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There is a MasterCard you can now use in Cuba, but it’s not easy

by on Fri January 1, 2016 • No Comment
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U.S. airlines are gearing up to fly to Cuba now that agreements have been reached for them to start regular, scheduled service, so within months you should be able to easily book flights directly from the US to Cuba with cash or miles.

But once you get there, dealing with paying for things is still be a major headache, as there’s still a lot of red tape before your U.S. credit, debit, or ATM card can be used in Cuba.

MasterCard has already announced it removed a network block on U.S. based cards in Cuba, with the catch that the bank issuing the card needs to have a relationship with a bank in Cuba to handle the transactions. And so far none of the major banks has announced that milestone, or even publicized a vague timeframe for reaching it.

But there is one bank in Florida that NPR says is already up and running to do business in Cuba.

It’s Stonegate Bank in Fort Lauderdale.

And you can use its debit MasterCard for transactions in Cuba right now because they’re the first U.S. bank to set up a correspondent banking relationship with a Cuba based bank. Anyone who has proof of a legitimate non-tourist reason to visit Cuba can open a Personal Access checking account with them to get the debit card, but there are a lot of catches to be aware of:

  • Their checking account requires a $2,500 minimum deposit
  • There’s a $15 per month fee if you hold less than $50,000 in the account, and $5 if you hold less than $100,000
  • PIN based transactions won’t work, so you can’t use the card to withdraw money at ATMs in Cuba, though that be allowed later this year according to the bank
  • You can use it like a credit card where MasterCard is accepted and you sign to authorize
  • There’s a limit of $750 a day in transactions

And the biggest catch of all.

You have to apply in person at one of their branches.

So this is really only an option if you live in South Florida, or have enough travel to Cuba planned that spending some time there to get things setup is worthwhile.

It took about 4 months from the date Stonegate established a relationship with Cuban bank BICSA before its debit cards started functioning in Cuba, so don’t expect a major bank to be ready for several months, if not more than a year.

 

 

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