Best Ways to Take Money to Italy in 2023
Italy is a top tourist destination for Canadians headed to Europe. Whether you’re looking forward to the food, keen on the culture, or simply wanting to explore the varied aspects of Italian life, there’s something there for you. Whatever takes you to Italy, don’t leave without thinking about how to arrange your travel money. A little advance planning can mean you end up with more euros in your pocket in the end.
This guide covers 4 possible ways to take money to Italy, including their benefits and drawbacks, to help you pick the right way for you.
Prepaid travel cards to use in Italy
Ideal for: secure ways to spend and make ATM withdrawals in Italy, with smart apps to manage your money with just your phone
When it comes to prepaid cards, you’ll have a choice of specific travel prepaid cards from a provider like Wise, or options from banks like BMO. Specialist travel cards are optimised for international use, and can have more features for overseas spending and withdrawals compared to bank prepaid cards. The Wise card, for example, lets you hold a balance in any of 40+ currencies and gives you some fee free ATM withdrawals monthly.
Whichever prepaid card you pick, it won’t be linked to your normal CAD transaction account. This means that even if you were unlucky enough to have it stolen, your main account remains secure. It can also be a handy way to save and budget for your trip - just add funds as and when you can, and then convert to the currency you need to see your travel budget easily.
Bear in mind that some prepaid cards have foreign transaction fees if you spend overseas in a currency you don’t hold in your account. Shopping around for a low cost card which supports multiple currencies with no ongoing charges is usually your best bet if you’re looking for a card to use primarily when you travel.
Wise - our pick for prepaid travel card for Italy
|Wise card pros||Wise card cons|
✅ Currency exchange uses the mid-market rate
✅ No foreign transaction fees apply
✅ Free to hold and spend 40+ currencies
✅ Receive payments to your Wise account in a selection of global currencies
✅ No minimum balance or ongoing fees
❌ It can take up to 14 days for your physical card to arrive by mail
❌ Free ATM withdrawals are limited to 2 per month, to the value of 350 CAD. Fees of 1.75% + 1.5 CAD after that
❌ 10 CAD fee to receive payments to Wise in CAD, via SWIFT
Pros and cons of taking money to Italy with a prepaid travel card
Choose a card with a multi-currency account and you can hold, withdraw and spend EUR conveniently
Handy for setting your travel budget in advance, and can also be used for saving towards your trip
Cards are available with no minimum balance or ongoing fees to pay
Currency exchange may have better rates than a bank will offer
Exchange rates may include a markup on the mid-market rate
ATM fees may apply, depending on the card you pick
Some cards charge a fee if you spend in an unsupported currency, or if you spend a currency you don’t hold in your account already
Travel debit cards to use in Italy
Ideal for: cheap ways to spend and make withdrawals internationally, with no interest and no penalty fees to worry about
Travel debit cards are usually linked to a multi-currency account you can use to hold one or more foreign currencies. That allows you to add money in advance of travel and convert it to the currency you need for easy spending on arrival. The exchange rates and fees that apply to travel debit cards do vary a lot, but you’ll often find you can access a better exchange rate compared to using a bank debit card, as you’ll avoid any foreign transaction fee.
Getting a separate travel debit card for your trip can also be good for security - if you lose it or it’s stolen there’s no need to cancel your main payment card. Plus if you hold a travel debit card alongside a couple of other payment options, you’ll always know you have a back up plan if one card or payment method can’t be used for any reason.
If you’re ordering a specialist travel debit card, then picking a card which supports a broad range of currencies rather than just EUR will also mean you can use it for the next time you go away.
We’ll go into more detail about our top pick for a travel debit card - the Canada Post Cash Passport - next. You can also learn more about the best travel debit cards in Canada here.
