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How to send money to Cuba from Canada

Bank wire transfers are convenient, but private money transfer services may be a faster and less expensive way to send money to Cuba.

Despite the fact that the Canadian government has not imposed sanctions against Cuba, the island nation’s political relationship with its neighbour, the United States, makes it difficult to trade with and send money to. But not to worry! It’s possible to send money to Cuba through a bank, money transfer service provider or the AIS card program.

Load funds onto an AIS card

Cuban-based commercial corporation, Fincimex, issues American International Service (AIS) cards, which can be loaded with USD, euros or Cuban pesos (CUP) and used to pay for purchases in CUP across Cuba. There are 3 types of AIS cards available:

  • AIS Card (blue colour). Can be used to pay for CUP purchases and to withdraw CUP from ATM machines, banks and CADECAs (foreign exchange offices). Cannot be used to pay for purchases in foreign currency.
  • AIS USD Card (green colour). Can be used to pay for Cuban purchases in CUP or foreign currency. Cardholders can also withdraw CUP from ATM machines, banks and CADECAs (foreign exchange offices)
  • AIS Card Without Cash (blue colour). Can be used to pay for CUP purchases, but cardholders cannot withdraw CUP from ATM machines, banks or CADECAs (foreign exchange offices).

In 2021, Fincimex stopped issuing new cards due to the US government’s regulatory crackdowns on remittances. However, existing cardholders could continue to use their AIS cards as usual. Now, though, it appears that AIS cards are being issued once again.

Getting an AIS card is relatively simple. If you want to send money to Cuba, all you have to do is provide AIS with your recipient’s full name, address and local identification number. A card would is then mailed to a FINCIMEX office close to your recipient’s home in Cuba, and he or she can go in person to pick it up.

It takes 25 business days for the card to arrive in Havana and 45 business days for it to arrive elsewhere. Recipients will not be notified when the card has arrived. They must plan to pick it up either 25 or 45 business days after the date the card request was approved.

Senders can go online to deposit funds in USD or EUR onto AIS cards. It takes up to 5 business days for funds to appear. Up to 3,000 CUC ($3,000 USD) can be sent per quarter, after which you’ll have to provide additional information if you want to send more.

Use a private money transfer service

There are a several dedicated money transfer services in Canada that will allow you to send money to Cuba. But you should do your homework to make sure you trust the service you choose to use.

Duales

  • Accepts many payment methods
  • Minimum $50 USD transfer amount
Duales is a privately-owned Canadian corporation established in 1994 that lets users send any amount at or over $50 USD to recipient’s homes (as cash) or directly their bank accounts. Senders have a variety of payment options including credit, debit, email money transfers, international money orders and bank drafts. Funds arrive in 1-2 business days for delivery to recipients’ homes or 1 business day for direct deposit.

Users can send money online or via Duales’s mobile app (available for iOS and Android). Fees range from $6-$8 USD per $100 sent, depending on the type of transfer and whether you’re sending through Duales’s online platform or mobile app. As of the time of writing, the company has not been reviewed on Trustpilot. But it has earned 4.40 out of 5 stars on REVIEWS.io based on more than 900 reviews.

Enviodinero

  • Lots of options for receiving funds
  • Transfer process can be complex
Canadian-based Enviodinero also allows transfers to Cuba with several options for receiving funds: mobile top up, deposit onto the recipient’s AIS card, deposit into the recipient’s Banco Metropolitano S.A. bank account or cash pickup in either CUC or CUP at a Banco Metropolitano S.A. branch. Funds are generally available on AIS cards within 24-48 hours, although an Express Service is available that is supposed to deposit funds within a few hours (conditions apply).

As of the time of writing, there aren’t many customer reviews of Enviodinero available online. The company has around 10 reviews on Trustpilot with an overall rating of 3.0 out of 5 stars. Complaints typically concern the administrative complexity of sending transfers and the website being down frequently. If you decide to check out Enviodinero, you should do so cautiously.

  • Important! Carefully researching money transfers services before sending funds can save you time and money. Pay attention to customers reviews, and carefully review transaction terms and details before moving ahead with any transfer. If you suspect a company may be a scam, report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. If you’ve actually lost money due to a scam, contact your local police as well.

Send money through your bank: Wire transfers and online banking

Not all of Canada’s major banks support international wire transfers to Cuba. For those that do, you could be looking at fees ranging from $15-$50+ per transfer. And it’s possible to transfer to Cuba through online banking if you have an account with RBC.

We reached out to Canada’s “Big Five Banks” to verify what options are available for sending money to Cuba. The table below summarizes our findings. (Note that this information is current as of August 2, 2021. Service availability can change, so you should check with your bank or credit union to find out exactly what options are available to you now.)

