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Debit Cards

Newcastle
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Debit Cards

Hi, just wondered if anyone knows if you can use a Visa debit card (not USA affiliated) as opposed to a credit card in Varadero (Sol Sirenas Coral) eg to pay for excursions etc. Apologies if this seems like a stupid question but don't have credit card and don't want one! Am happy to bring cash but would like to keep to a minimum and use card where poss for any larger expense. Thank you for any info in advance! 4 days to go....!!!

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United States
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Sol Sirenas Coral Resort
Sol Sirenas Coral Resort
5,397 Reviews
Cuba
Britain
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1. Re: Debit Cards

Hi

I used debit card to pay for excursions, but only through Rep. You cannot use them for booking with hotel reception,(at least not in the Sol Palmeras, where we stayed) Booking through rep is just as inexpensive as other places and at least you have the back up of your holiday company if anything goes wrong.

Hope you enjoy your hols. We did, although night times can be a little cool, so take a cardi or sweatshirt!

Enjoy

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Sol Palmeras
Sol Palmeras
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Cuba
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2. Re: Debit Cards

Hi there,

Just have a couple of questions as well.(I apolgize if they may seem a bit stupid but its my first time traveling out of the country);

1. Should you bring just cash and not be dependent on your visa or debit card?

2. What would be the maximum amount of cash that a traveler would want to have with them?

3. Travelers cheqs in Canadian Dollars?

Cheers :)

Britain
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3. Re: Debit Cards

I would bring cash, Cuba is a very safe country and the hotels do provide safety deposit boxes. The charges for using a credit card in shops (although having said that shops are few and far between) are extortinate, apparently something to do with Cuba having to change everything into dollar AFTER your transaction, so there is an 11.2% charge just for buying something, then you have the charge from your credit card company for using the card in a foreign country to think about. Also their systems are very ancient and open to abuse, (not that the people are not honest, they are.)

I am unsure as to how much to take. We spent £300, which included all tips and a deep sea fishing trip for my husband,(we are not great tippers,not like you Canadians, but tipped for good service AFTER we had recived it, not before in the hope of getting it)and we dont buy souvenirs as we travel such a lot and there is not much to buy really. Outside of the hotel you may need money for drinks in bars and meals in restaurants but for a 2 week stay which is mostly all inclusive I think £500 is enough and there were two of us for that!

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Cuba
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4. Re: Debit Cards

Dont take travelers checks, they also attract a charge. CASH CASH CASH

Toronto, Canada
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5. Re: Debit Cards

Just a note here.

CANADIAN Debit Cards (that access your bank account directly) cannot be used in Cuba.

You can only do a cash withdrawal on a Canadian Visa or MasterCard drawn against a Canadian bank.

You can avoid incurring interest charges on your credit card by pre-loading funds onto your credit card so you have a positive account balance prior to your trip.

Steve

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6. Re: Debit Cards

Steve that is true, but even if you do that you still get charged (at least English banks charge) for using the card out of the country, sometimes 3% of anything you spend, even though you have loaded your card up. Something to do with their charges on the international market.

Also we didnt see that many cash machines especially in Varadero which is really a resort area ony.

Hope this helps

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Montreal, Canada
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7. Re: Debit Cards

Hi

I would bring Cash only. I just got back from 2 weeks in Varadero and they now have an extra 11.25% charge on top of your regular credit card charge on top of the exchange from CUC to your currency...it's really a rip off. Secondly, i saw many upset people who brought travelers cheques and were not able to cash them in anywhere. What they travel rep suggested is that you go to the bank with your passport and your credit card (not US credit card) and get cash advances. In the long run that will cost you a fortune. Good luck,

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Toronto, Canada
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8. Re: Debit Cards

Sorry, but there is NO additional charge for using a Credit Card in Cuba except for what your HOME BANK might charge you. Don't believe me, well here's how it works.

--------------------------------------------

Ok, there's so much mis-information about the use of credit cards in Cuba, mostly becuse a credit card purchase goes through a double foreign exchange conversion by the time it gets to your statement back home. But in real dollars (or Pounds, Euros, etc) it doesn't cost you more to use a credit card. For those who really, really, really have to know the details of how this works...... keep reading.

Ok, I'm going to try and explain how Credit Card purchases work in Cuba. What the item cost, vs what your credit card is charged in Cuba, vs what you actually get showing on your bill here in Canada when you get home. And although the exchange amounts vary if you're from another country and using say Euro or Pounds Sterling, the basic scenario is exactly the same.

