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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 several languages.
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 overseas.
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 network.)
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 commissions.
Using credit and debit 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.
Note: If you have an American credit or debit card that doesn't use a PIN, don't worry: Instead of typing in a PIN (as you'd do if you had a European card), you'll be asked to sign a paper cash-register slip.
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 abroad.
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 places.
For more information about cash, credit cards, tax-free shopping, and other money-related topics, see these articles at Europeforvisitors.com:
|Money articles at Europeforvisitors.com:|
|ATMs and exchange machines|
|ATM conversion fees|
|Amex Travelers Cheque and Visa TravelMoney Cards|
|Tax-free shopping (VAT refunds)|
|Mobile currency converter at xe.com|
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