Ready to Go to Italy
You and your family will soon become experts in international financial transactions.
We do not recommend trying to open a bank account in Italy. However, you will want quick access to your funds, and you will also want to protect your money against loss. This part covers your banking options.
Since January 2002, the Italian monetary standard is called the euro. The Euro is now the single operating currency in 12 European nations, including: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.
The currency is made up of eight euro coins and seven euro notes. The coins are issued in 2 and 1 euros, as well as in 50, 20, 10, 5, 2, and 1 cent pieces. Each coin displays a common face on one side and a participating nation's motif on the opposite side. Regardless of the national motif imprinted, you can use euro coins anywhere within the 12 member nations.
In addition to the coins, seven euro notes are circulated in denominations of 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10, and 5 euros. Unlike the coins, the notes have a common design on the front and back. Like the coins, they are considered as legal tender in all member nations. The euro is expressed by a symbol that looks like €.
Additionally, the euro's official abbreviation will appear as EUR. For more information about the euro, check out the following websites:
You can check today's rate by visiting this exchange rate currency calculator.
An easy way to handle your money is with an American ATM card. The advantage to using your card is that you will be assessed the wholesale exchange rate that applies to large foreign currency transactions. You should check with the issuer to make sure your numerical PIN number will work abroad. You can only draw from a primary (usually checking) account. Cirrus and PLUS are widely accepted ATM cards. Be sure to check with your bank about using your ATM card in Italy and about any fees that might be assessed.
Disadvantages also exist. American ATM cards are difficult to replace quickly if lost or stolen. Students have told us that they sometimes had difficulty finding cash machines that would accept their American ATM cards. Take your American ATM card with you, but have other sources of money in case your ATM card does not work.
You can use credit cards in Italy for drawing cash and making purchases. You should know, however, that Italians tend to pay in cash and shop staff may try to convince you to pay in cash, especially for small/medium purchases, even if they do take cards. Shops and restaurants in smaller towns may not accept credit cards.
But while Visa and MasterCard are more widely accepted than American Express for purchases, American Express offers its card holders some very useful financial services. Check with each company before you depart.
With an AmEx card and your passport, you can go into any American Express office and write a personal check in US funds using your checkbook from your checking account back home. This service is not available to Optima card holders. You will receive a portion of your funds in local currency and can purchase travelers checks with the rest. This is the simplest way for your family to transfer money to you in Italy. Remember to leave deposit slips with your family so they can deposit additional funds in your account if necessary. And don't forget to pack your checkbook. Your family can also cable money to you through American Express.
Visa and MasterCard
Both cards are accepted at shops throughout Italy (where credit cards are accepted). You may also draw cash at participating banks; be aware, however, that interest accrues from the first day. Check with your issuing bank for further information.
Drawbacks to Plastic
Even with careful planning and strict adherence to a budget, it is frighteningly easy to overspend. Finance charges can add up quickly if you extend payment on goods or take out cash advances.
Obtaining a Major Credit Card
The card you present overseas must be in your own name as given on your passport. At a cardholder's request (your family), most major lenders will issue a dependent's card.
You decide in which currency to purchase your checks. If you buy Euro-denominated checks, the exchange rate is fixed at the time of your purchase. US dollar checks have a variable exchange rate based on when you change them. Most banks charge a fee for converting travelers checks to cash.
Be sure your checks are from an internationally recognized source such as Visa, American Express, MasterCard or Cooks. If you are a member of AAA, you can obtain free American Express travelers checks at your local AAA office. (AAA will accept a personal check in payment if you have an American Express card.)
Banks open around 8:30 am and close around 1:30 pm, open again at 3:00 pm, or 3:30 pm for another hour. You should expect to take care care of banking needs Monday through Friday; a few banks may have Saturday morning hours.
In An Emergency
When the program is in session, overseas program offices can make emergency loans to students. Students must sign a promissory note and repay the loan as soon as they receive money from home.
If you find yourself in dire straits, the State Department can help your family transfer money back to you (provided you are a US citizen). To do this, your family must wire money through Western Union or their bank, or send a cashier's check or money order to the State Department in Washington, DC. A trust account is established and a telegram is sent to the appropriate US embassy or consulate overseas, authorizing next workday disbursement to you. The There may be a small fee for these services from the State Department.
For further information about this service, check the State Department's website.