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Florida Bank Is First In U.S. To Offer Credit Card That Works In Cuba

Spencer Parts
A classic car sits in traffic during the filming of 'Fast and Furious 8' in Havana. Credit cards are likely to ease American business projects on the island.

 A Florida bank is now offering credit cards that work in Cuba. Stonegate Bank, based in Pompano Beach, began accepting applications for the cards on Tuesday night.

Previously, no U.S. bank offered credit cards that worked on the island, which meant that American businesses, professors and tourists had to carry wads of cash to pay for everything from hotel stays to teacher salaries.

Using cash creates inefficiencies for businesses, according to Stonegate Bank President Dave Seleski. He said that Stonegate's corporate clients were the main motivation to undertake negotiations with the National Bank of Cuba and MasterCard, which took nine months.

“We’ve been really courting U.S. companies that are doing business in Cuba,” Seleski said. “We’re about looking at products that are going to help our corporate clients.”

Previously, many of those clients gave employees cash to use on the island.

“It’s very difficult as a company to give an employee cash,” Selseski said. “It’s not very effective.”

Companies that use the credit card instead of cash will also avoid the 10 percent tax that the Cuban government levies on conversion from dollars to Cuban Convertible Pesos, a currency on the island that is pegged at a 1:1 value with the U.S. dollar.

The cards won’t work at most paladars, the independent new restaurants that are spreading fast on the island, but there are about 10,000 businesses that have credit card terminals. Most of those are government-run.

Any Stonegate card will now function in Cuba, though each customer will have to sign an extra two forms declaring that they are going to the island for one of the 12 purposes that the U.S. government allows. The cards can only be used by U.S. citizens or U.S. nationals. They aren’t available to Cubans.

Read more from the Miami Herald here.