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Now that it’s much easier to travel to Cuba as a U.S. citizen, even flying on miles and points, two big hassles remain:
Starting March 1st, 2015, MasterCard lifted restrictions on using a U.S. based card in Cuba according to Bloomberg, and the Treasury Department lifted restrictions on U.S. banks from opening accounts at Cuban banks to handle transactions. But only one (small) U.S. bank has yet confirmed the ability to use a card in Cuba.
You can already use foreign-issued MasterCard and Visa cards in Cuba.
This leaves North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Sudan as the only countries where U.S. issued credit cards won’t work, though individual banks may have more restrictions.
Visa and American Express haven’t yet disclosed plans to allow U.S. based cardholders to use their cards in Cuba.
Regardless, even when you can use your card in Cuba, credit card processing is still very limited.
You’ll have luck at most major resorts, but many shops and restaurants will only deal in cash. ATMs aren’t ubiquitous. And you’ll probably find Euros and Pounds get a more favorable exchange rate than dollars, though with the easing of restrictions that old relationship may start to break down.
And even if you find a way to spend, you can only bring home $400 worth of gifts. And only $100 of those can be cigars.
On the airline front, the diplomatic work is done as of December, 2015. And air service should start sometime in 2016, though you’ll still need a valid, non tourist reason to visit the island.
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