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I’ve read Rick Steve’s Italy book and was wondering. He says to get euros at the airport at the ATMs. Are the exchange rates better in Italy?


Posted by
5380 posts

The exchange rates in Italy don't come into it. The exchange rate will be the one set by the network (probably Visa or MasterCard), minus any loading imposed by the card issuer. Unless unwisely any offer to do the conversion by the ATM is accepted that is.

Posted by
20430 posts

The exchange rate is "in the cloud". Billions of Dollars and Euros are exchanged constantly between banks all over the world, and this exchange is done by computer. The "rate" is going up and down by the second. When you take money from an ATM in Europe, you become a small drop in the ocean of trades going on at that instant.

The ATM's in Europe are chock full of Euro notes. In North America, there are just a few sitting in bank vaults in the off chance that some will want to buy them. Banks, like any business make money by selling things for more than it cost to acquire them. So you are buying a scarce commodity here and taking it with you to a place where the commodity is abundant.

The best exchange rate is from an ATM in Europe. Also make sure you decline "Dynamic Currency Exchange" if it is offered by an ATM in Europe. If the ATM asks if you want to be charged in Dollars, say no. Let the network do the exchange for you, that way be one of those drops in the ocean of exchanges going at that instant.

Posted by
872 posts

It's wise to bring some euros from your local bank to get started, use Bankomat ATMs after that. Do not patronize currency exchanges, use no ATMs other than Bankomat. Notify your bank and possibly raise the limit. I get €500 at a time [limit 600]; all secured under my clothing along with my passport and CC. Separately I have recorded my card numbers [some numbers reversed] along with the collect phone numbers to call.

Posted by
5052 posts

As a rule, the least expensive way of getting euros is from an ATM in Italy. However, it's always a good idea, in my opinion, to have euros in hand upon arrival. Getting two hundred euros from your local bank will cost a little more, but it eliminates the hassle of trying to find a bank affiliated ATM at the airport, the stress of hoping it works (they do occasionally malfunction), and doing it all while somewhat jet lagged. In addition, some of the ATMs in airports are operated by currency exchange companies which have horrible exchange rates. To me the small amount extra it cost to have money in hand when arriving is money well spent, and the extra cost relative to the overall cost of the trip is not, in my opinion, that much. Just food for thought.

Posted by
2 posts

Do not agree to the "conversion " into dollars option it sounds helpful but you are better off writing down how many euros you got and doing the math. It's a 12% fee and a ripoff. Double check your daily dollar limit since the ATM will reject any amount over.

Posted by
68 posts

There were no bank affiliated ATM’s at the airport so we canceled the transaction when we saw the fee that was added on. We were able to charge our transportation tickets to our first destination (Venice, Piazzale Roma) and found a bank owned ATM when walking to our apartment rental.

Posted by
459 posts

Judee this works like a charm if you have time to plan for your travel to Italy. We have done this and it has worked great for us in Italy, Canada and in Ireland. There is no fee for giving you your cash from the ATM in euros. Open an account with Charles Schwab and Company, you do it all online. They require you to open a brokerage account in addition to a checking account. There is **no fee for either account!!!** Filling out the forms is a bit of a pain and takes 15 minutes or so but it saves you money in the long run. You will receive a debit card for your checking account that you can use at ATM's to withdraw cash directly from your checking account. If there is a transaction fee for the use of the machine Schwab will refund that cash, usually a small amount, back into your checking account. The debit card is thru VISA so it is very widely accepted. I have used my debit card at airports, banks, grocery stores, and gas stations. If your are curious about the actual exchange rates this site if very helpful.

Posted by
113 posts

jarrardd, will Charles Schwab reimburse the ATM fee, even if the ATM is an international one? I didn't know they offered checking accounts until I read your post.

Posted by
2768 posts

Another factor people don’t consider - the risk of carrying a lot of cash at one time.

Even if it was cheaper to get euros at home and bring them (it’s not!) it would be risky in terms of theft and loss. Say you spend 100euros per day in cash and have a 15 day trip. Would you feel comfortable walking around with 1500 in cash?Especially when jet lagged and struggling with arrival details? I certainly would not. I’m not one to worry too much about theft but that seems to be asking for trouble. If your trip is longer or you have a large budget this would be even more true.

My bank does charge a small per-transaction fee so I get out 300-500 at once and make several ATM stops over the course of a 2-3 week trip.