Money in Venice
ATMs, credit cards, and currency exchange
ABOVE: Visa and MasterCard are accepted by many,
but not all, shops and restaurants in Venice.
Money is the
fuel that powers your Venice holiday, so it pays to know a few basic rules about
cash, currency exchange, and credit cards before you leave home.
Italy is part of the euro zone. Don't be one of the
rubes who try to pay Italians in U.S. dollars or pounds sterling--use the local
currency, just as you'd expect foreign visitors to do at home.
Using ATMs or cashpoints
Your best source of cash is a "bancomat," the
Italian word for "automated teller machine" (ATM) or" cashpoint." You'll find
ATMs on bank buildings all over the city, and most of them have instructions in
Here are a few tips on using cash machines:
Make sure that your home bank knows you're traveling. (Some
banks block foreign transactions, allegedly for security reasons, unless
they've been notified ahead of time.)
Look for bancomats that have logos for Cirrus, Plus,
Maestro, and other international ATM networks. (Machines at the Cassa di
Risparmio di Venezia, a local savings institution with many branches,
dispense cash only to account holders.)
Be prepared to use a four-digit numberic PIN. If your bank
uses a combination of letters and numbers, or if it requires a six-digit
PIN, ask the bank to change your PIN or give you instructions for using ATMs
Some bancomat menus require users of foreign cards to select
"International card" before making a withdrawal. (This is okay--you're just
confirming that the machine needs to connect with an international ATM
Be aware that many banks add both transaction fees and
surcharges of several percent to cash withdrawals outside their own
networks. If your bank is greedy, you may want to switch banks.
If possible, carry ATM cards for two different banks, just
in case one of your cards doesn't work. (Also, don't wait until you're
almost broke before getting more cash, since international ATM networks
sometimes go offline for a few hours.)
Exchanging cash for local currency
ATMs or cashpoints nearly always have the best
exchange rates. Currency-exchange offices and hotel reception desks tend to
offer poor rates, and sometimes their commissions are outrageous. (The last time
we checked the Travelex office in Venice, it was charging an 8.5 percent
commission on U.S. dollar notes, plus a €3,50 handling fee.
If you must exchange cash or traveler's
checks, try to limit the quantity, because changing money twice (from your
currency to euros, and from euros back to your own currency) will mean two hefty
Using credit cards
Visa and MasterCard are accepted by most
shops and restaurants, though smaller merchants, some neighborhood restaurants
or bars, and food vendors may not take plastic. (Also, restaurant tips are
normally given in cash.) American Express is accepted at higher-end boutiques
and restaurants that cater to tourists.
Most credit-card companies now impose
surcharges on foreign transactions, and these surcharges can range from 2 to
4 percent or more. If you have several credit cards, learn which one has the
lowest surcharge, and use that card for your trip. (We normally use Capital
One, which doesn't levy a surcharge for American cardholders.)
Some credit-card issuers refuse foreign
charges unless you've notified the company of your trip ahead of time. It's
a good idea to call the toll-free number on the back of your card before
departure, just to make sure that your card will be honored while you're
Protecting your valuables
Hardly anyone gets mugged or robbed in Venice, but
pickpockets, purse-snatchers, and camera thieves aren't uncommon--especially in
busy tourist areas like the railroad station and the Piazza San Marco. Keep most
of your cash, your credit and ATM cards, and your passport in a "neck safe"
beneath your clothing, and don't be obvious about digging them out in public
For more information about cash, credit cards,
tax-free shopping, and other money-related topics, see these articles at
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