Money and Currency in in Cuba

Sections

The Dual Economy An image of a Cuban 3 Convertible Peso note

The economic and monetary situation in Cuba is quite complex, for a start there are 2 currencies:

  • The Peso Convertible - CUC - the main currency used by tourists.
  • The Peso Cubano - CUP (or M.N - moneda nacional) - used mostly by Cubans at places like ration stores.

CUC's

Here is a summary of effective exchange rates for the CUC (including bank commissions).

  • 1 CUC = US$1.13 (using US$ cash)
  • 1 CUC = US$1.03 (using other currencies)

Use our currency converter on the right side of this page to see the present value of US$ to other currencies.

AN EXPLANATION

Presently, the CUC in Cuba is set at a fixed rate of 1CUC = US$1 . Effectively the value of the CUC is about US$1.03 because the Cuban banks always take a commission of around 3% when they give you CUC, whether this be by exchanging cash, travellers cheques, or using a credit card at an ATM or for a cash advance. The rate is fixed by the Cuban Government, and it is subject to change at anytime, should the Government decide to do so.

There is an additional 10% fee when changing $US cash to CUC. This fee does not apply to other currencies, or when changing CUC to $US.

Foreign Currency Accepted in Cuba

Below is the Banco Central de Cuba list of foreign currencies currently accepted for exchange in Cuba.
- These may be exchanged at most Commercial Banking Institutions throughout the country.
- Exchange Houses - CADECA may accept some, but not all currencies.


British Pound GBP
Canadian Dollar   CAD  
Swiss Franc   CHF  
Japanese Yen   JPY  
USA Dollar   USD  
Mexican Peso   MXP  
Danish Krone   DKK  
Norway Krone   NOK  
Sweden Krona   SEK  
Euro   EUR  
"Convertible" Cuban Peso   CUC  

Click on the Banco Central de Cuba links to view the latest Foreign Currency Rates and Accepted Foreign Currency for exchange in Cuba.


CADECA - Official Exchange Houses in Cuba

CUC can be obtained in the CADECA exchange houses, which are in every city in Cuba. CADECA's provide the following services:

  • Exchanging cash between foreign currencies and CUC. Many foreign currencies are listed, however we recommended only relying on being able to exchange Euros, US$, Canadian Dollars, and British Pounds in Cuba.
  • Exchanging travellers cheques to CUC. See below for details.
  • Providing cash advances with credit cards (Visa and MasterCard). These are widely accepted throughout Cuba and are valid from accounts in every currency, except for cards linked to banks in the U.S.. Cards in US$ from banks outside the the U.S. can be used, however the extra 10% fee will be applied. Cirrus and Maestro, are not accepted at all in Cuba.

There is a CADECA at the airport. So you can obtain CUC immediately upon arrival in Cuba. Also at the airport, at the end of your time in Cuba, you can change your left-over CUC (as they are worthless outside of Cuba) to another currency.

ATMs

The ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines), work in Cuba for most Visa cards, but not for Mastercards. The are quite a few ATMs near to our joining hotel in Havana, and also one at Havana airport which is usually open and working. At present, the only cities in Cuba with ATMs are Havana, Camaguey, Trinidad, and Santiago de Cuba. You will need a pin number on your credit card to be able to use the ATMs.

We find occasionally that people come to Cuba with a Visa ‘debit card’ that does not work in the ATMs. We don’t know why this happens. We do know that a Visa cards obtained through Travelex and Citibank will not work in Cuba. Visa cards issued by US banks will not work in Cuba. Because of these difficulties that are sometimes unpredictable in Cuba, it is best to come to Cuba with a back-up plan of obtaining cash in Cuba if your credit card does not work.

Travellers Cheques

In general travelers cheques tend to cause difficulty for the traveler in Cuba due to the limitations: of where they can be exchanged; that they cannot be replaced in Cuba in the event of loss; and the less favourable exchange rates applied when cashing them in. Those which are reported to have the most success are Thomas Cook and Visa.

They can be exchanged at the CADECA and at some banks. The exchange surcharge for travelers cheques ranges from 3% to 6%. BFI's (Banco Financiero Internacional) present exchange rate is $100USD = $93.12CUC.

  • Accepted: American Express, Visa, Thomas Cook, Citicorp and Mastercard.
  • NOT accepted: Eurocheques, Travelex, and Citibank

Travellers cheques issued in USD are not a problem, in fact it has been reported that American Express Travelers Cheques are accepted at the BFI (Banco Financiero Internacional) and BM (Banco Metropolitano) and are exempt from the 10% surcharge penalty which is imposed for exchanging US$ cash in Cuba. However, for some reason Banco Metropolitano does not accept travelers cheques at any Havana branches.

