATMs, but it is best to be prepared.

There is no way to exchange money for free in Italy. The only thing that you can do is to seek the most affordable method. Remember that rates often depend on your location, so expect to pay more in tourist areas.

Exchanging Currency With ATMs

Using ATMs is by far the cheapest and easiest way to get euros in Italy. Most of the time, you will find plenty of ATMs machines in all cities. Usually, you will notice them at the airport and outside or inside the bank offices.

Italian ATMs (or Bancomat) work with the most popular networks such as Plus, Cirrus, and Stars. However, your card must have a security PIN to use the machine. If you don’t have one, make sure to create it in your home country. Some banks won’t allow you to get a code if you don’t go personally. I suggest you get a four-digit pin.

Be extremely aware of Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) services. Basically, you are letting the Italian bank do the conversion for you. They can charge you what they want, and in most situations, it won’t be in your favor. Always decline the message that pop-ups on the screen. 

ATM blue machine with a white sign on the left
Photo by Diego Perin | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

How To Exchange Money With ATMs in Italy

It is critical to notify your bank in advance if you plan to visit Italy. You don’t want to spend the whole day trying to find an ATM that works. Just call or visit your bank some weeks ahead to avoid stress during your vacation. 

There are no fixed exchange rates when you use ATMs with your card. Your local bank decides how much charges you will pay. Usually, the interbank rate is from 1% to 3% of the total transaction. 

Should You Use Debit or Credit Cards?

In most cases, it is best to use debit cards to withdraw money at ATMs. If you choose a credit one, you may have to pay a lot of fees and interests. However, you will still be subjected to some flat conversion fees. They can start from $1,00 to $6,00 per transaction.

I recommend you use credit cards only to buy things directly from the store. They will allow you to get your VAT Tax Refund more quickly. Remember to get charged only in euros, whether you are using a credit or debit card. It is also a good idea to bring at least two plastics if one doesn’t work. Don’t forget to call your bank before you travel.

There are also special cards to travel to foreign countries. You won’t have to pay for any international transaction fees. They offer rewards on different purchases if you use them during your trip. Some of the best options for Italy are Chase Sapphire and United MileagePlus Club Card.

Which ATM Should You Use?

You shouldn’t choose the first ATM that comes in your way. In some areas like airports and tourist zones, you may find “tourist-friendly” machines. Don’t trust these devices even if they offer free withdrawal. Often you will get a horrible exchange rate of 10% or even more.

I recommend you use only ATMs from official and popular banks. Usually, they are available in the center of the town and large airports such as Fiumicino. Never use private ATMs if it isn’t an emergency. They will charge a lot more fees than average in most situations.

What Is The ATM Withdrawal Limit in Italy?

No law forces you a limit to withdraw money from ATMs in Italy. Although, the Italian Law of Balance imposes a daily limit of €3,000 in cash. The limits depend on the bank itself, but they can’t be higher than that number. Most ATMs allow you to withdraw only €250 per day.

Also, some ATMs may have a limit to withdraw cash on a single transaction. If that happens, you can make several transactions until you get the money you need. But you may pay multiple fees for every purchase you make. Make sure you check if other ATMs have the same to save some money.

After La Legge Del Bilancio 2020from 1 July 2020 until 31 December 2021, the limit to use and get cash will be €1,999.99. Then, from 1 January 2022, the threshold will drop to 1,000 euros.

Is It Safe to Use ATMs in Italy?

You are unlikely to get robbed or mugged while using ATMs in Italy. But you must be aware and take some safety precautions. Generally, the machines inside the banks are the safest ones to use. You should avoid using ATMs at night, even if they have security cameras.

ATMs or Bancomat scams are common in all cities in Italy. But according to the Supreme Court of Cassation, the bank must pay all damages. It must ensure that every ATM is safe to use.

What If The ATM Eats Your Card?

