Cuba Gives OK to MasterCard at Havana ATMs

The Popular Bank buildling in Puerto Rico.
The Popular Bank buildling in Puerto Rico.  Photo:

HAVANA TIMES – The Central Bank of Cuba today authorized the use of MasterCards issued by Stonegate Bank in the US and Banco Popular of Puerto Rico in operations at ATMs in the Cuban capital.

“The possibility starts after having solved the pending financial and legal issues and thanks to the actions of the responsible Cuban entities charged with processing MasterCard and the external provider that enables us to process their operations,” said a statement from Central Bank of Cuba.

To date, using MasterCard was limited to transactions in outlets such as hotels or shops, however it was not possible to withdraw cash from the ATM network.

In this new phase, which includes cash withdrawals, the service will be limited to ATMs in Havana, but “will gradually extend to the whole country,” Irma Martinez, vice president of the Central Bank of Cuba, told reporters.

“We need to promote the use of this type of facility for payments,” said Martinez during an international event on monetary transfers held until next Wednesday in Havana.

A couple of weeks ago Stonegate Bank, based in South Florida, announced the issuance of the first special credit card for use in Cuba.

The news was a step in the thaw between Cuba and the United States and its issuance has been a success, issuing more than 500 cards in just 15 days, said Stonegate Bank representative Tania Fernandez.

The Stonegate Bank Master-cards are specially designed for Cubans living in the United States or for other US citizens traveling to Cuba within the 12 categories allowed by Washington.

Until now, US or Cuban/American visitors had to bring cash and change it into Cuban currency paying a 10 percent penalty imposed by Cuba. The island’s government says the fee is to offset the penalties suffered by the Cuban State in its international transactions with cash dollars.

Last March, before the historic visit to the island of US President Barack Obama, the US administration announced that it had authorized the use of the dollar in transactions between the two countries. Cuba responded by saying it would lift the 10% penalty on cash dollars when it could open up bank accounts in the US to carry out its transactions.

However  the shift in US policy has yet to occur in practice.  Cuban authorities said on Monday that bank transfers between the US and Cuba are still made through third countries due to the restrictions of the US embargo on the island.

The vice president of the Central Bank said for direct wires to take place it would require that Cuban banks “be allowed to open accounts in US banks and that is still not possible due to the embargo regulations.”

“We are open to any opening but that depends on the US banks,” said Martinez.

9 thoughts on “Cuba Gives OK to MasterCard at Havana ATMs

  • OK! I guess the authorities just like the figure of 25 CUC which represents more than one months pay for the average Cuban.

  • Whereas I don’t expect you to like or agree with what I have written, I do hope that you find it to be an honest endeavor to explain the realities of Cuba. So I hope you will find it of interest.

  • Just ordered your book. Looking forward to reading it.

  • LOL. I wasn’t accusing you of anything, nor do I care if you don’t want to share. I was just curious about the oddly specific amount. No worries.

  • You obviously don’t believe me that the $25 was not for departure tax and it is none of your business to inquire what it was for. Who are you to inquire?

    But to satisfy your nosiness, as one married to a Cuban, I used to have a personal visa for which I paid $128 each time permitting me to stay for up to six months. Then I received notification that in the future I would not require it, but could use a tourist visa. So I did. The $25 was for being in Cuba for more than three months. Satisfied?

    I only ever tell the truth! That is one of the reasons for my writing; “Cuba Lifting the Veil” it was to reveal the truth about Cuba, the Castro family regime. the Communist Party of Cuba and the repressive system which controls the lives of the Cuban people. There are those supporters of the regime who wish to avoid facing the reality of life in Cuba and use these pages to express their admiration of the oppression control and dictatorial power which the Castro regime exerts, some of them have never even visited Cuba, but skulk in the protection of democratic societies where there is freedom of expression, freedom of the media and opportunity to act as an individual. Cubans do not have those privileges!

  • What else is (was) exactly $25CUC, and required by Aduana at the airport?

  • The $25 was not for the departure tax, you make an assumption! As one who goes back and forth I am well aware of the necessities.
    As you correctly indicate, the cost of using where possible in Cuba, a credit card are very high. But, when away from the regular tourist routes, the only places accepting them are banks and the Cadeca.
    Take cash!

  • The $25CUC departure tax was retired over a year ago, so at least people will be spared that adventure in the future!

    For sure, cash is king in Cuba. I’m always surprised by people who go there for any extended period and only bring their credit cards. A lot of people do this, and somehow manage to get through it. The hoops they have to jump through, and the extra charges they face once they get home — no thank you!

  • I was accompanied by Cuban immigration to the cash machine in Jose Marti International Airport in order to obtain an additional CUC25 using VISA. It did not work as it had run out of cash. The line -up at the Cadeca took 40 minutes to enable obtaining 25CUC.
    Americans thinking that they can use credit cards in Cuba should be alerted to knowing that Cuba is a cash society. Take cash!

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