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How much Cash while having Chase Credit Card?

Hi,

My boyfriend and I are traveling for two weeks in Italy (Rome, Florence, Venice and Almalfi Coast.) We plan to book some tours online and already booked our hotels.

Scenario we are considering is how much cash we each should bring given we both have Chase Credit Cards which have no transaction fees. I know Italy is sketch - I got my debit card information stolen when I was there in 2012. Now they have the chip reader which is nice but I am still going to be wary at restaurants and small shops.

In this case it will be nice to have the credit card but for purchases most recommended in cash - what would you spend cash on and how much money should we each bring?

Thank you!

Hannah

Posted by
6251 posts

I wouldn't bring any cash. I would use an ATM as I need it just like anywhere else - there are ATMs everywhere. I paid for most things with a credit card and used cash only for small incidentals. I personally wouldn't be able to guess ahead of time how much cash I would want/need, so I just play by ear and get it only as I need it. In most of my travels, I withdraw very little cash from ATM in general. Since you're traveling with your boyfriend, I would recommend minimizing any withdrawal charges by just having one of you do it instead of both.

Posted by
3 posts

Agnes,

I would have to disagree to pull out of ATM as needed because of foreign transaction fees and I got my information stolen! Do you know about how much cash you spent total and for how long you were there? That may give me an idea.

Thank you,

Hannah

Posted by
6251 posts

Get a credit union ATM card - I only have 1% charged per each withdrawal with no other fees. Sorry about what happened to you but it still doesn't make using an ATM a bad idea. No, I have no idea how much I took out...that's my problem with using cash in general, it disappears and I can't account for it like with credit card receipts. At any rate, I withdraw very little compared to most folks (basically gelato, coffee/drinks, bathroom coins, and transit money) since I pay almost always with credit cards in places where it's allowed. I guess you'll have to just wing it - if you have Euros left over, then you can just save them for your next trip.

Posted by
441 posts

We were there last year and used cash quite a bit, outside of hotels and some large meals. I'm not sure anyone can answer how much you need bc we don't know your spending/shopping/eating style. Cash comes in handy for gelato, souvenirs, water bottles, restrooms, quick service meals, trains, trams, buses, etc. Some places do not take CC, especially below a certain amount. And some tours only take cash, but you would probably know that ahead of time. We used ATMs (bank owned) upon arrival, and withdrew a couple hundred Euro every few days, depending on our itinerary. We did not leave the US with any euros, and it was not an issue. I feel like we did about 4 large withdrawals in our 10 days. I think it is relatively safe, but of course there are thieves all over the world. I could be wrong but I am not sure Italy is less safe than other places. Have fun!!

Edited to add: We use the Schwab bank ATM card (no fees)! :)

Posted by
15640 posts

So what do you do when a pickpocket or sneak thief steals your cash hoard? A bad experience 6 years ago? Were you just using your debit card to get cash from an ATM, or were you using it for purchases as well? That is almost always a bad idea.

Posted by
1700 posts

In Italy the chance of a restaurant randomly telling you their credit card machine is down right now is higher than most places but not something you can count on.
If you had to bring with you in cash all of the money you might potentially spend at restaurants you would be at much higher risk of theft than by randomly visiting an ATM as needed.

In Italy I really only recall seeing ATM's that are actually bank owned not like in the US where every little store and gas station has a somewhat sketchy looking ATM. I could be wrong, they may be all over there as well but I don't really recall seeing them as common. My point being a bank owned ATM will be a very secure transaction and your bank would cover the loss of any information/data theft so really would not stress about that issue.
If you lose all of your actual cash no one will help you with that.

Generally I like to have a hundred Euro or so on me at all times for something that may come up or the card might not work for, but rarely would I want more or need more than that in actual cash and try to use my Chase Credit Card wherever possible.

I also use the Schwab bank for no ATM fees anywhere in the world and no foreign transaction fees.

Posted by
3436 posts

Do you know for sure your card info was stolen when you used it while in Italy? Did your bank confirm that? Or did you just become aware that your card info had been stolen somewhere while you were in Italy? It is rare to nearly impossible to find out exactly where your card info was stolen. It could have been at the last restaurant you used it at before you started your trip. It could just as easily have been in Italy as well. The point is you just don't know.