Now, before we begin, some things you should know. Here are the websites I used for this explanation and these rates were only valid on September 16, 2005 when I typed this report. Naturally international exchange rates fluctuate, but this should give you a good general guideline.

Now, many people use the XE.com Currency Converter website to check out currency exchange rates. This is fine as long as you understand that the XE website uses Mid-Market Exchange Rates for their calculations. So now you're asking..."What the heck is a Mid-Market Rate?"

Well banks (Cuban, Canadian, or others) make money by charging a different rate whether you're buying or selling currency. This is the "Spread" on Buy/Sell rates. Note below the Banco Popular de Ahorro website rates and you'll see the difference in Buy/Sell rates shown for the Canadian dollar. At Ahorro, it's an 8 cent spread. By our standards this is quite high as Canadian banks generally charge only a 3 to 4 cent spread between Buy/Sell. This spread difference between Cuban and Canadian banks becomes important later.

I've also given you the link and rate for today's Bank of Canada mid-market rate on Canadian/US dollar exchange rates. Sorry, but I couldn't find an online Buy/Sell rate for Canadian Credit Cards so the Bank of Canada mid-rate will have to do for now.

One other important fact to remember is that merchants, no matter where they are in the world, are charged approximately 3% to 4% service charge by Visa or MasterCard for processing a credit card transaction. Again, this is how banks make their huge profits. In Canada, the merchant generally absorbs this fee as a cost of doing business. However in Cuba, this bank service charge is NOT absorbed and is passed along to you the consumer.

Here's the websites so you can check things yourself if you desire.

===================================

xe.com The Full Universal Currency Converter

http://www.xe.net/ucc/full.shtml

Live mid-market rates as of 2005.09.16 21:41:28 UTC.

1 CUC = 1.27436 CAD __ 1 CAD = 0.784708 CUC

===================================

Banco Popular de Ahorro

http://www.bancopopulardeahorro.com/

Monedas_______________Compra (Buy)____ Venta (Sell)

Dolar Canadiense CAD______1.32243 ________1.24224

===================================

Bank of Canada

www.bankofcanada.ca/en/rates/exchange.html

Can/US noon rate - 1.1857

===================================

Ok, so now you've got all these facts, figures and rates, so what the heck do you do with it to figure out your credit card charges on your Cuban purchases.

So we keep it simple and use the example of buying a souvenir for exactly 100 CUC, (Cuban Convertible Pesos)

If you bought it in Cash, it would cost you the equivalent of $132.24 Canadian, which you had to pay when you bought your CUC upon arrival in Cuba.

When you buy this $100 CUC souvenir on a credit card, it's calculated a little differently. Let's look at how it's worked out.

First off, a Cuban Convertible Peso has a value of $1.08 United States Dollars. Castro re-evaluated the CUC early this year (2005).

So now 100 CUC + 8% to convert to US dollars = $108.00 USD.

Now add + 3% Credit Card Bank Fee on top of the $108.00

So now your credit card is charged $111.24 USD on your Credit Card Statement sent to your Canadian Bank. This $111.24 is the amount you sign for on the actual slip in Cuba.

Now your bank converts this $111.24 USD to Canadian dollars which would be $131.90 Canadian final charge on your Credit Card Statement. Your Canadian bank will of course add a few extra cents charge to this amount because of their Buy/Sell spread but the Canadian bank's spread is far less than the Cuban bank's spread. Some banks also charge an extra service charge for processing foreign credit card transactions and others do not. Check with your own Canadian bank to determine this.

So as you can see by this example, it's $132.24 if by Cash and approximately $131.90 if by Credit Card. Let's not quibble about the difference and just call it equal.

So as you can see, what many people erroneously think of as a 11.25% tax or fee for using a credit card is nothing of the sort. It's just a monetary conversion from CUC to US dollars on your credit card statement.

Credit Card or Cash, there's really no difference in cost. There now, don't you feel better.

Steve

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Montreal, Canada
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9. Re: Debit Cards

Steve, the additional charge of 11.25 came out in November of 2005..we were all shocked as we had the information you just listed. The airtransat repeated the charge amount twice as we were in shock. im not into spreading missinformaton..im just telling you what she told our group last week.

Montreal, Canada
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10. Re: Debit Cards

maybe i had too many pina colada at this point when she explained all of this but everyone harped on that topic for the whole 2 weeks.

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