Money in Cuba
This topic is probably the most controversial subject concerning Americans Visiting Cuba. Many people have varied opinions, sometimes partly true and sometimes downright erroneous. We´ll attempt here to clarify:
Money in Cuba | American Debit/Credit cards in Cuba
It goes without saying that your cards WILL NOT work to get money in Cuba. It can be quite a culture shock for most Americans not having easy access to ATM withdrawals and some take the ease for which they have access to money for granted. This is why you should have enough money for your trip and a contingency plan in case something happens and you need extra cash quickly.
Western Union – recently re-crowned the king of transfers to Cuba for Money in Cuba after several years’ hiatus during the Bush years. Fresh accords between the Obama administration and Cuba mean that Western Union have regained much of their clout and now offer Americans an easy and above all cheap(er) way of getting money to Cuba. Western Union is the only company which will allow Americans (and friends in Cuba) to receive Money in Cuba without the 10% penalty imposed upon the exchange of cash on the island. This in itself is a big saving and offsets the cost of the WU service fees for larger amounts. The system is extremely simple. Somebody takes money to Western Union and they are given a 10 digit number. You or a friend shows up at one of a plethora of offices in Cuba and collect the Money in Cuba (cash) in CUC directly. Simple.
Money in Cuba | Cuba Approved Remittance Cards
Another way to have Money in Cuba available to you is to get one of the several remittance cards available and approved for use in Cuba. While a little more expensive than the aforementioned Western union these can prove invaluable for emergency cash requirements. The other advantage of such cards is that they can be used like a regular credit card in Cuba so items like Fuel, Food and Restaurants etc can be paid directly with the card without resorting to a cash withdrawal.
A couple of well respected companies are:
Advice to Americans Visiting Cuba
It goes without saying that the most logical path for any American is to book as many of the services they will need for their time in Cuba in advance, leaving cash for day to day living expenses. Paying in advance before you leave the US for your Cuba Hotels, Flights to Cuba, National Flights in Cuba, Accommodations, Car Rental in Cuba, Compulsory insurance, etc. will mean that you can budget your cash needs more effectively and, above all, carry less cash. It is however important that you do not violate US law when making these payments because, if you are simply traveling to Cuba without a specific license, separate fines can be levied for paying Cuban based agencies for services. It is rather simple to establish if an agency is based in Cuba and mitigating the risk is rather simple. Check on the “About US” page of the website or “Contact” and see if the agency is one of many foreign agencies with representation in Cuba. Many will claim to be Canadian, UK, Spanish, Italian, etc. and tell you that it’s OK to use them. Nevertheless, the use of these agencies with addresses in Cuba is an extra violation over and above simply traveling to Cuba. OFAC and the Treasury Department are rather clear about this. The wording is “travel may be organized and paid via a TSP approved by the Treasury Department or a third country agency NOT LOCATED in Cuba”. This opens the door to agencies anywhere in the world so long as they do not have offices or are promoting a presence in Cuba. For some of us, the comfort of dealing with an agency based in Cuba will outweigh the risk but, few are aware that NO foreign agencies based in Cuba are permitted to sell to Americans under Cuban law. The above links are third country agencies NOT based in Cuba and as such legal for bookings services. So, if a foreign agency based on the island is selling you services they have been specifically prohibited from doing so by the Cuban Government. This means that your bookings could become invalidated and worse, you end up stranded. Why take the risk with so many reputable online agencies in third countries that are not in Cuba?
Getting and having Money in Cuba need not be complicated if you use the above advice well
Money in Cuba 101