Travel Money Guide: Cuba

Rates and fees last updated on

Cuba: What you need to know about travel money before you get on the plane

Cuba has an interesting money system. There are two legal currencies: the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) and the Cuban peso (CUP). You’re going to encounter both currencies in Cuba, but convertible pesos are a tourist currency. 1 CUC is equal to about 24 CUP. Some visitors to Cuba use convertible pesos only, but you’re going to need CUP if you want to experience the true flavour of the country. Cheap and tasty street food like fresh juice is available for cheap using CUP. You can still pay with CUC, but it’s more cost-effective if you’re using the same currency as the locals. There are times when you will pay with CUC and get CUP as change. Be sure to spend all your CUP before you leave the country, as you won’t be able to change it back to Aussie dollars when you return home.

Which option is right for your next trip?

Bankwest Zero Platinum Mastercard

$0 annual fee
0% foreign transaction fees

Eligibility criteria, terms and conditions, fees and charges apply

Bankwest Zero Platinum Mastercard

A platinum credit card that features 0% foreign transaction fees, complimentary travel insurance covers and no annual fee.

  • $0 p.a. annual fee.
  • 17.99% p.a. on purchases
  • Cash advance rate of 21.99% p.a.
  • Up to 55 days interest free
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Compare travel cards for Cuba

Rates last updated December 12th, 2017
Name Product Foreign Currency Conversion Fee Overseas ATM Withdrawal Fee Overseas Cash Advance Fee Annual fee Product Description
Bankwest Zero Platinum Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$0
The greater of 2% or $4
$0 p.a.
Offers a $0 annual fee, 0% foreign transaction fees, complimentary international travel insurance and access to a 24/7 concierge service.
Bankwest Breeze Platinum Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$0
Greater of 2% or $4.00
$99 p.a.
Offers an introductory balance transfer rate of 0% p.a. for 24 months with a 2% BT fee, plus platinum perks.
28 Degrees Platinum Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$0
3% of the cash advance or $4 (whichever is greater)
$0 p.a.
Designed for travel, benefit from 0% foreign transaction fees on purchases, a $0 annual fee for life and a personal concierge service.
ANZ Rewards Travel Adventures card
0% of transaction value
$0
$0
$225 p.a.
Receive 40,000 bonus Velocity Points (when you meet the spend criteria), 2 yearly Virgin Australia lounge passes, plus enjoy paying a $0 overseas transaction fee on purchases.
Westpac Lite Card
0% of transaction value
2%
$108 p.a.
Keep credit card costs low with a maximum credit limit of $4,000, a 9.9% p.a. purchase interest rate and no foreign transaction fees.
Bankwest Qantas Platinum Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$0
2% or $4, whichever is greater
$160 p.a.
Enjoy 0% foreign transaction fees, complimentary travel insurances and earn 0.5 Qantas Points per $1 spent on eligible purchases.
Bankwest More Platinum Mastercard
0% of transaction value
$0
2% or $4, whichever is greater
$160 p.a.
No fees on overseas ATM withdrawal, no foreign transaction fees and earn 75,000 bonus More rewards points.

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Rates last updated December 12th, 2017
$
Name Product Product Description Debit Card Access ATM Withdrawal Fee Monthly Account Fee Overseas ATM Withdrawal Fee Overseas Eftpos Fee
Bankwest Qantas Transaction Account
Earn Qantas Points on Debit Mastercard transactions, overseas ATM withdrawals and your account balance and get to travelling sooner.
Mastercard
$0
$0
2.95%
Westpac Choice
Take advantage of Westpac's Global Alliance and save on overseas ATM fees at over 50,000 locations worldwide with fee-free cash withdrawals.
Mastercard
$0
$5
3%
St.George Complete Freedom Account
Part of the Westpac Global Alliance, save on overseas ATM fees at over 50,000 locations worldwide with fee-free cash withdrawals.
Visa
$0
$5
3%

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Rates last updated December 12th, 2017
Name Product Description Available Currencies ATM Withdrawal Fee Reload Fee Initial Load Fee
Hold up to 10 different currencies and lock in your exchange rate. No transaction fees on purchases with a backup card in case one is lost or stolen.
AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD
AUD 3.50, USD 2.50, GBP 2.00, EUR 2.20, NZD 4.50, CAD 3.00, HKD 20.00, SGD 4.00, THB 95, JPY 260
1.1%
$0
Hold up to 11 currencies on the card and get a locked-in exchange rate. Use at home and overseas to rack up Qantas Points on eligible purchases.
AUD, AED, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD
AUD 1.95, CAD 2.00, EUR 1.50, GBP 1.25, HKD 15.00, JPY 160, NZD 2.50, SGD 2.50, USD 1.95, THB 70.00, AED 6.50
$0
$0
Load up and lock in up to 10 currencies and benefit from no fees for reloading funds. Comes with a secondary card for added security.
AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD

Overseas: $0 per withdrawal via international ATMs

Domestic: $3.75 fee applies

$0
$0

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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.

Exchange rate history (AUD to CUP/CUC)

YearAverage annual exchange Australian Dollar (AUD) to Cuban Peso (CUP)Average annual exchange Australian Dollar (AUD) to Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC)
201227.4460711.035762
201325.6431110.967601
201423.9261910.902867
201519.9277920.752015
201619.7214810.744208
201720.2139510.762794

*Exchange rates are accurate as of 5 September 2017

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Should it be a travel card, a debit card, or a credit card?