As far as fees go, you will pay more for Euros if you get them in the US from your bank before you leave than using your ATM card at bank operated ATMs in Europe even including the fees. Chase may claim no fees on the currency they sell you, but the rate will be much worse than at an ATM in Europe.

Guessing how much cash you need is impossible. I would spend cash on everything except hotel rooms and train tickets. I tried to guess how much I would spend last trip and greatly overestimated.

Posted by
891 posts

This is a philosophical issue as well as a financial one. I always carry cash in the US, and sometimes several hundred dollars at a time. I like using cash for many things like restaurant meals, buying trinkets, and paying for most daily incidentals. At a bar or club, I prefer using cash to pay and tip.

With that said, I think the decision to carry cash is a personal one. I wear a money belt, so theft of a lot of my cash is not an issue, because I only have a few hundred euros in my pocket at any time. When I know that I am going to pay cash for a hotel room and thereby get a discount, I hit the ATM the day before to make sure I can cover the bill. Pizza, falafels, gyros, gelato, crepes, and other daily temptations are paid for in cash. Some meals are paid for with a card, as are department store purchases.

Figure out what you will be comfortable with. I prefer spontaneity so more cash/less plastic works for me. It may be the opposite with you. Smaller places seem to be less equipped to deal efficiently with debit or credit cards.

Posted by
20732 posts

Don't know the circumstances concerning you earlier problem with an ATM card being compromised but overall probability of any ATM card being scammed is very remote. So remote in fact that anything you have suggested is far more risky than using a debit card. You need to exercise reasonable caution when using a card, but it is still the most secure and convenient way to obtain foreign currency when traveling.

And Italy is NOT sketchy. Don't know where you get that idea.

Posted by
2055 posts

On our last trip, to Spain, we brought all of the Euros that we needed with us. We had 5 Euros left after we paid the cab driver at the airport. My husband and I split the cash between us, and take general precautions against pickpockets. We like to charge as much as possible on our trips - I love the feeling of getting miles stashed away for our next trip while enjoying our current one. Yes, we have a credit card with no international transaction fees.

We limit cash payments to extremely small purchases and tips, unless we are dealing with a tour operator who demands cash.

I know it may be cheaper to withdraw Euros while in Europe, but I would rather not worry about finding ATM machines on my vacation.

Posted by
11983 posts

How do you know your card info was stolen in Italy in 2012 and not in the US?
I’ve had my card info stolen and cloned 5 times. All I know is that they tried to use it in US states where I was not present (so the fraud dept contacted me before cancelling the account). I have no idea where the card data was stolen in all those cases. All I know they attempted to use it in States that I had not been recently or even never been (but in all cases it was in the US). It’s not easy to know who stole your data because that info may be shared/sold.

ATMs are very safe. Just make sure you used those placed inside a bank vestibule, rather than outside. In many cases to enter a bank vestibule where ATMs are located in Italy you have to go through a metal detector similar to this one which is also guarded remotely by the security guard. There are no banks in Italy where you just enter the door like it is common in America. Even if your card data was stolen in Italy it was probably stolen at a POS while making purchases.

Regarding the foreign transaction fees (I have Chase and they charge 3% plus $5 per withdrawal overseas) it is still a better deal than the awful exchange rate you will get if you buy Euro in the US. Also, there are banks in America, especially credit unions, that don’t charge as much as Chase. Open an account with them.

Posted by
1013 posts

Hannah, I hope by “cash” you mean €, not $. If you’re getting € from your local bank before leaving the conversion fee can be high.

Posted by
11442 posts

Decades of travel experience here.. many trips to Europe.. Ever since they did away with Travelers Checks.. so what about 20 yrs ago.. I just use my ATM card.. have used it in Italy also.. many times. You had one bad experience.

Take about 100 euros to start you off.. Pay hotels and expensive dinners out or train tickets ( if not prepurchased) by credit card.. I use CASH for almost everything else.
Take out as much as you can at one go.. store in your moneybelt or hotel safe, just taking one days cash out with you in your purse .

