Going to Cuba? A guide to using a credit card in Cuba | December 2018
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Using a credit card in Cuba

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Cuba is becoming an increasingly popular travel destination for Americans — especially with recently relaxed sanctions that allow easier travel on popular airlines.

If you’re headed to the island nation of Cuba from the US, you’ll need to account for how you’ll get money when you need it. The US government now tentatively allows Americans to pay with credit cards in Cuba, but it could be difficult to find merchants that accept this method of payment.

Mastercard lifted its block on card transactions in Cuba on March 1, 2017, but the country’s outdated technology means that not many merchants are set up to accept it.

Stonegate Bank is the one US bank that services Cuba. Along with Natbank and Banco Popular of Puerto Rico, Stonegate is authorized by the Central Bank of the Republic of Cuba and the US Office of Foreign Assets Control to provide Mastercard-branded credit and debit cards that are valid in Cuba.

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Compare cards for use in Cuba

When you travel to Cuba, make sure that you have a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. These fees may seem small, but they add up each time you use your card while abroad. Consider these credit cards that charge no foreign transaction fees.

Name Product Currency Conversion Fee Annual Fee APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases
None
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
17.99% to 24.99% variable
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
None
$450
17.99% to 24.99% variable
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
None
$0 annual fee for the first year ($89 thereafter)
17.99%, 21.99% or 24.99% variable
Enjoy 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
None
$0
14.99%, 18.99% or 24.99% variable
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases. See Rates and Fees.
None
$0
12.99%, 16.99% or 20.99% variable
An 18 months 0%% Intro APR period on both purchases and balance transfers, plus zero foreign transaction fees, makes this is a strong well-rounded card. See Rates and Fees
None
$195
16.99% variable
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
None
$495
16.99% variable
Receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
None
$995
16.99% variable
Earn points every time you spend. Luxury Card enhances your purchasing power by providing you with one (1) point for every one dollar ($1) you spend. Every purchase gets you closer to the rewards you want.
None
$0
8.90% to 25.90% variable
This card offers the same low rate for purchases, cash advances and balance transfers.
None
$0
13.99% variable
A low, variable APR on purchases, balance transfers and cash advances.

Compare up to 4 providers

Potential credit card fees in Cuba

When using a credit card in Cuba, know how much you’ll need to pay in fees to your provider. Two fees you’ll typically face with credit card transactions are those for foreign transactions and currency conversions.

Foreign transaction fees

If you have an American credit card, prepare to pay up to 3% of every international transaction in foreign transaction fees. One card option that comes with no foreign transaction fees is Stonegate Bank’s World Elite Mastercard.

Currency conversion fees

If a merchant asks whether you’d like to be billed in your local currency — American dollars, euros or pounds — decline the offer. When your card is billed in your home currency by an overseas business, you can pay sometimes high dynamic currency conversion fees. There’s also a good chance you’ll get less-than-favorable exchange rates on top of these fees.

Should I use my card to get cash?

Use your credit card to get a cash advance only if it’s an emergency. Your cash advance APR is usually higher than your purchase APR, and you’ll also pay a cash advance fee. See the table below for an indication of how much your cash advance in Cuba could cost.

pricing information table

fees table

Cards issued by non-American banks

If your credit card is issued by a non-American bank, ask your card provider if it’ll work in Cuba. Visa credit and debit cards are typically accepted by tour operators, and you may be able use them to pay with large retailers. You can also use your Visa card to withdraw funds from an ATM, a bank or a government exchange facility — also called a Cadeca. Mastercard is not accepted at ATMs in Cuba, although can you use your card to withdraw money from a bank or a Cadeca.

While your card might find takers at big hotels and tour operators, card transactions remain limited due to patchy Internet access.

Is it safe to use my credit card in Cuba?

Using your credit card in Cuba is safe, although you’ll want to exercise some caution.

  • Safeguard your PIN. When you’re entering your PIN, use one hand to shield the keypad for protection against hidden cameras and prying eyes.
  • Select ATMs with care. Choose ATMs that are located in banks or crowded areas.
  • Watch out for skimmers. If you think there’s a problem with an ATM slot or its keypad, don’t use it. Someone might have installed a credit card skimmer.

Keeping your credit card (physically) safe

Old Havana is infamous for its share of pickpockets and bag-snatchers, and you also need to watch out on public transport, nightclubs and tourist attractions. Beware of misdirection schemes, where one person distracts you while another takes off with your wallet, bag or purse.

Using cash in Cuba

Don’t expect US dollars to be legal tender in Cuba. If you exchange US dollars in the country, you’ll often pay 10% commission to the government. Cuba operates a dual-currency system, wherein locals use the Cuban peso (CUP) and visitors use the Cuban convertible peso (CUC).

The CUC’s value is less than the CUP’s value. If you’re carrying banknotes in US dollars or any other currency, make sure they’re in good condition: Merchants can refuse to accept dollars with markings, rips or even slight tears. Keep in mind that if you’re entering Cuba with more than $5,000, you’ll need to declare it on your arrival.

Magstripe and chip credit cards

If your credit card is accepted in Cuba, it won’t matter whether it’s a magstripe or chip card. Cuba, like the US, is currently transitioning from magstripes to chip-enabled cards. Even though both are accepted, if you have a choice, use a chip-enabled card for its added protection.

Can I use my chip-and-signature card in Cuba?

Yes. You’ll need to enter your PIN only if you’re using your card to withdraw money from an ATM. In all other instances, you’ll simply sign for your purchase.

How to prepare before traveling to Cuba

  1. Check with your bank. Ask your bank if you can use your card in Cuba before you depart. Visa is more widely accepted than Mastercard, with very few merchants set up to take American Express.
  2. Get a card with no foreign transaction fees. Even though regulations are now relaxed, you won’t find many American banks offering cards for use in Cuba. Fortunately, you can manage to find a card with no foreign transaction fees.
  3. Inform your bank of your travels. Banks are always on the lookout for fraudulent transactions. If your card provider sees a transaction that’s unusual for your spending, it can temporarily block your card.
  4. Carry emergency numbers. You never know when you might end up losing your card or requiring a replacement, so write down your provider’s numbers just in case.
  5. Plan where you’ll get money from. If you’re headed to Cuba from the US, you’ll need access to cash. To exchange currency, stick to banks, government exchange houses and large hotels to avoid ending up with counterfeit currency.

Next steps

Ask yourself a few simple questions before you leave for Cuba to avoid unnecessary travel headaches.

  • Which card should I take? Call your providers to learn which of your cards will work in Cuba. If you don’t have a card that’s accepted, consider getting a new one.
  • Did I let my bank know of my travels? Keep your bank in the loop on your travel dates to avoid unexpected blocks on your card.
  • What fees will I need to pay? Not all credit cards come with the same foreign transaction and currency conversion fees, so confirm what you could pay in advance.
  • What’s my source of cash? You’ll need access to cash throughout your stay in Cuba, so it’s important to identify where you can get it when you need it.

While traveling to the Pearl of Antilles — and paying for your travels while there — can still be complicated for Americans, with some planning and precaution, you can still explore and enjoy Cuba without worry.

How to use a credit card in …

Frequently asked questions

Megan Horner

As the assistant publisher of credit cards at finder.com, Megan is passionate about helping you compare and find the best credit cards for your situation, whether that is earning great rewards or improving your credit score. In her previous position, Megan worked as an assigning editor at Credit Karma, where she focused on editing and publishing educational articles on credit cards. Megan started her career as a writer at a comparison website, so she has a longstanding background in surfacing the best deals and helping people make decisions. In her spare time, Megan likes to hike, camp, surf, and read.

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