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ATM limits

Salut. First time here. My wife and I are flying into FCO, then driving up to Sinalunga in Tuscany where we will be staying at an apartment for almost two weeks. We need to pay cash on arrival, which means we will need about 1000 euros in hand.

We have always used ATMs for cash on our travels, But I'm concerned that we may not be able to withdraw that much at one machine or even in one day to make the payment. Will that be a problem?

Also, it appears that the ATMs in Leonardo di Vinci airport are all tied to the currency exchanges, meaning unfavorable exchange rates. If so, finding an acceptable ATM (bank Visa Cirrus) will also complicate the matter.

Any experiences/insights/tips will be greatly appreciated.

Grazie, Tim

Posted by
1175 posts

the limit is usually set by your bank, not by the machine. Check with them. My guess is you will have to change some money in advance of travel to hit the 1K total.

Posted by
29 posts

Banks mostly have a <$500/day allowance. It will be even less in Euros. If you need it the day of, I would get Euros at my bank & take them with me. Otherwise, you'll need probably 3 different days to withdraw money to reach 1000.

Also, when I do withdraw Euros I get them at the airport or the first bank ATM I come to in town. Banks will give you the best rates. I would think LDV airport would have bank ATMs, but if not it's usually not a big deal to wait. One of my cards is on the Cirrus network, and it is accepted in most ATMs over there.

Posted by
5837 posts

The starting point is having your bank increase your daily withdrawal limit. Note that American banks denominate that limit in USD. The limits are set to reduce liability in the event the account is compromised.

The second point is that specific ATM cash machines may have a cash limit less than your daily limit. The Venice (VCE) airport ATM refused my 300 EUR request but complied with my 200 EUR request. You can do multiple withdraws. Depending on financial institutions, some American banks have a per transaction charge for out of system ATM withdrawals.

Posted by
8889 posts

There are two limits, one set by your bank (usually per day) and one set by the machine, per transaction. The latter varies from bank to bank. Here is Switzerland, the machines will give up to CHF 2000 per transaction, one of the amounts for which there is a pre-programmed button is CHF 1000! I know that in Italy, many machines are limited to €250 or €200 per transaction. If you ask for more, it just says "transaction denied" (or something similar), it does not say you have exceeded the machines limit. I have learnt the hard way, if it does not work in Italy try a smaller amount, then try a second withdrawal at a different machine.

Posted by
32268 posts

Tim,

You might find that you'll need to use a "combination" solution along these lines....

  • Arrange with your bank to provide €300 or so before you leave home, and pack that along.
  • Arrange your travel funds in two separate accounts with different cards. Before leaving ask the banks in each case to increase the daily withdrawal limits. You should be able to withdraw the maximum set by your banks by using cards from different financial institutions, and (hopefully) you'll be able to get €400 from each account on the day you arrive in Italy. That's a method I often use to obtain enough funds to pay cash at hotels (I travel with at least two cards from different banks).

If you're renting the car at the airport, unfortunately you're stuck with whatever ATM's are available there, whether they're tied to currency exchanges or not. If you were going to rent the car at Termini, you'd have more options.

As you'll be driving a rental car in Italy, I assume you're aware of the usual potentially expensive "caveats" to be aware of? If you need more information, post another note.

Posted by
2713 posts

You absolutely need to have that 1000 euros, right? In that case, get it before you leave the US. Yes (I can hear the screaming) you will have a sub par exchange rate, but do the math. Maybe you'll be out $25-30 for that transaction. The rest of your spending money you can get from ATM's in Italy. Otherwise you'll be hopping from ATM to ATM (and let's hope one does not eat your card) collecting 50 euro notes for the most part, not having fun. Get ten 100 Euro notes from your bank here and be done with it.

Posted by
16894 posts

Using our Bank of America cards, our guides are able to withdraw over €1000 at Deutsche Bank branches located in many towns of Italy, but driving around to find one does not sound like Plan A.

The rates through the airport ATMs will probably still be better than through your local bank. Some people here have been perfectly happy with Travelex rates at Heathrow, for instance. Be sure to decline Dynamic Currency Conversion. Every aspect of the withdrawal should be noted in euros only, not dollars.

The rental agent might accept payment in two parts, if he or she is around during your two-week stay.

Of course, getting the cash at home means you know that you have it, but do be very careful with your bags in all airports. You can't wear a money belt through an x-ray imaging scanner like you used to with a metal detector.

Posted by
682 posts

Tim,

Before exchanging money at home, you might explain your situation to the apartment agency/owner and ask if they could be flexible on the payment. Certainly, it wouldn't take you more than a couple days to get the €1000. We travel with more than one debit card, so that gives us more options. Also, when the machine limit is lower than the card daily limit, we've made repeated withdrawals.

Posted by
362 posts

I would definitely ask the apartment owner to allow an installment plan. Most landlords are very reasonable and we've had very good luck with this strategy, primarily because of not wanting to carry around wads of cash. One landlord in Florence allowed weekly payments over 4 weeks and even has an assistant who goes to the bank while the money is withdrawn so we get it out of our pockets and into his. We got a similar agreement in Rome.

Posted by
11613 posts

I would get €1100 from my bank in the US and not worry about partial payments, multiple withdrawals, etc., the extra €100 will see you through the first day.

