How to pay in Italy. Payment instruments; limits to the use of cash and checks; credit/debit/rechargeable cards and wire transfers; extinguishing a debt under Italian law

bancomat_modificatoIn Italy, there are many common payment instruments (cash, bank/postal check, cashier’s check, bank/wire transfer, credit/debit/rechargeable cards, postal or bank order). It is possible to pay in cash sums not exceeding € 2,999.99 with reference to “transfers” made for any reason between different individuals or legal entities. The transfer of amounts equal to or greater than € 3,000 can be carried out through banks, Poste Italiane S.p.A., electronic money institutions and payment institutions. This rule applies to whoever (Italians/EU citizens) is making a payment in the country, with some exceptions. Debit cards are common in Italy since they are accepted throughout the country by almost every commercial activity and usually are cheaper than credit cards. Wire transfers are also a common means of payment. 


 1) Payment instruments

In Italy, it is possible to use various payment instruments. The most common ones are listed here below:

cash (banknotes and coins) (see below);

bank/postal check;  

cashier’s check;  

bank/wire transfer;  

credit card; 

debit card/ATM (bancomat); 

rechargeable card; 

postal or bank order.

2) Limit to the use of cash

It is possible to pay in cash sums not exceeding € 2,999.99. Under Legislative Decree 231/2007, art. 49, par. 1, as recently amended (by the Stability Law 2016), it is prohibited to transfer cash (or bank or postal bearer passbooks or bearer securities that are in Euros or in a foreign currency) when the value to be transferred is overall equal to or greater than € 3,000.n1 This rule applies to “transfers” made for any reason between different individuals or legal entities.n2

The transfer is forbidden even when it is performed with multiple payments below the threshold that appear to be artificially fractioned.

The transfer of amounts equal to or greater than € 3,000 can be carried out through banks, Poste Italiane S.p.A., electronic money institutions and payment institutions.

This limit to the use of cash is in part due to the attempt to trace payments for tax issues, such as fighting tax evasion, and in part are intended to curb corruption and crime, for example money laundering and terrorist financing.

3) Sanctions

In case of violation of the provisions contained in art. 49 (par. 1, 1-bis, 5, 6 e 7), the offender shall be punished with a fine ranging from 1% to 40% of the transferred amount, but that cannot be in any case lower than € 3,000. If the amount transferred in cash exceeds € 50,000 the sanction ranges from 5% to 40%.n3

Reading the provision in question (art. 58) it seems that the pecuniary sanction applies only against the payer. However, as art. 49, par.1, refers to “transfers” made for any reason between different individuals or legal entities, some authors believe that even those who receive the money are punishable under the same article. In any case, considering that the rule is not very clear on this point, it appears possible to appeal the fine before the competent authority in case of sanction against the one who receives money in an amount that is greater than € 3,000.

4) Rules applying to the use of checks

Banks and Poste Italiane S.p.A. can issue bank and postal checks bearing the non-transferability clause (the bank check can be paid only in favor of the recipient and cannot be “endorsed” in favor of another subject), even though customers may request, in writing, that checks are issued without the said clause (in this case the applicant must pay a stamp duty of € 1.50).

Bank and postal checks issued for amounts equal to or greater than € 3,000 shall contain the non-transferability clause and the indication of the name or business name of the beneficiary.n4

Cashier’s checks, postal orders, and promissory notes are issued with the indication of the name or business name of the beneficiary and the non-transferability clause (if the amount is lower than € 3,000 it is possible to ask not to apply the non-transferability clause).

5) Credit/debit/rechargeable cards and wire transfers

A credit card is (usually) issued to the holder of a bank account with the repayment mode consisting of a single payment at balance the month after the purchase. However, the account holder can choose to pay for a single purchase, a group of purchases or any purchase during the month, in installments or ask for monthly installments for all purchases incurred during the month, using the method of repayment called “revolving” (for which he will have to pay an interest rate). Costs, terms and conditions, etc. of credit cards vary from bank to bank. 

