HAVANA, 24 January MasterCard announced Friday it will begin handling U.S. credit card transactions in Cuba on March 1, making the credit card company the first to adjust to the U.S. Department of Treasury’s plan to lift a ban on doing business in Cuba.
Allowing credit card transactions will make traveling in Cuba more convenient for visitors who have previously had to depend on cash. Traveling to Cuba has been getting easier for Americans since President Barack Obama announced last month historic changes to the U.S. approach to relations with the communist-run island.
The U.S. is working to restore normal diplomatic relations for the first time in more than 50 years and relax travel and trade restrictions between the two countries. The move affects Americans who travel to Cuba to visit relatives or for a handful of other authorized purposes, including educational visits. Americans traveling for one of the 12 approved reasons no longer have to apply for a license. General tourism to Cuba is still prohibited by the half-century old trade embargo, and it would take an act of Congress to lift the ban.
Even so, thousands of Americans have illegally visited the forbidden country. A spokeswoman for American Express said the card provider is evaluating the new regulations released by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control “to better understand what is permissible and how we would operate if we choose to do so.” Visa did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
MasterCard cardholders should contact their bank before visiting Cuba to make sure their card will function on the island, the company, which is based in Purchase, New York, said in a statement.