Canada Post Cash Passport - our pick for travel debit card for Italy
With this card:
Get your card conveniently online or in a Canada Post location
Load any of up to 7 major foreign currencies, including EUR
No fee to spend a currency you hold in your account
Lock in exchange rates in advance of travel
Free secondary card in case your first is lost or stolen
|Canada Post Cash Passport card pros||Canada Post Cash Passport card cons|
✅Hold 7 major currencies in your account
✅No extra fee to spend a currency you hold
✅Issued on the Mastercard network for global acceptance
✅Contactless payments or Chip and PIN options
✅24/7 global assistance if you lose your card
❌15 CAD fee to get your first card
❌3.25% fee if you spend a currency you don’t hold in your account
❌Top up and cash out fees may also apply
Pros and cons of taking money to Italy with a travel debit card
Not linked to your everyday transaction account, which is good for security
No need to carry lots of cash with you when you travel - just make cash withdrawals as you need to
Cards from specialist services are often linked to multi-currency accounts you can use on future trips too
No restrictive eligibility rules, interest or penalty fees
Some transaction fees usually apply
You may pay a fee when converting from one currency to another, which can be rolled up in the exchange rate you get
Some cards have card order or closure costs associated
Taking cash in Italy
Ideal for: everyday use, particularly in markets and stores and when making smaller purchases
Cash is used pretty frequently in Italy. Recent figures suggest almost a third of POS transactions use cash, which is above the European average - and far above the North American average of 12%. While cards are accepted widely in larger stores, hotels and restaurants, you can expect to run into situations where cash is essential - so having some on you at all times is a smart idea.
The official currency in Italy is EUR - you’ll be able to buy some in advance through a service like Canada Post, carry CAD to exchange on arrival, or make ATM withdrawals once you’re there.
Generally using ATMs once you get to Italy can cut a lot of the hassle as you won’t need to shop around for currency exchange services, and there’s no need to get your travel money arranged in advance. Plus, if you use a travel debit card or prepaid travel card from a provider like Wise you might also find you get low overall costs and a great exchange rate.
Do I need cash in Italy?
Cash is still very commonly used in Italy so it’s a good idea to have some euros with you when you’re there. That said, there’s no need to get your EUR travel money in advance as you can make ATM withdrawals easily on arrival. Choose a prepaid card or travel debit card and you may also find you benefit from low or no fees and a strong exchange rate.
How to buy EUR on arrival in Italy?
If you prefer to carry Canadian dollars to exchange on arrival you’ll be able to do so in tourist areas and larger towns and cities. Bear in mind your exchange options will be limited outside of busy areas - and as you’ll need to shop around to get a good deal you’ll have to take precious time out of your trip.
How to buy euros in Canada?
It’s possible to buy euros in Canada before you travel if you’d like to. Canada Post has partnered with CIBC to offer foreign cash for collection or home delivery, or there are individual currency exchange stores in all major urban centres. Fees and exchange rate markups may apply.
Best place to get EUR in Canada
There’s no single best place to get your travel cash. Providers pick their own rates and fees, which can vary widely. Shopping around is essential - remember to look at both any upfront cost and the exchange rate being offered, as there’s often an extra charge tucked away in the rate a provider uses for retail customers.
Pros and cons of taking cash to Italy
Having some cash on you is pretty much essential as some smaller merchants won’t accept card payments
Buy your cash before you leave Canada to save time on arrival, and lock in the live exchange rate at the point of purchase
Set your budget in advance so you know exactly what you have to spend
Carrying a lot of cash isn't particularly safe
You’ll usually waste time during your break if you’re having to compare costs to get a good deal
Exchange rates vary widely and usually include a markup - an extra fee
Travel credit cards to use in Italy
Ideal for: safe and convenient travel spending with opportunities to earn rewards and access extra perks
There are plenty of different travel credit cards to choose from, which have their own specific features and fees. You may find you can get benefits like complimentary insurance, annual travel credits and emergency cash if you’re unlucky enough to have your card stolen. To keep your overall costs down, it’s also worth looking out for a card which has no foreign transaction fee when abroad.
Using a travel credit card lets you spread the costs of your trip over a few months - although in this case interest will apply which means you spend more in the end.
Weigh up the potential benefits of using a travel credit card against the potential downsides which can include annual fees, interest, cash advance charges and penalties, to decide if it’s worth it for your specific needs.
Learn about our top pick - the HSBC World Elite Mastercard - next.