Debit cards are very common in Italy since they are accepted throughout the country in almost every commercial activity, such as hotels, restaurants, and stores. They are the best tool for the withdrawal of money from ATMs (bancomat), and usually are cheaper than credit cards in terms of monthly/annual fees.

Rechargeable cards have recently had a significant spread especially for those who intend to purchase online. Many banks and the Poste Italiane S.p.A. offer this kind of card at a very low cost. Most of these cards allow holders to make traditional and online payments, wire transfers, and also to pay bills among other things. Also in this case costs, terms and conditions, etc. of rechargeable cards vary from bank to bank (or Poste Italiane S.p.A.).

The Stability Law 2016 has established that retailers (of products and services) and professionals are obliged to accept payments made through debit and credit cards, including micro-payments; this obligation does not apply in cases of technical impossibility.

Wire transfers are also a very common means of payment in Italy. Considering that it is not possible to pay cash amounts greater than € 2,999.99, salaries, traditional and online purchases, deposits, taxes, utilities, services, etc. are often paid by wire transfers.

It is possible to make a wire transfer either by going to the bank where the payer holds his bank account or online (in this case the “internet/mobile banking” option is required). Costs of wire transfers vary from bank to bank and usually go from € 1.10 to € 4 per each transfer.

6) Extinguishing a debt under articles 1277 and 1278 of the Italian Civil Code

According to art. 1277 of the Italian Civil Code monetary debts are extinguished by legal tender in the State at the time of payment and at its nominal value. If the amount due is determined in a currency that is not legal tender in the State, the debtor has the right to pay in legal currency, at the rate of exchange on the day of the deadline and in the place of payment (art. 1278 of the Italian Civil Code).

 

n1 This new limit of € 3,000 also applies to currency exchange agencies. On the contrary, this new threshold does not apply to money transfers and online payments for services issued by public administration, such as pensions, where the limit remains at €1,000. Under Decree-Law March 2, 2012 no. 16, art. 3, par. 1, converted into Law 44/2012, the limit for transfers in cash does not apply for the purchase of goods and services from retailers and travel agencies carried out by non-EU individuals who reside outside the territory of the State (in this case there is a limit of € 14,999.99). A special procedure, which a retailer should be familiar with, must be followed (DL 16/2012, art.3) in order not to incur in fiscal sanctions.

n2 Account holders can always withdraw or deposit money into their accounts even beyond the said threshold, because the operation is not between different parties.
n3 Legislative Decree 231/2007, art. 58.
n4 Legislative Decree 231/2007, art. 49, par.5.

David

David

13 Comments
  1. Avatar

    Hello! Someone in my Facebook group shared this website with us
    so I came to look it over. I’m definitely enjoying the information. I’m bookmarking and will be tweeting this
    to my followers! Excellent blog and excellent design and style.

  2. Avatar

    This a go to website for anyone traveling to Italy. A question we had about an Italian law was in a timely fashion.

    • David

      Dear Bob,
      thank you for your nice comment.
      We think that it could be useful to post here your interesting question and our answer (as you can see we protected your privacy):
      Bob:”Is it legal to pay my vacation renal in Italy with euros brought in from the US even if it exceeds the 2999.99 limit.”
      VI:”Unfortunately, if your “landlord” is an individual (natural person) and not a hotel, we think that it is possible to pay him/her in cash sums not exceeding € 2,999.99. In any case, you could pay him/her a sum not exceeding the above limit in cash and the rest through check or wire transfer. 
      As a matter of fact, under Decree-Law March 2, 2012 no. 16, art. 3, par. 1, converted into Law 44/2012, the limit for transfers in cash does not apply for the purchase of goods and services from retailers, restaurants, hotels, and travel agencies carried out by non-EU individuals who reside outside the territory of the State (as we understand is your case). In this case there is a higher limit of € 14,999.99.
      The complete list of activities that are not subject to the € 2.999,99 threshold is contained in art. 22 and 74-ter of D.p.R. 633/1972, which refer to “hotel services” (prestazioni alberghiere).
      Thus, unless your “landlord” carries out an activity listed in the above article 22, he cannot receive in cash payments exceeding the €2.999,99 limit.”

