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How to send money to Cuba from South Africa

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 South African 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, 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 he or she 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

There are a couple of dedicated money transfer services in South Africa 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.

  • 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 South African Fraud Prevention Services. 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

All of South Africa’s major banks support international wire transfers to Cuba, although you could be looking at high fees per transfer. And some banks even allow customers to transfer to Cuba through online banking.

What you should know about Cuban currencies

There are 2 cash currencies being 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 (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 pesoCuban Convertible pesoMoneda Libremente Convertible
Currency abbreviation
  • CUP
  • CUC
  • MLC
Date introduced
  • 1857
  • 1994
  • 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 CUC = 24 USD.
    (Most state-owned companies and banks exchange CUP and CUC on a 1:1 basis, which can confuse the real value of assets held in either currency.)
  • 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 in most places in Cuba (although a few stores only accept CUC). State workers are paid in CUP.
  • Typically used to pay for more luxurious purchases. 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 convert your cash into one of those currencies if you decide to convert on the ground and put some CUC or 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.

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.

Frequently asked questions

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