Debit, credit or cash? Get the right travel money product for your Cuba trip.
Strolling the streets of Trinidad, lounging on the beaches of Varadero and dancing late into the night in Havana are just some of the charms of Cuba, but so is staying in charming casa particulars and treating yourself to Cuban cuisine - which doesn't come free.
Make sure you have the right travel money products so you can make the most of your upcoming adventure. With two currencies, the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) and the Cuban peso (CUP), things can get a bit tricky, but finding the right money product to bring isn't.
What should I know about money for Cuba?
How the different travel money products work in Cuba
Using a prepaid travel card
You won’t be able to load Cuban pesos on a travel money card. A prepaid travel card with no currency conversion fee is one way to go, but there’s no real point to these products in a country that uses an unsupported currency. You’ll have to pay to either buy the card or load it, and some providers will put a margin on the travel card foreign exchange rate.
Don’t take a travel card to Cuba. Have a look at the other types of travel money products we compare on this page.
Using a debit card
The Citibank Plus Transaction Account is usually the standout debit card to take overseas. However, you will have issues using a Citi issued card in Cuba.
If you’re going to use a debit card when you’re on holiday, paying the extra fee for currency conversion is probably going to be unavoidable.
You can’t purchase Cuban money before you leave Australia, so you’re going to have to make an ATM withdrawal at some point when you land.
Using a credit card
Visa and Mastercard credit cards will work in Cuba, you can use the Visa cash advance facility at Cuban ATMS. American Express, Diners Club, GE Money and Citi cards will not work in Cuba over the counter or at ATMs. It’s advised you open an account with another institution if you plan on using your credit card to spend (and it’s always encouraged to have credit as a backup).
Using a traveller's cheque
Don’t worry about traveller’s cheques in Cuba. Card providers can give you a full refund if you get your credit or debit card skimmed, and there are fewer places than ever before where you can get your traveller’s cheques cashed.
Paying with cash in Cuba
Take as much cash with you in a currency that can be easily changed when you go to Cuba. Make withdrawals from your debit account and use your credit card for big purchases. There’s anecdotal evidence that different cards will and won’t work in different places, which is why it’s important to have as much cash on you as possible.Back to top
Should I bring a travel card, a debit card, a credit card or bring cash to Cuba?
A credit card and debit card combo is definitely the way to spend in Cuba. You should have no problem using your credit or debit card to withdraw cash from inside a bank, but you may have issues using ATMs on the street.
Mastercard-branded cards work for over-the-counter cash withdrawals only, and some brands of card won’t work at all. American Express, GE Money and Citi credit and debit cards won’t work due to their affiliation with the United States.
Although no prepaid travel cards currently support Cuban pesos, preloading a currency with a good history against the Cuban pesos could be beneficial. While there are travel cards that don’t charge for currency conversion, it is important to consider the back-end fees, exchange rate and managing an extra account.
A quick summary of travel money options in Cuba
Here are some of the benefits and disadvantages of using different types of travel money products in Cuba.
|Travel money option||Pros||Considerations|
|Debit cards for travel||
|Prepaid travel money cards||
|Credit cards for travel||
This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.Back to top
|Year||Average annual exchange Australian Dollar (AUD) to Cuban Peso (CUP)||Average annual exchange Australian Dollar (AUD) to Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC)|
*Exchange rates are accurate as of 1 January of each year listed above.
What are the currencies that can be easily exchanged in Cuba?
- Canadian dollars (CAD)
- British pounds (GBP)
- Mexican pesos (MXN)
- Euros (EUR)
- US dollars (USD)
- Japanese yen (JPY)
- Swiss francs (CHF)
- Tip: You’ll need to a pay a fee for an entry visa when you arrive in the country, it’s about $20 or 240 Mexican pesos.
A guide to Cuban banknotes and coins
Cuban banknotes are quite different to those we have in Australia so you may want to familiarise yourself with the notes before heading there:
|Banknote||Cuban Peso (CUP)||Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC)|
Buying Cuban pesos
You can’t buy Cuban pesos in Australia, so you’re going to have to wait until you get there to obtain local currency. When you arrive in Cuba, you can get your cash changed at the airport, the deal is better than what’s on offer at Australian airports, or look for cadecas (money changers).Back to top
|Budget (Cheap)||Midrange||Luxury (High-end)|
|Hotel room per night
|Casa Particular (double room)
|Hotel Nacional de Cuba Havana
|Real Cuban restaurant
Meal for two, no alcohol
7 to 13AUD
|Meal for two with one alcoholic meal
39.76 to 59.65AUD
|Meal for two with a bottle of wine
66.28 to 132.56AUD
|Wa-Wa - local bus
6.62 to 33.14 AUD
depending on length of journey
Viazul: Havana to Varadero
13.25AUD one way
*Prices are approximate and are subject to change.