A credit card and debit card combo is definitely the way to spend in Cuba. You shouldn’t have a 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 optionProsConsiderations
Debit cards for travel
  • Save on overseas ATM fee when you withdraw
  • Emergency cash facilities
  • Ideal for managing your travel budget
  • $0 account keeping fees if you deposit at least $2,000 per month
  • Unlimited free withdrawals at selected banks
  • Fees. Currency conversion and international ATM fees
  • Can't be used over the counter
  • No emergency cash
  • No backup cards
Prepaid travel money cards
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Pre-load and secure your exchange rate in multiple foreign currencies
  • Accepted worldwide
  • Emergency card replacement and backup cards
  • Ideal for managing your travel budget
  • No prepaid cards support the CUP
  • Reloading time
  • Local ATM fee
Credit cards for travel
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Access to funds up to your credit limit
  • Accepted worldwide
  • No currency conversion/ transaction fees
  • Benefits including rewards points on spending, 0% purchases, frequent flyer perks
  • Emergency card replacement
  • Can charge high withdrawal and cash advance fees
  • Higher spending limit (depends on your approved credit limit)
Traveller's cheques
  • Secure and can be easily replaced if lost or stolen
  • Photo I.D. needed to cash cheques
  • Can be costly with initial purchase charges
  • Not all merchants accept traveller's cheques
Cash
  • Payment flexibility
  • Convenience
  • More difficult to manage expenses
  • Higher risk of theft

This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.

How much pesos should I bring to Cuba?

Budget (Cheap)MidrangeLuxury (High-end)
to-sleepHotel room per night
23.37AUD
Casa Particular (double room)
32.63AUD
Hotel Nacional de Cuba Havana
(standard room)
172.33AUD
foodReal 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
busWa-Wa - local bus
0.02AUD
Taxi (public)
6.62 to 33.14 AUD
depending on length of journey
Tourist Bus:
Viazul: Havana to Varadero
13.25AUD one way

*Prices are approximate and are subject to change.

Note:

Cubans call both the CUC and CUP currencies ‘monedena nacional’. Make sure you know which currency they’re talking about to avoid any surprises.

Cuba is a cash economy. You can’t buy Cuban pesos outside of Cuba. ATMs can be dubious and the currency exchange stores won’t change Australian dollars. While it can be pricey changing your money twice, euros and pounds are best, and you should have about $100 a day in cash on you. US dollars can be changed easily, but you’re going to pay a hefty fee when you get your money changed. There are places where you can even use euros (no doubt at a dodgy exchange rate) like larger resorts and tourist attractions throughout the island.

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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.

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Interview with Oliver about using Australian travel money in Cuba


cuba_pinkcadilac_Shutterstock
What cards did you take with you?

  • St. George Vertigo Visa
  • €2,000 cash

Why did you take these cards or cash with you?

Oliver says there is no limit to the amount of money you can bring into Cuba, and Havana airport has ATM machines as well as cadecas where money can be exchanged. Amounts more than US$5,000 must be declared when you enter the country, but Ben was carrying €2,000 euros as his main source of funds for his trip using a credit card as a backup and for specific purchases. He says he exchanged €300 - €400 at a time to convertible pesos as he needed more cash. Australian dollars are not accepted at exchange offices and he says he felt safe carrying euros. He didn’t have problems finding places to swap money in the larger cities: Havana, Camaguey and Trinidad; however, he says ATMs are far less common than other countries and he would not have liked to rely on cash withdrawals or card payments to pay for his trip (he says it was fine using his credit card to pay for his hotel booking).

What about ATM withdrawals?

Oliver didn’t make any ATM withdrawals in Cuba, he exchanged cash when he needed it and used his credit card for purchases on the rare occasion — three of four times in little more than a fortnight.

Where could you use your credit cards?

Oliver explains that there were few places where cards could be used over the counter (large hotels and upmarket restaurants being the exception), and ATMs could be found predominately in the main tourist centres.

What do you think is the best way to take travel money to Cuba?

Cash. You’re going to need a credit card for ‘just in case’ situations; however, expect to pay cash for the majority of transactions on the island.

Do you have any Cuba travel money tips?

Oliver says it’s better to take euros than US dollars to Cuba. If you’re trying to exchange US dollars, a 13% fee applies to the transaction — 10% for changing US currency (other currencies such as euros don’t incur this fee) and 3% for actually exchanging the cash (this applies no matter which currency you’re trying to change).

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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:

BanknoteCuban Peso (CUP)Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC)

$1

cuban1cuc1

$3

cuban3cuc3

$5

cuban5cuc5

$10

cuban10cuc10

$20

cuban20cuc20

$50

cuban50cuc50

$100

cuban100cuc100

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).

Finding cash and ATM's in Cuba

Why do I need to take more than just one card?

Never put all of your eggs in one basket. There’s a chance you’re going to have a few issues with card payments. Cards can work in some places and not in others; this is why it’s important to spread your funds across a couple of different types of travel money options. Take as much cash as you can with you to Cuba and use a debit card or a credit card (ideally both) when you need more money.

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Get travel insurance quotes for your holiday in Cuba

Heading to Cuba? Travel insurance is a must. Since May 2010, travel Insurance for the duration of your trip with sufficient medical cover has been a requirement for entry into Cuba.

Travel Insurance can protect you from common travel risks such as:

  • Stolen and delayed luggage
  • Cancelled trips
  • Personal liability
  • Overseas medical emergencies

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This page was last modified on 21 November 2017 at 4:23pm.

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