Travel Money Guide: Cuba

Rates and Fees verified correct on December 4th, 2016

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?

Cash Passport MasterCard

Cash Passport MasterCard

The Cash Passport MasterCard offers an attractive solution to those who like to travel.

  • Choose to load a range of currencies from AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD
  • Ability to load money and convert currencies 24/7 on the secure customer portal.
  • Accepted electronically – at over 29 million locations worldwide, across more than 60 countries.

    Compare travel cards for Cuba

    Rates last updated December 4th, 2016
    Available Currencies ATM Withdrawal Fee Reload Fee Initial Load Fee
    Travelex Travel Card
    Travelex Travel Card
    AUD, CAD, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, THB, USD Travelex does not charge an ATM withdrawal fee when you use your Travelex Multi-currency Cash Passport to withdraw currencies that are loaded on the card at overseas ATMs where MasterCard is accepted. The greater of 1.1% of the initial load / reload amount or AU$15.00 $0 Go to site More
    Rates last updated December 4th, 2016
    Foreign Currency Conversion Fee (MC) Foreign Currency Conversion Fee (VISA) Overseas ATM Withdrawal Fee Annual fee
    Bankwest Zero Platinum MasterCard
    An introductory offer on balance transfers with $0 annual fee. Complimentary travel insurance & 24/7 Concierge service and $0 foreign transaction fees.
    0% of transaction value $0 $0 p.a. Go to site More info
    28 Degrees Platinum MasterCard
    Benefit from no international transaction fees on purchases, no currency conversion fees and no annual fee.
    0% of transaction value $0 $0 p.a. Go to site More info
    Rates last updated December 4th, 2016
    $
    Monthly Account Fee Debit Card Access ATM Withdrawal Fee Fee Free Deposit p.m. Details
    St.George Complete Freedom Account
    $0 Overseas ATM fee when you withdraw from the Global ATM alliance network.
    Visa $0 $2,000 No account keeping fees, if you deposit $2,000 per month plus no minimum balance required. No ATM fees when using St.George, Westpac and BankSA ATMs. Open More
    Westpac Choice
    $0 Overseas ATM fee when you withdraw from the Global ATM alliance network.
    Mastercard $0 $2,000 No ATM fees when using St.George, Westpac, BankSA or Bank of Melbourne ATMs in Australia. Deposit at least $2,000 per month and enjoy no monthly service fee. Open More
    Bank of Melbourne Express Freedom
    $0 Overseas ATM fee when you withdraw from the Global ATM alliance network.
    Visa $0 $1,000 No ATM fees when you use Bank of Melbourne, St.George, Westpac and BankSA ATMs. No monthly fees if you deposit $1000 into your account each month. Open More
    Bankwest Qantas Transaction Account
    No overseas ATM withdrawal fees (charged by Bankwest), 3rd party ATM fees and international transaction fees may still apply.
    Mastercard $0 $2,000 No monthly fees when you deposit at least $2,000 into your account each month. Free access to Bankwest and CommBank ATMs in Australia. No overseas ATM withdrawal fees (charged by Bankwest) though third party fees may apply. Open More
    Citibank Plus Everyday Account
    No international transaction fees and no overseas ATM withdrawals fees if you use a Citibank ATM overseas.
    Visa $0 $0 No ATM fees using Citibank, Westpac, BankSA and St.George branded ATMs in Australia. Use overseas Citibank ATMs for free. More

    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
    201619.0231940.717824
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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 Citibank 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
    • Avoid currency conversion fees on foreign transactions
    • Emergency cash facilities
    • Ideal for managing your travel budget
    • 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
    • Greater payment flexibility
    • Convenience
    • More difficult to manage expenses
    • Higher risk of theft

    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 Citibank 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 Citibank 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

    What cards did you take with you?

    • St. George Vertigo Visa
    • €2000 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 €2000 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 25 May 2016 at 10:03.

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