Cuba’s New Prepaid Currency Cards for Visitors Cannot Be Purchased with Pesos

Cash withdrawals using pre-paid debit cards will be issued only in Cuban pesos and only through one bank’s ATM network. (Radio Mambí)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 June 2021 — Cuba’s official press has claims that the the state-owned currency exchange company, Cadeca, was planning to sell prepaid cards in convertible foreign currency that could be purchased with Cuban pesos at the official exchange rate of 24 pesos to the U.S. dollar. “Such reports are completely false and an attempt to confuse the public,” Cubadebate stated on Saturday.

“If the Cuban banking system does not have sufficient funds to routinely do this type of transaction at its branches, how will it be able to issue such cards through Cadeca?” asks the online news website.

“If Cadeca could sell dollars for pesos, would it not be much easier do what it did in 2019? If Cadeca had enough dollars at the time to issue a card in exchange for pesos for use in currency stores, wouldn’t it be easier for Cuba to buy merchandise with those same dollars and sell it in stores that accept pesos?”

“The reality is that a new banking product — prepaid denominated cards for visitors from overseas — is being readied for launch and will be available soon. Some information has already been shared through the banking system’s official networks,” states the article, which received dozens of comments within a few hours, most of them critical.

“Too bad it’s a lie,” one reader writes. “A dollar is already worth 70 pesos and working people — those of us who are not leaving the country — cannot buy anything.” Another commentator complained, “All the city’s most important stores now only take hard currency and the trend is spreading to the suburbs. I’m told they’re geared towards tourists and people with hard currency. I just don’t understand.”

The new pre-paid cards, which will probably only be available to visitors from overseas, will be issued exclusively by the Bank of Credit and Commerce (Bandec) in 200, 500 and 1,000 dollar amounts, though the state-owned company has yet to provide details.

As the article notes, cash withdrawals can only be made in pesos and only through the bank’s ATM network. Withdrawals cannot be exchanged for foreign currency and the bank maintains it is not obliged to return any unused funds. It is not yet known when the cards will go into circulation. On May 20, Cuban airports abruptly stopped selling hard currency without prior warning. The news came via a message on social media posted by Cadeca a few hours before the decision took effect.

The company claimed that the drop in tourism due to the pandemic resulted in a “significant shortage” of hard currency, adding that, though it had been able to operate normally up to that point, the lack of liquidity had reached an unsustainable level.


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