To exchange travellers cheques in Cuba you need to have the receipt from the bank where you bought the cheques, as well as your passport.

Cuban Pesos - CUP

An image of a 20 pesos Cuban bank noteApart from CUC, the other currency circulating in Cuba is the Peso Cubano (CUP). This is commonly abbreviated by the Cubans to M.N (which means moneda nacional). It has a value of about 1CUC=24 M.N. This currency has very limited use, especially for travellers. You may however get the chance to use it occasionally, so it is perhaps a good idea to exchange about 1 to 3CUC, to M.N after you arrive in Cuba. Having said this, the goods sold in M.N that are more likely to be of interest to you, will most of the time be sold by privately run businesses. These businesses will accept CUC at a rate of about 20M.N = 1CUC. So for example, at these stores you can buy something for 10M.N with 0.50CUC, and then you not have to worry about changing CUC to M.N at a CADECA. These stores will also give you change in M.N. The government stores in Cuba that sell in M.N will not accept CUC.

M.N is used by Cubans for buying goods at ration stores - bodegas (for which they need their household ration card - la libreta). Goods for sale in M.N are also found at street stalls, second hand shops, and some other stores, and include items such as: street snacks (pizzas being common - for about 10 M.N), flowers, beer, second hand clothes, coffee, and surprisingly excellent ice cream (1 to 3 M.N). Something for sale in M.N in Cuba is likely to be much cheaper than the same product if sold in CUC, although the quality is usually inferior.

The confusing thing for visitors is that the Cubans call both currencies “pesos”, so you have to know the value of something to know which currency they are referring to. Otherwise you have to ask. CUC is also colloquially known in Cuba as convertibles, chavitos, baros, cañas, and cabillas, and also loosely referred to as divisa, dolares, and fula - although these last 3 are more specifically referring to US$. Note: not all CADECA in Cuba exchange CUC to M.N. The CADECA at the airport in Havana does not carry M.N.

Recommendations

Do not rely on only one source of money - as policies in Cuba are liable to change without warning and also as a precaution for other unforeseen circumstances. In Cuba a combination of cash, travellers cheques, and cards is best.

Always take more rather than less, as you don't want to spoil yout trip in Cuba by constantly feeling short of funds.

Other options

For those travellers - especially for US citizens who do not have the use of a Visa or Mastercard from a non-US bank, and do not wish to rely solely on exchanging cash in Cuba, there exist alternative bank accounts that provide you with a card which you can use in Cuba to access your money.

  • The Caribbean Transfers 'Travel Card'
  • From the Caribbean Transfer Website “This card is aimed to tourists or frequent travelers, and can save you up to 3% in the exchange rate of your currency into CUC, when you deposit funds in an authorised agency or using our website, before you travel to Cuba. Additionally, you do not take the risk of lost your cash; your money is safe and secured in our Travel Card, waiting for you in the airport the day you arrive. It can be used to withdraw money in banks, foreign exchange offices and in ATMs, or as a payment in a great number of places like stores, restaurants, hotels, gas stations, car rentals, tourism agencies, etc.”

    - Apply for a Caribbean Transfers 'Travel Card'
    - Caribbean Transfers 'Travel Card' F.A.Q

    PLEASE NOTE IN LATE 2012 THIS CARD BECAME TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE

  • The UTS-Transaction 'Caribbean Transfer Card'
  • UTS TRX SA is a company based in the heart of switzerland and has the advantage to use the swiss banking network in order to give you a secure, trusty and professional service. This debit card can be used to withdraw cash in any bank or foreign exchange houses in Cuba. The out-payment will be made in CUC it won't be possible to withdraw money in another currency.
    This card is also accepted for payments of goods and services in commercial places such as: stores, restaurants, hotels, gas stations. This card is accepted on the whole island, on the whole Cuban banking system.
    This card can be used without any costs. No comissions on cash withdrawal. No commissions on purchasing goods or services. This card is free of additional costs. No additional fees will be charged to open your account.
    **NOTE: Banks may charge a service fee for the withdrawal.

    To open an account: simply go online and apply.
    - You are required to provide personal information strictly for internal UTS use ONLY.
    - See the list of pick up destinations in Cuba.
    - Your debit card is ready to pick up in 5 Days in Havana or 15 days in another province.
    - All further transactions to the same beneficiary will automatically be credited on the exisiting Card in less than 48 hours.
    This is a simple process, you can view the calculator online with the amount you pay, the amount in Euro, the fee and the amount you receive in CUC.

    See the debit card Terms and Conditions.