Havana’s Sheraton Four Points To Accept MasterCard, But There’s A Catch

Havana’s Sheraton Four Points To Accept MasterCard, But There’s A Catch

Starwood Hotels has announced that the Sheraton Four Points hotel in Havana, Cuba will begin accepting U.S.-issued MasterCards for payment of guest rooms, according to a report by the U.S.–Cuba Trade and Economic Council. (Starwood took over operations of the hotel in late June.) The change puts the hotel in agreement with regulations that went into effect in January 2015.

There’s a major catch, however.

To date, the Office of Foreign Assets Control and Cuba’s Central Bank have only authorized MasterCards issued by three banks to make charges in Cuba: Stonegate, Natbank (both based in Florida) and Banco Popular de Puerto Rico. For Americans who do not have a MasterCard issued by one of those banks, or a foreign bank-issued credit card, you must pay all your expenses with cash.

Therefore, cards from the three largest U.S banks that issue MasterCard and Visa—JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citibank and Bank of America—will not work in Cuba. American Express, the largest credit card issuer in the United States, has said it is working on having its cards accepted in Cuba, but to date, nothing has come of those efforts. JPMorgan, Citibank and Bank of America have also said they plan on doing business in Cuba, but there has been no new developments in recent months.

The credit card announcement was one of the cornerstones of President Obama’s new regulations toward loosening travel restrictions to Cuba. But the need for OFAC and Cuba’s Central Bank to approve any card before it can be used in Cuba has proven to be a big obstacle.

On a recent trip, there were credit card machines in some hotels and some of the more successful, privately owned restaurants, but their use was restricted to cards issued outside of the U.S. Many businesses in Cuba, including cigar shops, are not set up to take credit cards.