As for where to keep it when going through security, I used to keep my cloth neck wallet pinned to the inside of my carryon, once through security I would go to the restroom and put it on. Now I only take enough euro for the first day (left over from the last trip).

Posted by
2 posts

Grazie tante.

Ken, thanks for the heads-up on the driving tips. I've seen them posted on other threads, but appreciate you making sure, as they do matter. I've driven previously in northern Italy (2012) and didn't run into any of those issues (didn't get near any ZTLs), although I'm sure I exceeded the speed limit. I did get a ticket for not having my lights on when going through a tunnel on the autostrade in the Dolomites - mistakenly thought I had the headlights set for auto.

As for the matter at hand, we're inclined to get the cash before we go (I know, I know). With the long flight (and I don't sleep on airplanes) and all the usual bustle of baggage claim and car rental and navigating traffic, I don't think it's worth it to also add in trying to find potentially multiple ATMs. And our host has already made some concessions for us, so I'm hesitant to push for more.

I did find what looks to be a fairly favorable offer to buy euros from Thomas Cook online. The rate appears much better than Travelex and includes free shipping. I've still got a bit of time to look around, but that is the leader at the moment.

Posted by
7721 posts

A couple of points and maybe a summary;

Certainly approach your bank about increasing your daily limit, they may do it, they may not. Machines also have limits, but usually you can hit several machines as well. Another thing to consider is how your cards are issued, even if on the same account, you and your wifes cards, if they have different card numbers, may each be able to withdraw the maximum amount.

If you have enough time, you could open an account like the Charles Schwab checking account, it has no max limit.

Even though the machines may be operated by Travelex, the exchange rate is no different than any other ATM as long as you decline DCC, or do the transaction in euros and not your "home currency"

Also consider what your fees are for ATM use, if you incur no additional fees besides the typical ~1% network fees, then work harder to make the ATM card work. If you are hit with a $5 use fee plus 3% foreign transaction fee, then just getting euros here is not that out of line. Wells Fargo will sell you euros for about 5 to 6% cost. One way to look at it is since you have to pay cash, you are getting a good deal on the place likely, so paying $50 in currency fees is cheap for the convenience.

One more tip, if you decide to rely on using an ATM once there, have a back-up plan. (CC you can get a cash advance from, maybe even a little more cash on hand)

Posted by
5837 posts

One way to look at it is since you have to pay cash, you are getting a good deal on the place likely, so paying $50 in currency fees is cheap for the convenience.

Good point. Someone is paying for the transaction be it the seller paying credit card fees or seller paying for the cost of local cash. Seller may be giving you a good price because of that savings or in some cases because it may be an off the books transaction.

Posted by
7721 posts

Well, even if it is not "off the books", you may still be doing good. Many places do offer a discount for cash, so even if you have to pay to get cash, your total cost, compared to using a credit card, may be the same. But I was more referring to that by taking an apartment or other long term stay you are getting for 1000 euro cash what might cost might typically cost (for comparable quality) 1200 to 1500 euro....then spending $50 to 100 in currency cost is not really an issue, pretty much a case of being "penny-wise but Pound foolish".

Posted by
4635 posts

I know that in Italy, many machines are limited to €250 or €200 per transaction.

Yes, I ran across one of these in Florence, it said €250 limit right on the screen. I used another ATM.

Another obvious solution is to open another bank account.

For some reason the ATMs I used in Italy gave fantastic rates, practically right at the going rate with no hidden profit.

Locally I cannot find euros for less than a 7% mark up, you may be luckier.

Posted by
11613 posts

Another note: The screen may give choices above €250, but US-issued cards may be limited to that amount by the machine.

Posted by
1922 posts

Ask your bank to increase the amount you can take out. If you are traveling with a spouse then you can each take the maximum out per day. Many banks have it set at a lower withdrawal but if you ask, they can bump it up.

Posted by
1263 posts

We found in Venice that ATMs would do 500 euro at a single transaction. However, on weekend days, sometimes they would do only 250 or 300 euro. That seems to be a local limit, and you should make sure that your bank is OK with whatever limit you need.

Posted by
930 posts

Tim,

We travel with ATM cards from two separate financial institutions, redundancy and backup in case there is an issue. However between the two cards we could withdraw $1000 a day if the situation dictated. Also, we contact the banks in advance with a travel advisory.

Posted by
15486 posts

Check with the landlord. They certainly have other methods of payments. Italians aren't even allowed to pay large amounts in cash (the limit is €1000 for Italian residents and €3000 for foreign residents). If they don't I question their honesty, as they might try to dodge taxes.
Every rental owner I know will accept Pay Pal payments (basically no fees) or a bank transfer, "bonifico bancario" in Italian, in addition to cash. Transferring money from the US via wire transfers may cost you about $30 or more in international wire fee (I think my Chase charges me $40). That would still be a better deal than getting euro cash in the US at an exorbitant exchange rate. Check your bank international transfer fees here:
https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/banking/wire-transfers-what-banks-charge/

Posted by
169 posts

I agree with one of the other comments. You should see if this person will accept paypal or one of the many other electronic forms of payment. You didn't mention when you are traveling - but if for some reason he doesn't have it - it literally only takes a few minutes for him to set up an account. If you give him advance notice, he shouldn't really have any reason why he wouldn't do it.

For that matter, if he does paypal - he can even accept credit cards with a device for his phone. Welcome to 2016.