Using a credit card in Cuba

Use our guide to get the best out of your plastic, and your cash, on holiday in Cuba.

Promoted for spending abroad
Santander All in One Credit Card logo
Santander All in One Credit Card
Check eligibility
29.8% APR representative variable
Finder score:
★★★★★
No foreign transaction fees
Over a year to spread the cost of purchases
Earn 0.5% cashback (no cap)
Best for travel insurance
The Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card logo
Finder Award
The Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card
Check eligibility
54.8% APR representative variable
Finder score:
★★★★★
Earn points on day-to-day spending
Free Travel Inconvenience Insurance
Earn 20,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy ® points
Best for Avios points
British Airways American Express Credit Card logo
Finder Award
British Airways American Express Credit Card
Check eligibility
31% APR representative variable
Finder score:
★★★★★
Earn Avios as you spend
Free supplementary cards
Companion flight voucher each year you spend £12,000

Compare cards with fee-free currency conversion in Cuba

Table: sorted by representative APR, promoted deals first
Name Product Rating Finder score Purchases Annual/monthly fees Initial credit limits Representative APR Incentive Link
The Royal Bank Credit Card
Finder score
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
12.9%
£0
Min. limit £250, max. limit not specified.
12.9% APR (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 12.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 12.9% APR (variable).
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NatWest Credit Card
Finder score
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
12.9%
£0
Min. limit £250, max. limit not specified.
12.9% APR (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 12.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 12.9% APR (variable).
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Santander All in One Credit Card
Finder score
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
0% for 15 months reverting to 23.9%
£3 per month
Min. limit £500, max. limit not specified.
29.8% APR (variable)
0.5% after £1 of monthly spend. Maximum of £10 cashback paid per month. Cashback paid Monthly into Card Account. Maximum spend for cashback purposes is limited to credit limit.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 23.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £3 per month, your representative rate is 29.8% APR (variable).
Check eligibility
NatWest Reward Black Credit Card
Finder score
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
21.9%
£84 per annum. Reward Black Current Account holders: Year 2 onwards - £0 per annum
Min. limit £5,000, max. limit not specified.
40.7% APR (variable)
You'll earn 1% back at supermarkets and 0.5% back everywhere else, including supermarket petrol stations. At selected retailers, you could earn 1-15% back.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 21.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £84 per annum. Reward Black Current Account holders: Year 2 onwards - £0 per annum, your representative rate is 40.7% APR (variable).
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Royal Bank of Scotland Reward Black Credit Card
Finder score
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
21.9%
£84 per annum. Reward Black Current Account holders: £0 per annum
Min. limit £5,000, max. limit not specified.
40.7% APR (variable)
Earn 1% back at supermarkets and 0.5% back everywhere else, including supermarket petrol stations. At selected retailers, you could earn 1-15% back.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 21.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £84 per annum. Reward Black Current Account holders: £0 per annum, your representative rate is 40.7% APR (variable).
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Yonder Credit Card (only for London residents)
Finder score
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
29.94%
1 month for £0, £15 per month thereafter
Min. limit not specified, max. limit not specified.
66.7% APR (variable)
First month free for new members, £15 p/m thereafter. Plus, 10,000 bonus points. Earn 5 points per £1 spent and up to 25 points per £1 at selected partners. Membership includes worldwide travel insurance and no FX fees.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 29.94% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £15 per month, your representative rate is 66.7% APR (variable).
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The Ulster Bank Credit Card Mastercard
Finder score
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
12.9%
£0
Min. limit £350, max. limit not specified.
12.9% APR (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 12.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 12.9% APR (variable).
Nationwide Member Credit Card All Rounder
Finder score
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
0% for 15 months reverting to 19.9%
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit not specified.
19.9% APR (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 19.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 19.9% APR (variable).
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Overview

Most commonly recognised for its salsa music, Cuba is a Caribbean island which hosts a magnificent array of white beaches and diverse landscapes. If you’re planning on experiencing Cuba’s vibrant culture any time soon, then you’ll want to know how you can use your credit card there, to ensure your trip goes without a hitch.

Cuba is largely a cash culture, so you may find it easier to bring cash along with you for your travels. However, in more densely populated tourist areas you’re more likely to find ATMs and card machines. Visa is more likely to be accepted than Mastercard, and very few stores take American Express.

Cash machines in Cuba

Your first priority should be to contact your bank and confirm whether your card can be used in Cuba before you depart. Rules and regulations surrounding currency in Cuba are subject to frequent changes, so always double-check with your bank prior to travelling.

You are more likely to find ATMs in popular tourist areas, such as Havana and Trinidad. It’s smart to select your ATM carefully -only choose ones either located in banks or crowded areas. This means that if you encounter any issues, you are more likely to find someone who can help.

Due to the country’s outdated technology, most shops and restaurants are still not equipped to accept Mastercard transactions, which is why it’s a good idea to use Visa.

Cash in Cuba

Cuba operates a dual-currency system, whereby visitors use the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) and locals use the Cuban peso (CUP). All cash carried must be in good condition with no tears, rips or markings, otherwise it may be refused.

