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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.

The euro

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:

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.


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:
The euro
ATMs and exchange machines
ATM conversion fees
Credit-card surcharges
Amex Travelers Cheque and Visa TravelMoney Cards
Traveler's checks
Tax-free shopping (VAT refunds)
Travel-insurance articles

Reference tool:
Mobile currency converter at xe.com

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Photo: Visa.