TD Canada Trust bank logo

TD Canada Trust

CIBC logo

CIBC

RBC bank logo, small

RBC

BMO logo, icon only

BMO

Scotiabank icon

Scotiabank

Wire transfer (in branch)Green check mark outlined by a circleRed X outlined by a circleRed X outlined by a circleGreen check mark outlined by a circleRed X outlined by a circle
Money transfer via online bankingRed X outlined by a circleRed X outlined by a circleGreen check mark outlined by a circle

Send up to $2,500 CAD (or more via in-branch wire transfer)

Red X outlined by a circleRed X outlined by a circle

TD Canada Trust also offers Visa Direct, a service that lets TD Visa card holders send between $10 and $2,500 to 170+ countries (including Cuba) in 150+ currencies. Both the sender and the recipient must have a Visa Debit, credit or prepaid card enabled with Visa Direct. Funds are deposited within 24-48 hours into whatever account is linked to the recipient’s Visa card. Not all banks support Visa Direct, so you have to contact your recipient’s bank in Cuba to find out whether this option is available.

Bank fees for wire transfers

Send a cheque

Another option is to send your loved ones cheques in Canadian dollars, which they can convert and deposit into their own Cuban bank accounts. Cheques have to be physically delivered in the mail, so you should consider using a more secure method like registered mail or express mail.

These types of options may come with features like a tracking number and/or signature upon receipt, however, you could be looking at a cost of CAD$25-$50 every time you send. Ordinary mailing options will be cheaper but don’t offer extra security. Visit the Canada Post website or an agent location to learn more about your options.

As of the time of writing, private courier services like FedEx and Purolator do not support deliveries to Cuba.

How to write a cheque

What you should know about Cuban currencies

Currently, Cuba has 1 national currency: the Cuban Peso (CUP). 1 US dollar is worth 24 CUP, and 1 CUP is worth 100 centavos (Cuban pennies). CUP coins come in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 20, 40, $1 and $3. CUP paper money comes in denominations of $1, $3, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100.

Previously, there were 2 cash currencies in circulation: the Cuban peso (CUP) and the Cuban convertible peso (CUC). The CUC was introduced after the CUP as a stronger, alternative currency and was pegged to the US dollar (1:1). However, by June 2021, the government had phased out the CUC and introduced a new, unified CUP.

In light of economic pressure from COVID-19, the Cuban government also introduced a third, card-only “freely convertible currency” called the Moneda Libremente Convertible (MLC). Cuban residents spend MLC by loading foreign funds onto a giro card, which can be used to pay for purchases at state-run “foreign exchange stores.” By making it easier to buy Cuban goods in other currencies, the government is attempting to prevent foreign money from being spent in nearby countries.

The table below summarizes the differences between these 3 Cuban currencies:

Cuban pesoCuban Convertible peso (no longer in circulation)Moneda Libremente Convertible
Currency abbreviation
  • CUP
  • CUC
  • MLC
Date introduced
  • 1857
  • 1994 (phased out as of June, 2021)
  • 2020
Currency format
  • Banknotes and coins
  • Banknotes and coins
  • Loaded onto a giro card (card only; no banknotes or coins)
Relationship to the US dollar
  • 1 CUP = 24 USD
  • Pegged to the US dollar (1:1)
  • Exchange rate fluctuates, but is generally around 1 MLC = 0.0054 USD. (So, $50 USD would be approx. 9,260 MLC.)
Where is it accepted?
  • Accepted everywhere in Cuba. State workers are paid in CUP.
  • Prior to being phased out, the CUC was typically used to pay for more luxurious purchases. It was also used for tourism and transportation purchases like hotels, restaurants, taxis and buses.
  • Used to purchase everyday goods in state-run “foreign exchange stores.”

If you’re transferring money to Cuba, try to send CUC, and make sure your recipient knows to be on the lookout for scam artists who try to swap out CUC with CUP without being noticed.

Which currencies are popular in Cuba?

Given the political climate, Cuba does not welcome currencies from everywhere. You will find it difficult to exchange most currencies in the country, and travellers are warned that they will be hit with a sizeable commission fee when they are able to transact.

Up until recently, the Cuban government hit US dollar transactions with a sizeable tax. The tax has since been removed in light of shifting trade relations with the US and the devastating effect coronavirus has had on the Cuban economy.

The most welcomed currencies in Cuba are the Canadian dollar, British pound sterling and euro, so your best bet is to bring currency from home if you decide to convert on the ground and put some CUP in your pocket.

Bottom line

Your options for sending money to Cuba are limited, but it’s not impossible. Bank wire transfers may be your easiest option, but you can also look into using private money transfer services or topping up an AIS card if your recipient has one. If you hold an account at RBC, you can transfer money to Cuba via online banking.

Want to know about your transfer options to other countries around the world? Check out our A-Z listing of countries you can send money to, and compare transfer service providers to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

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