The Vatican doesn't take American Express. In fact, it doesn't take Visa, MasterCard Discover, or any other credit cards, for that matter. Bring your cash with you, because the Deutsche Bank-operated ATM machines have also been shut down.
As of Wednesday, 2 January 2013, businesses, museums and attractions in the Vatican began declining all credit and debit card transactions. The move by the Holy See is in response to a Bank of Italy decision and is connected to money laundering controls.
Reuters reports a comment by someone they have identified as a 'source close to the Bank of Italy,' as stating,
“The Bank of Italy could not give the authorization because the Vatican, apart from not respecting money laundering regulation, did not have the legal prerequisites.”
The Vatican is downplaying the problem by referring to it as a technical problem, but a story filed by the International Herald Tribune speculates the imminent emergence of a scandal.
The Pope has stated that he will reveal information about the Vatican's finances, which includes the Vatican Bank – known as the 'Institute for Works of Religion.' The Pontiff has reportedly hired René Brülhart, an anti-money-laundering expert from Switzerland, to manage the process.
According to a report by Moneyval, the Vatican has failed to meet transparency standards in almost half of the requirements. The Vatican Bank lacks independent supervision. Moneyval is a European financial watchdog group.
The Vatican has been trying to eliminate its reputation for disreputable financial practices since the early 1980's, which includes it's status as a major shareholder in the now-collapsed Banco Amrbosiano.
More recently, Ettore Tedeschi was fired from his position at the Vatican bank after years of financial scandal under his watch. Italian prosecutors seized almost $30 million (US) from a Vatican-registered bank in Rome in a money laundering investigation.
As far as the credit card issue goes, a Vatican spokesman said the suspension of services is temporary.
For more information, commentary and relevant links, please read the story in the International Tribune Herald.