Since card transactions remain limited, due to patchy Internet access, you should always carry cash to ensure you can make payments without any extra hassle or complications.

Card payment methods in Cuba

Due to the rules regarding currency and methods of payment often being subject to change, try not to rely on only one source of money. If possible, arrive prepared with a combination of cash and cards.

Cuba is in the process of transitioning from magstripes to chip-enabled cards, so it’s a good idea to use your chip-enabled card when possible for added protection and a higher level of security.

Is it safe to use my card in Cuba?

By exercising some caution when using your credit card in Cuba, you’ll have a relatively trouble-free experience.

  • Keep your PIN safe. Use one hand to enter the PIN and the other to shield it from prying eyes and hidden cameras.
  • Select ATMs with care. Try and stick to ATMs in banks and avoid using ones in the street when possible.
  • Watch out for “skimmers”. When installed in an ATM, a card skimmer works by stealing information from credit and debit cards. If you feel the card slot is not as smooth as it should be or if there’s a problem with the keypad, cancel your transaction and look for another ATM.

Keeping your credit card (physically) safe

Remain alert to street crime, especially where two or more people work in distracting victims before decamping with their valuables. Instances of theft at airports are not uncommon, so stay vigilant while arriving and departing. There have been numerous instances of thefts from hired cars so don’t leave your wallet or purse in a parked car. In some cases, thieves pose as police and ask to see wallets for identification purposes. In such a scenario, make sure you’re speaking with genuine police officers. It is very unlikely that a real officer will want to sift through your wallet.

Santander All in One Credit Card

Santander All in One Credit Card

  • 0.5% cashback
  • No FX fees
  • 0% purchases for 15 months
  • 0% balance transfers for 15 months

Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 23.9% (variable) p.a. with a fee of £3 per month, your representative rate is 29.8% APR (variable).

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Potential credit card fees

Credit card fees can leave a noticeable dent in your pocket when you’re travelling overseas, so know what you’re up against well in advance and choose a card with no or low fees.

Foreign transaction fees

British credit card issuers typically charge a fee equivalent to 1% to 3% of your transaction, so carefully review your card’s fine print to avoid statement surprises. Some cards designed for travel come with no foreign transaction fees, so this could be a good time to switch.

Learn more about cards designed for overseas spending

Currency conversion fees

If a retailer offers to bill your credit card in sterling, dynamic currency conversion comes into play. While this might sound like a good deal, you’ll actually end up getting a worse exchange rate, and you might also end up paying currency conversion fees. Whenever you’re presented with an option, choose to pay in local currency.

Cash advance fees

Using your credit card to withdraw money from an ATM may not make sense unless it’s a bona fide emergency. Each time you withdraw funds from an ATM, you’re likely to pay a cash advance fee. Your APR for cash advances is also typically higher than your purchase APR, and you’ll typically get no grace period on interest — instead, you start paying interest immediately. Again, some cards designed for overseas spending will waive this fee.

The table below serves as an example of how much extra you may pay to use your credit card for in Cuba.

section of credit card summary box document

Additionally you can get an idea of costs by using these online currency conversion tools from Mastercard and Visa.

What is a cash advance fee?

A cash advance fee is calculated (and charged) when you withdraw cash from your credit card. It’s usually the greater of a flat fee or a percentage of the transaction. For example, “2.5% of the transaction, minimum £3.00”.

How to prepare before travelling to Cuba

  1. Go with Visa. Carry a Visa credit card with you, as this network is most likely to be accepted in Cuba.
  2. Think no foreign transaction fees. When there are cards that come with no foreign transaction fees, using ones that charge 2% or 3% of each overseas transaction does not make sense. Some of these cards don’t charge an annual fee, either.
  3. Keep your bank posted. Your bank may block your credit card if it detects suspicious activity such as unexpected overseas transactions. To make sure this does not happen to your card, let your bank know about your travel plans before you leave the UK.
  4. Keep the emergency number handy. Know which numbers you’ll need to call if you end up losing your card or if you need an emergency replacement.
  5. Know where you’ll get cash from. Consider using your debit card to withdraw cash from ATMs. If you need to exchange money, stick to banks or official money-exchange offices – possessing counterfeit money in Cuba is a serious crime. Try to avoid exchanging money at airports because of typically poor exchange rates.
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Next steps

Ask yourself these questions before you leave, so your spending in Cuba doesn’t hit any roadblocks.

  • Which cards will I take? Visa is more likely to be accepted than Mastercard, so Visa is your best choice. If you’re planning a trip, check out cards which give you complimentary airport lounge access. If you’re planning well in advance, consider earning air miles for your trip with a frequent flyer credit card.
  • Have I let my bank know? If you don’t inform your bank about your travel plans, you may end up with a temporarily suspended card.
  • What fees do I need to pay? If your existing cards come with foreign transaction fees, look for one that does not. Paying in sterling outside of the UK is likely to come with currency conversion fees.
  • How will I get cash? Using your debit card at an ATM is the simplest way to access your own money. You can carry cash and travellers’ cheques with you.

How to use a credit card in …

Frequently asked questions

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