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Banks to use in Italy to avoid dynamic currency conversion

I'm researching banks to use during our trip in Italy and would like any input as to which of these banks is best to use for cash withdrawals. I'm trying to avoid a dynamic currency conversion fee. I'll be using Capital One 360 Debit MC for cash and Capital One Platinum MC for purchases. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

The banks I've found near our apartments in Rome, Florence and Venice are:
Deutsche Bank
Banca D'Italia
UniCredit Banca

Posted by
4805 posts

The only way to determine is to try the atm. Even among a banks ATMs some may offer it, others not, depending on the number of tourists using an ATM. Regardless, it is easy to avoid, you will always be notified and have the opportunity to opt out, always decline, choose to do the transaction in "local" currency rather than "home" currency, or in your case, do the transaction in euros.

Posted by
106 posts

Thank you Paul. I will pay attention as I make the withdrawal to choose the appropriate action. Maybe my bank would be able to answer my questions.

Posted by
16757 posts

To be completely clear, there are three ways (that I know of) to lose money at an ATM aside from criminal behavior like skimming:

  • By paying an ATM-withdrawal fee
  • By accepting the offer to have the ATM perform the currency conversion (DCC)
  • By carelessly sticking a credit card rather than an ATM/debit card in the machine and paying a cash-advance fee

An ATM-usage fee will typically be announced on-screen early in the transaction. Just walk away. Some US financial institutions will rebate ATM-usage fees to some customers; if you have the right kind of account, Capital One might do that. My credit union rebates the fees, but I'm not about to make it cover a slew of European ATM fees from a long vacation, so I would only use a fee-assessing ATM in an emergency.

DCC is different. I've not (so far) encountered an ATM that didn't allow me to choose to have my withdrawal recorded in the local currency rather than dollars, so DCC has always been avoidable. This choice usually shows up later in the transaction.

It's easy in the course of a vacation to pull the wrong card out of a wallet and stick a credit card in an ATM. I have done it more than once. With the differences in terminology overseas (I've never seen the term "cash advance" displayed), you may not realize what you've done until you return home and see the extra fees on your monthly statement--plus interest. I think this should be pretty easily avoided if you don't use the same PIN for credit cards and ATM cards.

Posted by
2511 posts

Your bank would not know if a foreign bank would use DCC. I just came back from three weeks in Italy and used my Capital One debit cards exclusively. One bank ATM offered the option of DCC so I just didn't opt for it and my account was charged in euros. Another bank added an FX 3%+ conversion fee that popped up on the screen with the "approval" button. Needless to say, I walked three blocks to another bank for my withdrawal. Other than those banks, no other ones offered DCC or FX fees. No reason to rely on ATM's near your apartments as there are numerous ones throughout the cities you'll be enjoying. As far as credit cards, I was offered the option of DCC only once but I paid in euros. If asked, just tell them no DCC. But be careful. Check the screen to make sure the amount is in euros and they didn't notify you they are using DCC. This happened to me only once in Arcos de la Frontera in Spain and I felt I got taken but was more embarrassed by my ignorance and carelessness.

Even if you get stung once or twice, in relation to the cost of your trip, the expense should be minimal - about the cost of 1 or 2 small European bottles of Coke!

In Italy, I have had a positive experience with using the Siena Bank. It has a name something like Monte dei Paschi Siena. It's one of the oldest banks in the world. Friendly service to foreigners and no problem with the ATM. As stated above, even if you unwittingly pay a few extra fees to banks while traveling - it's still not a major money mistake. More of a financial boo-boo. Just avoid credit card cash advances and you will be fine.

Posted by
20597 posts

I research a lot of things but never thought to research banks. I just the first ATM I find. Be sure to select the British flag and read everything that pops up on the screen. There is no "dynamic currency conversion fee." It is very rare for the ATM in Italy to charge a fee for using the ATM. All fees are determined by your card issuer and not by the Italian bank so it really makes no difference which bank you use. Just pay attention to what is displayed on the screen. If you don't understand it, cancel and go to another ATM.

Dynamic conversion is when they ask you if you want to be charged in US dollars or local currency. I have never encountered that at an Italy ATM BUT that could be changing. I have encountered that situation in Spain and Scotland recently. But it is a simple question - YES/NO. Hit no and continue. Similar to be asked if you want a receipt. I really don't think there is any need to worry about the "correct" bank to use.

Remember the ATMs are there to serve the local population and not the tourists. It is just a convenience for tourists.

Posted by
106 posts

Wow thank you guys! Thank goodness the cards look different from each other and have different pins.

Posted by
6542 posts

We too carry Capital One credit cards, and we carry a credit union ATM card. No reason to pay $5 and 3% for every cash withdrawal--like Wells Fargo's ATM charges.
We charge virtually every item we can vs. paying cash. Therefore, we don't withdraw very much on our ATM--just Coke and coffee money most of the time.

We do avoid any non-bank--institutions like American Express and Travelex. They knock your head off on conversion charges, etc.

\Otherwise, we don't waste time or efforts trying to find a specific bank. In the major cities, ATM's are everywhere.

Posted by
922 posts

I did have a bank atm in Venice not let me opt out of DCC. I ended up canceling the transaction and just went to a different atm in the same piazza. That was the only atm I used that month that even offered me DCC.

One tip on ATMs when traveling. Contact your bank where your debit cards are issued and find out the maximum withdrawal per day that you can make. If an ATM doesn't give you cash, don't panic - try a lesser amount. Also, contact your banking institutions for your debit and credit cards and give travel notifications. The travel notifications are very important, so your cards don't get shut down on you. If you bank online, you can place travel alerts online.

