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It is apparently quite easy to enter Cuba (illegally) as a U.S. citizen, by flying from a third country.

But according to Wikitravel, it can be tricky using a credit card while there:

For Americans, all credit and debit cards from any US financial institution will not work in Cuba. For everyone else, any credit card issued by a foreign bank with a US parent company or US processing firm will also be blocked. In most cases, International VISA- and Mastercard-branded global payment (debit) and credit cards will work, but only if completely unaffiliated with any US subsidiary or US-owned clearinghouse. (emphasis added)

How can I find such a bank, which will allow a U.S. citizen to open an account?

And I should add, if it makes a difference: It should be possible to open an account with such a bank remotely (by Internet ideally, but acceptably by phone, or mail).

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Lots of such banks available in Dubai.. –  MeNoTalk Dec 9 '12 at 7:39
    
In Cuba any car issued in USA is not valid, you have to bring cash, euro it is the best way to change money, because dollars have a 10% of devaluation –  Emilio Gort May 13 at 17:54
    
@EmilioGort: Exactly. That's the reason for the question. –  Flimzy May 13 at 18:06

2 Answers 2

I have a friend of a friend who used a prepaid AMIGO TRAVEL CLUB card in Cuba. They are a bank in Antigua and he was able to open an account online as an American citizen. I think this also involved e-mailing them a copy of his passport and driver's license. Once the account is open, you can charge the account by wire transfer from your bank and then withdraw the money using the card.

I think these kind of institutions are pretty sketchy and personally I wouldn't trust them with my money. Their website has statements like "our bank is a member of a well-known international card association which operates a world-wide network of ATMs" without naming the network which indicates to me that perhaps they are not authorized to be issuing these cards. If anything goes wrong, expect to simply lose your money. Also, by opening an account like this you are leaving a paper trail that could be used to prove that you spent money in Cuba.

Unfortunately for Americans traveling to Cuba, the only realistic way to bring money is in cash (Euros get a better rate then dollars which have extra fees). Traveler's checks are also a possibility as some banks have been exchanging them (even American Express checks in US dollars), but this can be a hassle and will probably only work in Havana. I would use them only as a backup because of the hassle and also because the situation can change and I wouldn't want to be stuck if it turns out to be impossible to exchange them.

Updated: As if to prove my point, the Amigo Travel Club site that I linked to appears to be gone now (August 2013) and the domain is for sale. Caveat emptor!

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Thanks for the info--and the warning. I would plan to use the ATM card as a backup funding source only, in case any cash was stolen. –  Flimzy Dec 9 '12 at 8:55
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@Flimzy Personally, in this case, I think traveler's checks would be a simpler, safer and cheaper backup funding source than opening a bank account in Antigua just get an ATM card.... –  user27478 Dec 9 '12 at 8:59
    
That's likely true. I'm still curious if there are other, easier, safer baking options available to me. –  Flimzy Dec 24 '12 at 6:12
    
@Flimzy Not likely. Realize you're basically asking if there's a safe way to launder money. Any financial institution that does business in Cuba risks stiff penalties and fines in the USA. Look at the recent record fines on HSBC and Citibank for accepting payments through Cuba (among other embargoed countries). Since most banks have at least some business in the USA, the only institutions that could offer these services are abroad, too small to do any business in the USA and cater to customers who are trying to break the law. None of these characteristics are good signs for a reliable bank. –  user27478 Dec 24 '12 at 10:01
    
@user27478: Are you sure that US-issued traveler's checks would be accepted and honored in Cuba? –  Nate Eldredge Aug 6 '13 at 16:37

Australian issued credit and debit cards (MasterCard and Visa) work just fine in Cuba. It's quite straightforward to get a pre-paid card and you can be anonymous if you choose. Alternatively, you can register your card online with the issuer and use their online service to top up the card.

Pre-paid cards can be purchased from a number of issuers, and a popular one is Australia Post. The "Load & Go Travel Card" is probably the ideal solution.

http://auspost.com.au/travel-id/load-and-go-travel-card.html

These can be purchased at any Australia Post outlet. If you're not in Australia, maybe ask someone here to buy one for you and post it to you. You can then charge it up online with Euros, which is the preferred currency in Cuba.

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