Sending money to Cuba is no different than any other international money transfer if you live in most countries. However, this is not the case in the United States. Although the Obama administration relaxed restrictions on travel and money transfers to Cuba, the Trump administration reversed those changes and imposed even stricter restrictions in October 2020. As long as those restrictions remain in place, sending money directly from the United States to Cuba can be difficult—but not impossible! Aside from sending money, there are other limitations on how much you can send and who you can send it to. We’ve answered your most frequently asked questions about sending money to Cuba below.
Can I use PayPal to send money to Cuba?
No, PayPal does not operate in Cuba.
PayPal will be able to send money to individuals in over 200 countries as of March 2021. Cuba, unfortunately, is not one of them. Due to federal restrictions on direct financial transactions with Cuban entities, the same is true for any online or app-based money transfer service headquartered in the United States.
These services are not available in Cuba, so you can’t send money to someone in another country and have them send it to Cuba on your behalf. The person in Cuba would be unable to use the app to obtain the money.
Is Western Union able to send money to Cuba?
No, Western Union’s service to Cuba has been suspended as of March 20, 2021.
The deadline for sending money to Cuba via Western Union was November 22, 2020. The company is looking into other ways to restore services, but there is no timetable for when you will be able to use the service to transfer money again, unless US restrictions are lifted.
Unfortunately, Western Union has also closed its offices in Cuba, so you won’t be able to send money through someone in another country to avoid US restrictions.
Who in Cuba can I send money to?
You can only send money to close relatives as of March 2021.
But who is considered a close relative? It includes anyone related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption who is no more than three generations removed from you, according to the regulations. This means that you can generally send money to your parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, or even first or second cousins.
You cannot send money to someone who is a prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party, a Cuban government official, or a close relative of a prohibited party member or government official.
What is the maximum amount of money I can send?
Transfers from the United States are limited to $1,000 per three-month period.
This limitation applies to each Cuban national to whom you send money. Even if your close relatives live in the same house, you can send up to $1,000 to each of them without exceeding the $1,000 limit.
If your mother, brother, and sister all live in Cuba, for example, you could send each of them $1,000 every three months.
How do I go about using online money transfer services?
Begin by creating an account and linking it to your American bank account.
Different money transfer services have different account creation procedures, but in general, you go to the website and click on the link to create a new account. To create your account, enter information about yourself such as your name, address, phone number, and email address.
Before you open an account, check the home page to see if the service transfers money to Cuba—many do not, particularly those based in the United States. On the home page, there is usually a link or drop-down menu that lists the countries where the service is available.
What information do I need to send money to someone in Cuba?
Most online services require only their name and address.
Some services will also request the individual’s national identification number. Although this is optional, it can assist you in ensuring that the correct person receives the funds. While the majority of services load the money directly onto the recipient’s debit card, some may require you to specify a location in Cuba where the person will pick up their funds.
If you’re unsure which location to use, share your options with the person to whom you’re sending money and let them choose the one that’s most convenient for them.
You’ll need the person’s bank account number if you want to deposit money directly into their bank account.
Can Americans use money transfer services in Canada?
Yes, as a US resident, you can use a Canadian money transfer service.
EnvioDinero, a Canadian money transfer service, sends money to Cuba without government restrictions. After you’ve created your account, you can pay for the service with a major debit or credit card. The funds are then loaded onto your recipient’s AIS card, which is a Cuban national debit card that can be used at ATMs and for purchases.
If the recipient does not already have an AIS card, some services (including EnvioDinero) will generate one for them. After that, any money you send to that person will be loaded onto that card.
Your payment will be processed in Canadian dollars rather than US dollars. Keep this in mind as you review your credit card statement.
How can I send money using cryptocurrency?
Purchase cryptocurrency and provide the codes to the individual in Cuba.
There are cryptocurrency markets that are specifically designed to circumvent US sanctions, but using them isn’t really necessary. Because the nature of cryptocurrency is that anyone who has the codes has access to the cryptocurrency, all you’d have to do is transfer the codes.
The most difficult aspect of using cryptocurrency is gaining access to the internet. To use cryptocurrency effectively, your recipient requires readily available WiFi, which is difficult to come by in Cuba.
It can also be difficult for Cubans to find places that accept cryptocurrency as payment, which can be a problem. Send cryptocurrency only if the recipient is familiar with it and understands how it works.
Will my bank wire funds to a Cuban bank?
No, most US banks will not wire funds to a Cuban bank.
Technically, US banks are permitted to initiate a money transfer to a Cuban bank. However, most of the services commonly used to facilitate bank transfers to Cuba are restricted by the State Department. The transfer cannot be completed because US banks are not permitted to conduct direct financial transactions with any entity on the restricted list.
If your bank is headquartered in another country, you may be able to make a transfer—but you will usually need to first open an account in that country (not an American account). For example, if your bank is headquartered in Canada and you can travel there to open a bank account, you may be able to make a bank transfer from that account.
Can a Cuban national open a bank account in the United States?
Yes, as of 2021, Cuban nationals will be able to open an account with a US bank.
Even in Cuba, a Cuban national can open a US bank account online or by phone, subject to the bank’s own internal regulations. This may be the simplest way to send money to Cuba because you can simply deposit funds into a US bank account—but this assumes that a US bank will allow a Cuban national with a Cuban address to open an account. It is also assumed that they will be able to access the account or use a debit card linked to the account in Cuba.
Money deposited in this account is still subject to federal restrictions, which means you can only deposit funds in the account that are either authorised by federal law or exempt from one of the prohibitions under federal law.
Even in 2016, when the Obama Administration lifted many US restrictions, most US banks refused to validate their cards for use in Cuba.
Can I pay the bills of a Cuban family member?
Yes, you may be able to pay their bills directly in some cases.
Some service providers accept payments from the United States and other countries to settle outstanding balances on Cuban accounts. Find out what services your family members use and inquire directly with the company to see if this is possible.
For example, the company Ding offers Cubacel balance transfer promotions that allow you to send a recharge to a Cubacel phone owned by a Cuban national. The individual can then transfer the balance to other Cubacel numbers, allowing everyone to share it. They could also sell the remaining balance for cash in the private sector.
What happens if I break any US laws?
Violations can result in civil and criminal penalties totaling millions of dollars.
If you are found to be in violation of the regulations, the US government may seize any money or property you own. In addition, you may face civil and criminal fines, as well as jail time.
In general, financial institutions are required to report suspected violations to the Treasury Department.
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