  3. Avatar

    Hi David,

    I am planing to setup an import company in italy and
    1.will there be an issue for money transfer to purchase products from Asia ….?
    2.Are there any money transfer restrictions or limits for the companies ….?
    3.If not what is the best way to transfer money from the bank..?

    Thank you in advance

    ISJ

    • David

      If your company will be based in Italy it will be subject to Italian laws and regulations, including fiscal laws. Companies usually pay via bank transfer because all payments can be traced (which excludes/reduces possibile problems with the Revenue Agency), and there are no limits to the amounts. You will need to choose a bank that allows bank transfers from/to countries outside of the SEPA area. In any case, please consider that there are many services that we can provide for your Company (for example we can put you in touch with an Italian Notary/accountant/lawyer, draft contracts, deeds, take care of fulfillments that you will need to start your Company here in Italy at the Revenue Agency, Chamber of Commerce, and other Italian administrations/offices, etc). Therefore, please send an email to assistance@vademecumitalia.com if you have other specific requests or if there is anything else that we can do for you.
      We look forward to hearing from you.
      Sincerely,
      VI.

  4. Avatar

    Hi guys, quick question. How much can I withdraw from an ATM in Italy? I read there is a limit of € 250 per day. is it true?Thank you. Isaac

    • David

      Dear Isaac,
      Thank you for your question.

      In general, it depends on what bank you have and what agreement it has with the bank where you want to withdraw. This means that there is not a real fixed limit, except for the limit that each bank sets for the single operation at an ATM (depending on the bank it could be of € 250/500 etc. per single operation). However, if, for example, you have a credit card with a € 3,000 withdrawal limit per day, and need to withdraw € 2000 you can always make 2 or more withdrawals in one day.

      • Avatar

        Hi all, I read there is a new € 1000 limit. Correct?

        • David

          Dear Amy,
          The Italian 2017 Stability Law has set a withdrawal limit of € 1000 per day and € 5000 per month. However, these limits have a fiscal purpose only, in the sense that in case you withdraw sums that exceed the said thresholds a tax assessment is triggered. Therefore, aware of the above, you can withdraw (in one day or month) sums exceeding the aforementioned thresholds, within the limits set by your bank and the one where you are withdrawing (as said in our previous post).

  5. Avatar

    Hi David, can I check if it is possible to give my parent more than €3000 in cash as a gift or allowance?

    • David

      Dear Yxi,

      We apologize for the late response but our offices are currently closed. We will be fully operational starting from September 1st.

      Nonetheless, to answer your query, you should consider that the 3000 euro limit applies to “transfers” made for any reason between different individuals or legal entities and, therefore, even among relatives or friends. If you want to make a “regular” payment in favor of your parents that exceed the 3000 euro limit, you should consider a bank transfer or a check.

      Thank you for contacting VI.

      • Avatar

        Thank you so much for your prompt response and advice. It is much appreciated.

  6. Avatar

    I have a question,
    I received a cheques from Italian person (cheques are from Italian bank IntesaSanPaolo). When i went to this Italian bank, there i was told that bank account of those cheques was close and closed by the account holder him self. When i apply to him, his said that: yes his close bank account, but did cover of these cheques from different account (from his company account) and that was some mistake in bank and now his fix all.
    But when i went to my bank to Lithuania, they return these cheques and write in paper that account is close.
    When i apply to person who is issued me this cheques he said: that money still is and is freeze. The bank froze the money to cover thous cheques, and his can not dispose of these frozen money. Hi said that i have to go and find “selester” that they work with this issues and hi fix it all.
    But i complain, that is truth or not. Because cheques are issued me in 2018.04 or is possibility that bank still holding money for these cheques.
    And his don’t won’t to pay because, he says i have already paid you with these cheques and the money is still there.
    So this is possible?

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