Travel

Cash or Creditcard during trip to Cuba

  • Last Updated:
  • Mar 27th, 2017 6:35 pm
[OP]
Jr. Member
Aug 28, 2010
122 posts
39 upvotes
Orangeville

Cash or Creditcard during trip to Cuba

I'm wondering what ppl have been using recently for purchases, while traveling in Cuba. I haven't been in 6+ yrs. I think I just exchanged CDN $ for the CUC $ the last time I went. I have the Rogers CC that gives you a net 1.5% CB for foreign purchases (4% CB- 2.5% transaction fee), which (Still have to confirm) should apply to Cuba.

So should I: Use my CC for most purchases (exchange a small amount of cash for emergencies/cash only purchases), or not bother with the CC and just use cash (Guessing the exchange rate in Cuba would be worse than what the CC would provide). I currently use my CC for 99% of my purchases now.
17 replies
Deal Addict
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Sep 5, 2005
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I'm not sure if things changed recently, but the last time I went, a little over a year ago, they only accept CUC, and the best exchange rate is by cash to CUC. Foreign currencies is useless to the locals.
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Apr 26, 2010
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Richmond Hill
Cash is probably your best best. I was there maybe 2 years ago and don't Cuba being plastic friendly
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Jan 27, 2006
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Vancouver, BC
RedLego wrote:
Mar 19th, 2017 8:54 pm
Cash is probably your best best. I was there maybe 2 years ago and don't Cuba being plastic friendly
Probably two reasons why cash is best -

1. Some portion of the transaction can be 'under the table' as cash is harder to track.
2. With the ongoing American embargo, the financial system isn't really streamline with the rest of the world - ie it's still illegal for American companies (ie financial institutions) to have financial transactions with Cuba.
Deal Addict
Sep 19, 2015
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Cash is king in Cuba, and pretty much anywhere in the Caribbean. You're seen as a nuisance if you insist on using plastic.

Do bring your CC for emergencies as your resort though would accept credit cards, and if you require medical emergencies, doctors on call and hospitals also accept CC, but they would write it on paper, so archaic I know...haha
[OP]
Jr. Member
Aug 28, 2010
122 posts
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Orangeville
So it seems cash is the way to go. Did you guys/girls exchange your monies before you went down for the CUP or CUC? Where did you exchange in Cuba? airport, bank, hotel? I read that the rates vary quite a bit if you exchange in Cuba.
Deal Fanatic
Jan 27, 2006
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Vancouver, BC
You basically can only officially buy Cuban currency in Cuba so many buy it when they get there and sell it when they leave. There might be some locals in Canada who have small amounts and are willing to sell it privately as they forgot to exchange everything before they left.

Depends on how brave you are... I hear that the the exchange rates on the streets is the best but then you might get ripped off OR thrown in jail if caught.
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Sep 5, 2005
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some hotels have cadeca, which offers the same exchange rate as the airport. Otherwise, airport is the best bet. Depends on whether or not you plan to go off resort, then you can look for cadeca and check for better rate at other hotels. If you are not sure if your hotel have cadeca, the front desk will charge you more for exchange. My experience says cadeca have the best exchange rate, but I don't venture too far off resorts to find out if there are better exchange place out there.
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Oct 25, 2009
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Moncton
I had no trouble using my Canadian bank card at a downtown Varadero bank machine. My only issue with that was that I ended up with large bills and I wanted tip money. I've used my credit card for airport purchases and booking tours.

There is some speculation that the dual currency systems will end at some point. Although if I was a 85 year old Castro, I'd let my successor deal with that. Oddly enough, there is still a 10% tax on US currency, so some Cubans are hording the US dollars, hoping for a quick 10% return when the tax is eliminated.

If you are in Havana, you could make a killing supplying cash to unprepared Americans. Just get them to email you money via Paypal before you hand over those CUC.
Toronto is a very small part of Canada
[OP]
Jr. Member
Aug 28, 2010
122 posts
39 upvotes
Orangeville
MonctonMan wrote:
Mar 24th, 2017 3:14 am
I had no trouble using my Canadian bank card at a downtown Varadero bank machine. My only issue with that was that I ended up with large bills and I wanted tip money. I've used my credit card for airport purchases and booking tours.

There is some speculation that the dual currency systems will end at some point. Although if I was a 85 year old Castro, I'd let my successor deal with that. Oddly enough, there is still a 10% tax on US currency, so some Cubans are hording the US dollars, hoping for a quick 10% return when the tax is eliminated.

If you are in Havana, you could make a killing supplying cash to unprepared Americans. Just get them to email you money via Paypal before you hand over those CUC.

How bad was the added "service fee" when you used your bank card? Did the bank machine give you the CUC, or CUP?
Deal Fanatic
May 29, 2006
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never saw a single ATM machine in Cayo Santa Maria, and very few debit/credit card machines (and the one at the store in our resort was constantly not working)
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Dec 9, 2005
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craftsman wrote:
Mar 21st, 2017 1:36 pm
You basically can only officially buy Cuban currency in Cuba so many buy it when they get there and sell it when they leave. There might be some locals in Canada who have small amounts and are willing to sell it privately as they forgot to exchange everything before they left.
I would be one of those people. I have about 50 CUC. What`s the best way to change it?
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Jan 27, 2006
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Cheap wrote:
Mar 26th, 2017 7:05 am
I would be one of those people. I have about 50 CUC. What`s the best way to change it?
Officially, there isn't any outside of Cuba. You would need to see it privately.
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Oct 25, 2009
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Moncton
Cheap wrote:
Mar 26th, 2017 7:05 am
I would be one of those people. I have about 50 CUC. What`s the best way to change it?
Go back to Cuba. :)

Ask your friends, family, Facebook, colleagues. I still have some Lithuanian money from way back when. A DC metro cars with $30 on it. A Sydney transit card with $20. Cost of travel, but something you want to avoid.

Despite the 300 people waiting to check into their flights, there is never a line in departures at the airport to exchange money. Not sure where other Canadians get rid of theirs.
Under currency unification, the CUC is supposed to disappear
Last edited by MonctonMan on Mar 26th, 2017 3:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Toronto is a very small part of Canada
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Moncton
gongshow09 wrote:
Mar 24th, 2017 10:57 am
How bad was the added "service fee" when you used your bank card? Did the bank machine give you the CUC, or CUP?
A couple bucks for the Cuban ATM fee. At the time, I had a premium account with TD that gave me free international ATM transactions. I believe their fee is normally $5.

The Varadero ATM dispenses CUC.
Toronto is a very small part of Canada

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