Dollars, Euro, Credit Cards?

Some of the most common questions I am asked about travel in Italy are about money. So this week’s blog is dedicated to the practical information we need for optimum shopping!

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First things first. Before you leave home, call your credit card company’s fraud department, and tell them where and when you will be travelling. If you don’t do this, they will block your credit card the second time you use it. Sometimes they block it even if you call, but often we get lucky and they actually pay attention! While you are at it, ask your bank if they have a partner bank where you are going. Bank of America, for example, partners with BNL in Florence, so you can use the ATM without a fee.

Speaking of fees, some credit cards charge a currency conversion fee, and others do not. Check to see if your credit card will incur a fee for an international purchase.

Most all of the stores will accept credit cards, but do not like to take American Express, as they charge a higher fee to the stores. Your best bet is to use cash. No bank fees, no blocked cards, and some shops may give you a little better price if you pay in cash.

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If you are lucky, you will have some euro left over from an earlier trip, but if not, you will need a little cash upon arrival for transportation to your hotel. If you don’t have any euro cash, when you arrive at your first European airport, go to the currency exchange booth and get a small amount of cash in euro. You will pay them a fee, so don’t get more than you will need for your ride from the airport to your hotel. The best conversion rate will be from the ATM, so if you can find one at the airport, use it. You will want to save your money for shopping!

Everyone wants to know how much money they will need for shopping. My best answer is that you get what you pay for. We all want a good deal, and this is where knowing the right places to shop comes in. I advise my clients to buy one or two nice things that can’t be found at home, rather than a lot of junk easily obtained online. I have my eye on a gorgeous navy blue suede bag with python trim and am salivating over a pair of Florentine gold earrings…

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