legal travel to cuba, people to people travel to cuba, using credit cards in cuba, how to use credit cards in cuba

Can Americans Use Credit Cards in Cuba?

Linda Jacky How to Use Credit Cards in Cuba, Legal Travel To Cuba, People to People Travel to Cuba, Travel, Using Credit Cards in Cuba

legal travel to cuba

After a financial and commercial embargo that lasted for over 50 years, American travelers will soon be able to use credit and debit cards while traveling throughout Cuba. The relationship between the United States and Cuba began to see improvements in 2015 after the Obama administration announced a series of new laws that would make travel easier between these two countries.

Extending all the way back to the early 1960s, legal travel to Cuba has been notoriously difficult due to harsh restrictions imposed by both governments. American travelers had to fall into one of 12 categories in order to be approved for a temporary visa including students, journalists, and cultural figures. Visitors were also required to pay for all goods and services with cash due to legal restrictions on the use of American credit and debit cards. Luckily, recent changes now allow American travelers to visit Cuba without holding a large amount of cash to pay for food, hotels, and the other amenities needed while on this island.

Using Credit and Debit Cards in Cuba: What Has Changed?

  • One of the biggest hurdles when traveling to Cuba has been the use of credit and debit cards that are based in the United States. Both countries previously banned the use of U.S. based cards within Cuba for all purchases. This has created a large cash culture requiring tourists to carry around bills at all times.
  • How to Use Credit Cards in Cuba

With both administrations changing many of these laws, travelers will soon be able to use credit cards from some of the largest financial institutions in the United States. These changes were followed by a 28 percent increase in ATM terminals bringing the grand total up to 2,300 new terminals throughout the island. More than 10,000 companies and terminals on the island now accept major credit cards from the United States, although only certain banks are set up to issue accepted cards.

In a press release dated November 19, 2015, Stonegate Bank announced that they are “pleased to announce that the Bank is now offering a Debit MasterCard card that can be used at the Point of Sale terminal at any of Cuba’s 10,000 hotels, restaurants and other card-accepting merchants. The shifting status for Americans using debit and credit cards is expected to continue to be implemented throughout 2016 and could potentially bring in millions of new tourists to Cuba in the coming years as more and more banks offer cards that can be used on the island.

While the current laws have not been completely overturned, both countries have loosened the restrictions for travelers that have previously made it difficult to travel to Cuba even within those 12 authorized categories. A senior Obama administration official stated “there will be greater people-to-people engagement and travel opportunity…there will be the ability for the American people to use credit and debit cards when they travel to Cuba”. For many, the inability to use credit and debit cards, and having no ability to pull additional cash once in Cuba, was a major deterrent.

People to People Travel – The Easiest Way to Visit Cuba

The people to people travel initiative is a series of programs that allow Americans to visit Cuba through government-approved companies such as ATI. These programs expose adventurers to the rich culture of Cuba during trips that last for anywhere from five to 12 days. ATI management began organizing trips to Cuba in 1992 with travelers first hitting Cuban soil in 2009. The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has authorized ATI as a Travel Service Provider (TSP) that is permitted to bring visitors to Cuba to explore the island with specialized itineraries.

People to People Travel to Cuba

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Trips to Cuba from the USA are now easier than ever with People-To-People travel programs

Current Regulations in Cuba Travel

American travelers are still currently not allowed to visit Cuba strictly as tourists and all Americans must enter Cuba using one of the 12 authorized Visa categories. A TSP makes this process simple by utilizing the people-to-people travel authorization which includes a specific itinerary created to expose Americans to Cuban culture and vice-versa. Itineraries for people-to-people travel usually include exposure to Cuban music, dance, food, and art.

Recent laws also state that American travelers can return to the United States with $400 in goods and up to $100 in alcohol or tobacco products. With the addition of the ability to use credit and debit cards, travelers can now bring back those Cuban cigars and specialty rums easily and legally!

Planning Your Trip to Cuba

ATI can connect travelers with chartered flights to Cuba, primarily out of Miami. Upon arrival, you and your fellow travelers will be met by an English speaking tour guide to explore all aspects of Cuba. Shorter trips begin at five days and include all meals, accommodations, and transportation. Longer trips can be extended out to 12 days and will allow you to explore Havana, Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba, and much more.

Cuban Customs & Immigration

Travel between the United States and Cuba is easier than ever, but visitors should take some time to learn about the unique laws that will govern their trip. Upon arrival, all travelers will need to have their passport, visa, and boarding pass in hand. It is recommended that this paperwork is left in the safe for the duration of the trip. Most travelers will not need their ID with them unless they are converting cash. The Office of Foreign Assets suggests that anyone traveling to Cuba keeps their letter of authorization for at least five years after their trip. Some officials might request this letter immediately following your trip to ensure that your travel was legal.

Enjoy the Magic of Cuba

People to people programs through ATI will allow you to enjoy an unforgettable trip to one of the most iconic islands in the world. With looser restrictions on the use of U.S.-based bank cards, these trips are easier than ever. Please feel free to contact ATI today to begin planning your Cuban adventure!