Posted by
4945 posts

Some hotels will offer the "convenience" of DCC as well.

Posted by
3224 posts

I have only been offered DCC at Travelex ATMs in airports and 2 other non-bank operated ATMs in all of my Europe travels. The 2 stragglers did a good job of looking like they were bank owned and operated, but when not offered a way to bypass the DCC I simply cancelled my transactions.

I was in Italy in October. Used ATMs in about 10 places, each operated by a different bank. Not even offered DCC by a single one of them. And by using my Capital One 360 Debit card got the closest to Interbank rate possible.

I would be more concerned about DCC in restaurants and hotels and other merchants. It is an easy way for them to make a few extra Euro without the customer noticing. Keep a close eye on what the machine is showing before you accept it.

Posted by
17642 posts

It's been three years since my last trip to Germany, but the last time there I used Deutsche Bank multiple times without being even offered DCC. In fact, no other ATM in Germany offered DCC.

Neither has any ATM charged me a fee to use that ATM. But your bank has no control over an ATM charging a fee. Your bank can only control what they charge you for a withdrawal. However, some banks offer to reimburse you any charges levied by a bank over there.

As for using credit card for everything, that is false economy. I've found that the places that accept credit cards, in general, charge a lot more to start with. Whether you use your card or not, you'll spend less staying or eating in places that don't accept credit cards.

That, however, does not apply to retail establishments. I made several purchases at department stores in Germany, and they did not charge more for credit cards.

Posted by
106 posts

Thank you everyone for sharing your experiences and knowledge on this subject. I feel more confident about my banking usage in Italy. Great tips about the differences in cash and credit spending!

Posted by
20597 posts

There is one way to avoid 99% of the opportunities for DCC. Use cash. Sometimes the advice on this site tends to be double edged. One concerns is always credit and debit card security. Every time you use a credit or debit card in the US and/or Europe you run a small risk of the card being compromised. Over the years we have had a couple cards copied in the US with no problems other the inconvenience of getting the cards replaced. Europe's attempt to reduce credit card fraud is the chip and pin card but the US doesn't want to copy that approach so the US went to chip and signature. Early evidence is that the chip cards are helping to reduce fraud at point-of-sale BUT substantially increasing credit fraud at the on-line purchase level when a card is not presented. So continuing to protect your c card number is just as important now as it was before. Therefore, we tend to use cash about 98% of the time in Europe. Our c card is rarely exposed since we are not using the cards. And we are very careful where we use the debit card. We simply find using cash easier and more convenient. Cash is never declined.

Posted by
11613 posts

Twin Mom, no matter how much research you do on banking DCC, it can change overnight (usually toward DCC). As suggested, read the screen carefully and you will be fine with avoiding conversion fees.

Posted by
5286 posts

And always look for the Union Jack (British flag) to get instructions in English.

Posted by
485 posts

We used our ATM cards in Rome and Spain during our trip last August. We never had any issue with DCC. The one thing we always look for is the Union Jack for English instructions. If things do not look right we cancel the transaction. You are more likely to see DCC in restaurants or hotels; we always only do it in local currency.

Posted by
17642 posts

We simply find using cash easier and more convenient.

At least in Germany, only the places that are the most expensive to start with take credit cards, so you are already loosing money using cards. Using cash from an ATM is the most economical way to go.

Posted by
323 posts

When in Europe we always say, "In Euros please". And always choose in on any ATM

Posted by
4 posts

We've always traveled abroad with 2 cards: One from CapitalOne that charges no foreign transaction fees (used ONLY for charging), and another for cash withdrawals, a debit card from a national bank (such as Fidelity or Schwab), that reimburses ATM fees -- anywhere --, and also does not charge a transaction fee. Then it doesn't matter what bank you use while traveling. We are often charged a small fee for cash withdrawals, but are then reimbursed by our bank on the same statement. We put a cash limit on our debit cards in case it is lost or stolen, although supposedly they limit any withdrawal liability due to fraud. Just extra peace of mind.

Posted by
4805 posts

In response to the above post, if you have a card that reimburses fees (Like my Schwab, the Capital One Checking, and some banks), You would not avoid DCC or be reimbursed for some amount if you chose to use DCC. In DCC the merchant or bank is doing the conversion...so you are withdrawing and receiving some equal amount in Dollars. Fees are noted as a separate line, so your Bank/Card knows that the disbursement was $200 and the fee was $5 for $205 (Reimburse $5). In DCC, $205 was disbursed, no fees, no reimbursement. I suppose in worst case, an ATM could prompt you for DCC, then also charge you a fee, in which case you would get the fee back, but not the cost of the DCC.

The other thing to be cognizant of with these cards is while fees are reimbursed, you are still paying network fees for the transaction and currency conversion (usually <1%), the reimbursement is on fees charged above and beyond by the machine owner. Given fluctuation in the exchange rate and the ability of the major processors to get the best rates, you likely do not even notice it though and would not be able to avoid them with any card.

Posted by
2703 posts

I used a CapitalOne ATM card at 2 Monte dei Paschi di Siena ATMs and 1 Poste Italiane ATM (at FCO and post offices) and found the exchange loss to be zero, no commission, no fees, exactly what the interbank rate was. Can't say that about German banks which hide a commission in the exchange rate, about 1.5%

Also there are situations where cash is not accepted.