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Can I send money to someone in Cuba?
US sanctions limit how much you can send and what options you have.
Updated . What changed?
The US government heavily regulates money transfers from the US to Cuba, leaving money transfer companies in a difficult position. With a new wave of restrictions that started on November 26, 2020, what options are left to send money to Cuba?
Can I send money to Cuba through Western Union?
As of November 23, 2020, Western Union halted its money transfer service to Cuba. Western Union states on its website that “[t]he U.S. Government recently changed the regulations for sending money to Cuba. When moving your money, we are obligated to comply with all government regulations. The new rule, which was published on October 27, 2020, provided 30 days to implement the new restrictions. We have been working around the clock to explore every possible option to keep our services open between the U.S. and Cuba as we recognize this is a vital channel for our customers. Unfortunately, we have not been able to find a solution in this limited time frame.”
Due to these changing restrictions, you can no longer use Western Union to send money to Cuba from the United States.
Load funds onto an AIS card
Cuban-based commercial corporation, Fincimex, used to issue American International Service (AIS) cards, onto which USD, euros or the Cuban Convertible peso (CUC) could be loaded to pay for purchases where foreign currencies are accepted in Cuba. Fincimex is no longer issuing AIS cards, but existing cardholders can continue to use their AIS cards as usual.
Getting an AIS card was relatively simple. If you wanted to send money to Cuba, all you had to do was provide AIS with your recipient’s full name, address and local identification number. A card would then be mailed to a FINCIMEX office close to your recipient’s home in Cuba, and they could go in person to pick it up. It could take from 5-20 business days to arrive.
Senders can still go online to deposit funds in USD or EUR onto AIS cards that have already been issued. 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
- Important! Carefully researching money transfer services before sending funds can save you time and money. Pay attention to customer 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 Federal Trade Commission. If you’ve actually lost money due to a scam, contact your local police as well.
There are several dedicated money transfer services that should allow you to send money to Cuba. But you should do your homework to make sure you trust the service you choose to use.
- Accepts many payment methods
- Minimum $50 USD transfer amount
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.
- Accepts both Visa and Mastercard
- Has received complaints for poor customer service
Sendvalu has a rating of 2.0 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot based on 500+ reviews. Complaints typically revolve around poor customer service and transaction delays. On the other hand, it has a much more positive rating on REVIEWS.io, earning 4.67 out of 5 stars based on nearly 3,800+ reviews.
How to compare transfer options when sending money to Cuba
Saving money on your next transfer doesn’t have to be expensive — if you know how to compare your options. Pay attention to details beyond the rates and fees to find the cheapest you’re eligible for.
- Exchange rates. Stronger rates mean more money to your recipient, so shop around for a company offering consistently competitive rates. Keep in mind that the best rates may mean higher fees.
- Fees. You’ll typically pay a fee for your transfers — whether a flat rate or a percentage of the amount. Look for companies offering fee-free thresholds — like no fees on transfers of $500 or more.
- Transfer methods. Can you queue up a transfer from your phone or an app? Does the company man a branch you can visit? Find a provider offering a method you’re most comfortable with.
- Transfer options. If this isn’t a one-time thing, look for the flexibility of scheduled payments and hedging options, like limit orders and forward contracts.
- Turnaround time. Depending on your payment and delivery, it can take as little as 10 minutes with some money specialists. Others require several working days to get your funds to your recipient.
- Minimum transfer. Some companies require high minimum transfers, which may not serve you if you need to send only a small amount.
- Pickup methods. Two common options are account deposits and cash pickups from an agent. But depending on where your recipient lives, you might also choose from mobile top-ups, e-wallets and even home delivery.
- Customer service. Learn how and when you can get support if you need it — by phone, email, app or live chat.
What you should know about Cuban currencies
There are two cash currencies used in Cuba: the Cuban Convertible peso (CUC) and the National peso (CUP). The CUC was introduced after the CUP as a stronger, alternative currency and is pegged to the US dollar (1:1). The government reportedly plans to phase out the CUC over time and create a new, unified CUP. At the time of writing, no specific date has been announced yet.
In light of economic pressure from COVID-19, the Cuban government recently 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:
|National peso||Cuban Convertible peso||Moneda Libremente Convertible|
|Relationship to the US dollar|
|Where is it accepted?|
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 travelers are warned that they will be hit with a sizeable commission fee when they are able to transact. 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 one of these currencies if you decide to convert on the ground and put some CUC or CUP in your pocket.
Transferring money to Cuba involves abiding by US laws and sanctions. Because of this, verify that whatever method you use is up to date on the latest restrictions by contacting it directly.
To get the best deal on any international money transfer, compare transfer providers before getting started.
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