I have an account that allows free foreign ATM withdrawals.. but even if you dont.. taking out money twice each ( your bf and you each withdraw cash twice.. so four times in total for two weeks) should be fine.. i

Do NOT use free standing ATMS or ones in train stations etc.. use the ones that are attached to banks. Saver that way.

Since I usually pay big bills ( hotels etc) with credit card I spend about 50-100 euros a day on food and sightseeing( per person)
My daughter who is likely closer to your age spent about 30-60 euros a day ( she spent 11 weeks in Europe when she was 19 , two years ago) .. she travels cheaper than I do of course.. eating sandwiches from bakeries etc.. unlike us who are more likely to eat at a sit down restaurant three times a day.. plus a coffee/wine stop.. so alot depends on your travel budget.. you can easily spend hundreds of euros a day if you dine at fancy places and take taxis.. or you can get by on 50 euros a day.. if you eat cheap and take public transport.

Most folks think about 75-100 euros a day each is generous for a moderate traveler.. as I said.. it depends.. remember.. Cokes are expensive.. lol.. but house wine can be cheaper.. lol

Posted by
3507 posts

Hi Hannah,

Your overall cost will be the lowest if you acquire your Euros to spend from ATM bank machines in Italy every 3-4 days instead of purchasing Euros from your bank in the US.

I pay for our hotels, train tickets, and event tickets on-line ahead of time. Cost of meals can vary widely, but I plan on 45 Euro a day for food/drinks/gelato. Sometimes it's more, sometimes much less. Local transportation, i.e. bus, tram is around 1.50 Euro.

If you are bringing Euros, PLEASE wear a money belt. You could ruin your trip if you're carrying a lot of cash and it's stolen.

Posted by
11734 posts

Shoot, my husband's card info was stolen here in the States just a few days before we left for Italy the last time so it can happen anywhere.

We tend to use a fair amount of cash in Italy (and Europe in general) and go with loose daily itineraries so some days we'll spend a little and sometimes a lot more. Coffee, beer and gelato breaks are always paid in cash as are urban transport tickets, regionale train tickets, tourist taxes at the hotel (they've always requested payment in cash) and museums with inexpensive entry fees. Add a few euros here and there to illuminate art in the churches, change for pay toilets, snacks from a market, a few souvenirs... A cafe might take a card but they might not so we're always prepared with both. When we need more euros, it's off to an ATM. I'd estimate we do that 3-4 times or so over the course of a three-week trip.

So, I don't how how it's possible to gauge in advance what one needs so as to avoid ATMs altogether. If we think we're heavier on cash than we need to be, nearer the end of a trip, we'll use that before pulling out the card, even if an establishment will take one. We also bring a stash home so we can hit the ground running on Day 1 of the next trip.

Just to clarify, you are talking about bringing euros you've purchased through a bank versus U.S. currency you planned to exchange in Italy?

Posted by
485 posts

Take $100 and €100 and carry a minimum of 2 credit cards issued by 2 different financial institutions and the same for your ATM cards. If an account that gets compromised you can lock it down and use your other card. Much safer that carrying several thousand Euros around.

Posted by
64 posts

All your advice is good - but we have several places we are staying that do not take credit cards,they want cash on arrival.Booked them through hotel.com and Homeaway.We planned on arriving in Rome and hitting the ATM's in the airport before we pick up our rental car since our first stay in Tuscany states she wants cash not credit card.We payed down half for that week.Are the ATM's in the airport secure ? You all mention bank ATM's .We have travelled to England 6 times,Italy twice before and Ireland 4 times and used airport ATM's without a problem .

Posted by
9454 posts

kathyknapp most ATMs are secure. Check for anything out-of-the-ordinary, but in almost 5 years living in Rome and countless trips around Europe, we never had a problem. Charges should be to a CC, cash taken out with a debit card.

When we need a large amount of cash to pay lodging, we each take out our max per day for a couple of days. We stash most of it in a safe place and only carry what we need each day. Or we pay the hotelier/landlord in installments when we stay for many nights.

Posted by
5217 posts

kathyknapp, its not that airport ATMs are dangerous or problematic, its just that they are more frequently owned and operated by non-bank companies that are more likely to charge higher fees or give more disadvantageous exchange rates in order to make profits. The airport charges rent to these businesses for the space, so they have to recover those costs as well.

