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Can you use your credit card in Cuba starting March 1, if you have a MasterCard?

by on Fri January 23, 2015 • 16 Comments

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:

  1. A lack of regularly scheduled airline flights directly from the U.S. (which will be resolved in 2016)
  2. The inability to use U.S. based credit cards in Cuba (which is moving slowly)

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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16 thoughts on Can you use your credit card in Cuba starting March 1, if you have a MasterCard?

    1. DC

      I spoke with Diane at Barclays this morning 9-6-2016. They will not accept charges from Cuba even though it let me fill it out as my destination on the trip advisor section.

  1. John Miller

    I will be traveling to Cuba in December 2016 and am receiving conflicting advice about whether credit cards issued by US banks are accepted yet. Both American Express and Chase VISA said “yes” but I am still seeing a lot of on-line traffic that says “no,” including the website of the American Embassy in Havana. Where can I obtain definitive guidance?

    1. mark funt

      just spoke to American Express.
      As of today, Aug 31, their cards are not accepted in Cuba. while it is in their plan, they do not have any definitive dates. we’re traveling in October.

  2. Gregory Redmond

    I have GM MasterCard issued by CapitalOne. I plan to visit Cuba. The customer service representative indicates that my MasterCard cannot be used in Cuba.

    Can I use my card?

    How can I determine which issued MasterCard can be used in Cuba?


      @Gregory – You should be able to at merchants that accept MasterCard. There shouldn’t be any specific exclusion by type of MasterCard now that the MasterCard network has stopped blocking transactions from U.S. cards in Cuba. It’s possible the Capital One rep you spoke to wasn’t well informed, and may be worth another call.

      1. w styles

        Did you use your capital one card..and did it work…planning on using card when I go to cuba..would like to know before I ho


          @w styles – Don’t count on it. The big U.S. banks still have to establish banking relationships in Cuba and we haven’t seen reports of those happening yet.

    2. Ruth Altheim

      Barclays Bank issued the Mastercard for AmericanAirlines and it cannot be used in Cuba per the ‘relationship manager’ on 8-23-2015. Any one know of any cards that can be used in Cuba? Just because a card is a Mastercard doesn’t mean that you CAN use it!

  3. John Ziftes

    Can the CitiBank Visa card (US bak issued) be used in Cuba? I have been getting conflicting information. CitiBank says that it can be used and are basing that on the fact that they have not received any alerts from customers that they were not able to use the card. Sites like TripAdvisor say all types of Visa cards from US banks are still not able to be used in Cuba. One other site went as far as to include the CitiBank card in the “worthless” credit cards in Cuba list.

    Will be traveling to Cuba in 2 months and trying to plan how I pay for things.

    Thank you in advance.



      @John – Haven’t tried, but probably can do it on the ground via hotel or just ask around for phone numbers. Though probably no credit cards at most.


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