The ATM could hold your card for a longer time than usual. It doesn’t happen often, but you should be aware of it. You will see the message” Carta trattenuta rivolgersi al proprio istituto”. If that occurs while the bank is open, you must go to the teller and ask for the return of the card. The cashier will require you to show a form of identification.

If it happens when the bank is closed, you must contact the toll-free number (Numero Verde) of the bank. Also, make sure to contact your local bank to explain your situation. In the worst scenery, you will have to deactivate your card to avoid being scammed. You must contact both banks as soon as possible.

There are many reasons why ATMs eat cards. The most common is due to technical issues or to put the wrong PIN three times. Remember that you have exactly 30 seconds to retire your card from the machine.

Exchanging Currency At The Bank

The exchange rates at the bank are not the best, but they are just decent. However, commission fees are a little bit higher than in other places. They can start from €5,00 to €15,00 depending on the way you want the money. Banks often open from 8:30 to 13:30, and from 15:30 to 16:30.

The exchange rate variation can be between 1.75% and 3.00%. It depends on the type of currency, but the common ones are cheaper to get. They will be in favor of the bank and not the customer. 

Many banks won’t allow you to exchange money if you are not a client. Plus, they may ask you to reserve cash and retire it a few weeks later. I recommend you use their ATMs and forget about going to the bank itself. You will spend a lot of time at the office, and most sellers don’t speak English.

Some of the largest banks in Italy are Unicredit, Banca D’Italia, and Intesa Sanpaolo. You will need to show a form of ID, such as a passport. Sometimes they will require you a Codice Fiscale and a residence certificate too. Most banks publish their exchange rates online. Make sure to check this post if you want to avoid identification problems in Italy.

Bank with a green sign at the top
Photo by Pava |Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0 IT

Post Offices

Post offices are usually a better option to change currency than banks. The largest one is Poste Italiane, which has more than 12,800 offices throughout Italy. I recommend you to go to the post offices if you can’t use ATMs. 

You will be able only to change four types of currency: US dollars, pounds, yen, and Swiss franc. Often the post offices don’t have enough cash to give you back. So, it’s best to book the money in advance or call the closest branch to know if they’ve some.

Poste Italiane has many ATMs in most cities around Italy. But some of them don’t exchange currency. Remember to make all the transactions yourself and decline automatic conversion services.

CurrencyMax Banknote SizeCommission Fee/Transaction
Japanese Yen10.000€6,00
British Pound50€6,00
US Dollars 100€6,00
Swiss Franc1.000€6,00
Source: Poste Italiane Buying and Selling of Foreign Currency

Exchanging Currency At The Airport

Probably, changing your currency at the airport is the most expensive option. They seem to be convenient, but they aren’t. The exchange rates are low, and they will charge you a lot of fees. Usually, you will see a chart with all the prices in a visible spot.

Exchange bureaus are often more costly at the airport and tourist zones. So, it is best to change your currency in more competitive areas. Sometimes they also have service charges, which can go up to 10 euros per transaction. 

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying to avoid changing your money at airports completely. In some cases, it can be worth it to get a small number of euros in these places. But you shouldn’t use them as your primary method to change foreign currency.

I recommend you only use exchange booths at the airport for emergencies. If you don’t want to get some euros in advance, they may be the best solution. It is fairly easy and quick to use these stores once you arrive in Italy.

Exchanging Currency Online

Many companies offer currency exchange services online. They are pretty handy, and you can get euros from your home. However, they may not deliver money, so you will have to go personally to get the cash. 

You could use Travelex, but the rates may not be as reasonable as using ATMs. Also, you will end carrying a lot of cash with you, which is not the safest thing to do.

If you have a bank account in Italy or you know someone who has one, you could use Transferwise. It offers fair exchange rates for all kinds of currencies, and it is very simple to use. You can send the money to an Italian bank account, and then withdraw it at ATMs. If you travel frequently, it is the cheapest way to get euros. You can register for free by using this link.

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