Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC)
What is CUC: As a visitor to Cuba, the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) is the currency which you will most widely use while in Cuban territory. CUC is not an international currency, but is pegged (neutral rate) at 1.00 against the US Dollar. Buying/selling rates in Cuban financial institutions make the actual value for all non-commercial transactions and exchanges closer to 1.03 USD.
Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC) Denominations
Multicolored bills: $1, $3, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100
Coins: $0.01 (rarely circulated), $0.05, $0.10, $0.25, $0.50, $1.00
Cuban Pesos (National Currency)
CUP or MN: Cuban Pesos may be acquired at CADECA exchange counters, presently at a value of $24 CUP to $1 CUC. As a short-term visitor to Cuba, you will probably have very little use for Cuban Pesos, and the common custom among Cubans (and in many state stores nowadays) is to accept CUC directly for a value almost equivalent to the established CADECA CUP/MN rate.
Cuban Pesos (National Currency) Denominations
Multicolored bills: $1, $3 (Che Guevara bill), $5, $10, $20, $50, $100
Coins: $0.05, $0.20, $1.00, $3.00 (Che Guevara coin)
US Dollars (USD)
US cash currency no longer circulates in Cuba except for in airport shops once you’ve cleared immigration on departure. As an international currency, it is accepted for exchange for CUC in financial institutions, but with a 10% penalty on top of the ~ 1.03 banking exchange rate (CUC-USD). To avoid the penalty, it is recommended to exchange your USD for any other internationally-accepted currency (such as Canadian Dollars, Euros, Swiss Francs, etc.) prior to arrival in Cuba.
There is no specific dollar limit on authorized expenses. Authorized travelers will be allowed to engage in transactions ordinarily incident to travel within Cuba, including payment of living expenses and the acquisition in Cuba of goods for personal consumption there.
U.S. credit and debit cards don’t work in Cuba due to the Embargo.
Authorized travelers can take up to $10,000 to Cuba in total family remittances, periodic remittances, remittances to religious organizations in Cuba, and remittances to students with an educational license in Cuba.
Exchanging international currency for CUC
What funds can you exchange for CUC?
International cash currencies (divisas) accepted for exchange to CUC in Cuba:
CAD (Canadian Dollars)
JPY (Japan Yen)
CHF (Swiss Francs)
MXN (Mexican Peso)
DKK (Denmark Kroner)
NOK (Norway Kroner)
SEK (Sweden Krona)
GBP (United Kingdom Pounds)
USD (United States Dollars)
Best rates: CADECA exchange counters (banks & hotels have less favorable buying/selling rates) Where else can you exchange funds: Banks (BFI, Banco Metropolitano), and most hotel reception desks (usually at the least favorable rates).
Current Exchange Rates
Note that the international CUC exchange rate varies depending on the establishment where the exchange takes place. The airport Cadecas and some at higher-end hotels (with exchange rates displayed on a back-lit sign) have higher rates for exchanging foreign currency than at normal Cadeca counters or banking facilities, since they serve a captive audience with fewer lineups.
Travelers cheques are accepted in many banks (BFI/Banco Financiero Internacional or BM/Banco Metropolitano) and hotels (typically more so in larger cities) in Cuba. For US travelers, American Express Travelers Cheques are accepted at the BFI and BM and are exempt from the 10% surcharge penalty which is imposed for exchanging US cash. The exchange surcharge for travelers cheques ranges from 3 to 6%. BFI’s present exchange rate is $100USD = $93.12CUC. Banco Metropolitano does not accept travelers cheques at any Havana branches. Those which are reported to have the most success are Visa, although in general travelers cheques are reputed to cause difficulty for the traveler in Cuba due limitations in where they can be negotiated, no possibility of replacing them in Cuba in the event of loss, and the exchange rates applied when cashing them in. You should bear the bank receipt for the original traveler’s cheque purchase since most financial institutions in Cuba that accept travelers cheques will need to see that prior to negotiating them for cash.
Visa and Mastercard (issued by non-US or US-affiliate banks) are widely accepted in Cuba. In installations which accept credit cards for purchases, the rate at which your card will be processed (CUC prices are converted to USD for processing) is 1.03. Cash advance rates at participating CADECA exchange counters are processed at a rate of 1.0336 (except on weekends or holidays when the rate is slightly higher). Cash advances are available also in some banks or ATM machines (providing you have a PIN # for your credit card). We are told that if using the ATM machines, only Visa will work.
The system currently used for debit cards in Cuba is CABAL, incompatible with North America’s Interac. Debit cards from some other countries in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Latin America may function in Cuba. While bank machines are available in some major urban centers, we generally do not recommend relying on use of your bank card for monetary needs while traveling in Cuba.
Emergency Cash Advances in Cuba
We offer an exclusive cash advance service to our clients in Cuba. Should you require additional cash while in Cuba, our Canadian office can process your credit card for the amount you will require to be advanced in Havana, plus a 10% service fee. Cash advances are administered by our representatives in Havana upon confirmation of successful processing of your credit card in our Canadian office. Card presentation required, 24 hrs notice may be required.