HSBC World Elite Mastercard - our pick for travel credit card
With this card:
Spend internationally with no foreign transaction fee
Variable interest rate based on purchase type and personal circumstances
Add extra cardholders to your account for free
Lots of extras and travel benefits offered
24/7 support of you’re a victim of theft or fraud
|HSBC World Elite Mastercard pros||HSBC World Elite Mastercard cons|
✅ No foreign transaction fee
✅ Up to 4 supplementary users on each account with no extra annual charge
✅ 24 hour worldwide assistance to get cash to you if your card is stolen
✅ Some complimentary insurance offered
✅ Options to earn rewards, including enhanced benefits for travel spending
❌ Interest and penalty fees may apply depending on how you use your card
❌ Annual fee of 149 CAD
❌ ATM withdrawals come with fees and a higher rate of interest compared to purchases
Pros and cons of travel credit cards to Italy
Earn rewards and discounts, or get travel perks - depending on the card you pick
Spread your costs out over a few months
Some cards have low or no foreign transaction fees
Use as a payment guarantee in hotels and when renting a car
Interest and fees usually apply if you don’t pay back your bill immediately
Cash advance and interest costs apply when using an ATM
Eligibility rules apply
Travel requirements from Canada to Italy
Italy is covered by the Schengen agreement which means you won’t need a visa for visits of up to 90 days. Bear in mind that the Schengen agreement allows a cumulative stay of 90 days in any 180 day period in any of the 27 total Schengen countries. If you’re staying for longer or combining your trip with visits to other European countries, make sure you’ve checked all the rules in advance.
Check the Canadian government’s travel advisory page to learn more and to get detailed information for your specific destination.
Does Italy accept Canadian dollars?
No. You won’t be able to spend CAD anywhere in Italy. If you’re carrying Canadian dollars with you you'll need to exchange them for euros when you arrive.
Best currency to take to Italy
You’ll only be able to spend in euros in Italy. While you can carry cash in CAD and convert it on arrival, or get some EUR in cash before you leave, for many travellers using a specialised travel card for cash withdrawals in Italy as and when you need them is the easiest solution.
Top travel money tips to Italy
Here are a few final tips to help your money go further while you’re away:
Have several different payment methods in case one isn't accepted wherever you are
Get a travel money card before you leave to make it easier and cheaper to spend and withdraw in Italy
Use the handy Exiap guides to learn more about currency exchange, travel cards, and more
How much money do I need per day in Italy?
The costs of a trip to Italy will vary widely depending on exactly where you go. Large cities and prime tourist destinations are often pretty expensive - but Italy also has beautiful rural areas where prices are more reasonable.
That said, while you can easily blow the budget in Italy, it’s also possible to have a great time on a fairly modest amount. To put this in context, in Rome you’ll find a 3 course lunch for 2 will set you back in the region of 95 CAD, but you can grab a quick cheap lunch for not much more than 20 CAD.
Do some detailed research to see how much things are likely to cost based on your plans and where you’re headed, so you can plan your budget. Get more detailed cost information by country and city, from Numbeo.com.
How much does it cost to fly from Canada to Italy?
At the time of writing (October 2023), the very cheapest deals start from around 800 CAD per person return - but bear in mind that many of the cheaper flight options involve one or more stops, which can eat into your vacation time. Direct flights are available but the costs can creep up - so shopping around is essential.
Conclusion - best ways to take money to Italy
There’s no single best way to take money to Italy. In fact, having more than one way to pay is definitely a good idea - just in case you end up in a situation where your preferred payment method isn't accepted.
A good solution for many people could be to get a travel card - such as a prepaid travel card from Wise or a Canada Post Cash Passport - and to carry that as well as your regular debit or credit card as a back up. You can then use your travel card to make ATM withdrawals on arrival for those times when you need cash.
Use this guide to decide which option to take money to Italy will work best for you, based on your own preferences and needs.
FAQ - Best ways to take money to Italy
Should I exchange money before I travel to Italy?
While you can switch Canadian dollars for EUR before you travel, it’s actually very easy to just make a cash withdrawal at an ATM on arrival in Italy. This can also be cheap, and may get you a better exchange rate compared to exchanging in advance, particularly if you have a travel card from a provider like Wise.
Can I withdraw euros from a local ATM?
You can’t withdraw euros at a normal ATM in Canada. However, you can get a travel card to make an ATM withdrawal on arrival in Italy, which will often mean you pay less compared to using your bank card.
Are prepaid travel cards a good way to take money to Italy?
Travel prepaid cards from services like Wise are a safe way to spend when abroad. With Wise you’ll also get mid-market exchange rates and low, transparent fees which can bring down the costs of your trip.
Can I use cash in Italy?
Yes, cash is very widely used in Italy. In general, making sure you always have some cash in euros, and a travel card for spending or getting cash from an ATM, is a good choice so you have a back up plan if you ever need it.