One of the things so many people don't realize when traveling internationally is how much cash to bring and what kinds of credit cards are best to take along. My hubby and I are planning a trip with friends in September to Florence and I thought you guys would benefit from our conversation. (Yes, I get to go to Florence in September AND October for our Florence CE Trip! - for info on our Florence CE trip go to www.internationaleye.net/florence-october-2019.
Let's tackle cash first. Florence, Italy uses the Euro (€) and right now, the US Dollar ($) is as strong as I've ever seen it against the Euro. Meaning, I used to get a conversion rate of about $1.30 to the €1.00. This month, I've been able to get $1.10 to the €1.00 - amazing rates.
Typically, I'll take cash to cover cab rides and cab tips as well as restaurant tips and any other small things I'd like to purchase while strolling through the city (hello Prosecco and gelato!). The typical sit down restaurant tip, if service is great, is about 10% in Italy, but as an American we can be a bit...loud and needy, so I always overcompensate and do about 15% and 20% if I'm coming back to enjoy another meal. Trust me, the service you get will be amazing.
I can usually get away with about €40/day. And don't worry, you can go to any ATM and use your regular old debit card if it has a chip in it, along with a 4 digit passcode. You must make sure your debit card is set up for the 4 digit passcode before you leave.
Credit Cards - there are several that I use (note I'm not getting ANY compensation from these companies, these are just based on my personal experience over the years).
American Express. Although I LOVE my AMEX, it's not a card that is readily accepted in Europe or in Florence. The major hotels, like our Florence hotel #HotelBrunelleschi, will take AMEX, but most restaurants and mom-and-pop shops will not. So, bring it if you want and try to use it for reward points, but have a VISA or MasterCard backup.
In most shops/restaurants, they will accept VISA/MasterCard. But, make sure you have a credit card that doesn't charge you Foreign Transaction Fees (FTFs). The gold AMEX doesn't charge FTF - but, again, lots of European locations won't accept AMEX.
The best cards I have used that doesn't charge FTFs: Amazon Prime Card and Capital One Card.
Amazon Prime VISA is great for folks that already have an Amazon account and/or a Prime account. Most people don't realize the Amazon Prime VISA doesn't charge FTFs. In addition to it being a great card to use in Europe, you get 5% cash back on any Amazon purchases. Just make sure this card is your main method of payment on your Amazon account to get the 5% cash back.
The first card I ever used exclusively for European travel is the Capital One Platinum card. Again, no FTFs, and is widely accepted just about everywhere.
If you have an Amazon Prime account, the Prime VISA is a no-brainer, but if you don't you can opt for the Capital One Platinum card.
Thanks for reading and I hope these recommendations help!
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See you in Florence!