PS you can go back and delete one of your posts - use the Edit function.

Posted by
5555 posts

https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/money/cash-machine-atm-tips

When possible, withdraw cash from bank-run ATMs located just outside
that bank. Ideally use them during the bank's opening hours; if your
card is munched by the machine, you can go inside for help. Bank ATMs
usually do not charge usage fees and are generally more secure, as a
thief is less likely to target a cash machine near surveillance
cameras.

BTW Debit card liablity US rules: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0213-lost-or-stolen-credit-atm-and-debit-cards

ATM or Debit Card Loss or Fraudulent Transfers.

If you report an ATM or debit card missing before someone uses it, the
EFTA says you are not responsible for any unauthorized transactions.
If someone uses your ATM or debit card before you report it lost or
stolen, your liability depends on how quickly you report it....

If someone makes unauthorized transactions with your debit card
number, but your card is not lost, you are not liable for those
transactions if you report them within 60 days of your statement being
sent to you
.

Even though you may not be liable for fraudulent debit card use, it is a problem when your funds are drained and you need access to cash. Of course, you would face the same problem if all of your travel cash were stolen.

Credit Card Loss or Fraudulent Charges

Under the FCBA, your liability for unauthorized use of your credit
card tops out at $50
. However, if you report the loss before your
credit card is used, the FCBA says you are not responsible for any
charges you didn’t authorize. If your credit card number is stolen,
but not the card, you are not liable for unauthorized use.

Posted by
64 posts

Funny, thinking back over our trips using ATM's, I remembered in Berlin, Germany using one outside of a bank. After putting my pin in three times - I was positive it was the right pin- the machine ate my card. It was a Friday . I went into the bank. They said the machine was not to be opened till the following Monday ! So much for taking Rick's advice. We were moving on before then- spent the rest of the trip on a low budget, even borrowed from fellow travelers. Since then always carry at least two cards.Found out my credit union back home had changed out their computers on the day I was trying to withdraw. They had emailed their customers but back then I did not have a smart phone to check emails .

Posted by
26 posts

We make a summer trip to Europe every year and to avoid complications we carry 2 specific cards. A first tech federal credit card since it is one of the few US credit cards which is chip and pin. Very helpful when using automated ticket machines at train stations, metro machines, gas stations and parking garages.

For no transaction or FX fee ATM usage I have a Capital One 360 checking account and debit card.

Posted by
3 posts

Hi everyone,

So many responses I don't really know where to begin but I'll try to accommodate as much as I can to help make clarifications:

1) I really wanted to get my cash from my bank now because the euro went down a lot recently. It's $1.18 a euro and was $1.24 last month so I thought by the time we leave in July it will go up and I would have regrets.

2) My debit info was definitely stolen in Italy - I had been traveling in Italy a month and a half before it was alerted someone was taking cash out of an ATM in Italy while I was in Barcelona.

But #2 is off topic - all I want to know is how much cash should be brought to be safe while also having a Chase Credit Card. I'm thinking $1,500 total between the two of us. Any thoughts?

Posted by
2055 posts

As long as the $1,500 cash is that amount in Euros, you should be fine. Take normal precautions, split the money between the two of you, and have a great trip.

Posted by
485 posts

If that is what makes you comfortable; go for it!

Posted by
11734 posts

It's $1.18 a euro and was $1.24 last month so I thought by the time we
leave in July it will go up and I would have regrets.

But you're unlikely to be able to buy Euros from your bank at the flat exchange rate. You're most likely going to have to pay an exchange fee on top of that.

Posted by
2 posts

Hannah -

For two weeks, I would bring at least 500 Euros, purchased at your bank in advance. While you can pay for most purchases via your Chase card, you'll need cash for many meal purchases at places that won't take credit card. I seem to almost always end up using cash for anything under 15 Euros. I brought 1000 euros for a 4 week trip and it seemed about right. This should be about the right amount should you not need to pay for any major tours, etc in cash. If you end up with any cash remaining at day 13 and 14; you can just use your cash instead of your chase card.

Kevin