Often, Cuban family members rely on money sent to them from their relatives around the world. But these days, it’s so much harder to transfer funds into the country.
While difficult, it’s not impossible. Below you’ll find the top ways customers can still send money from Canada to Cuba. While they aren’t the big-name money-transferring services commonly used, they can still get the job done.
At one time, Western Union was one of the fastest and cheapest ways to transfer money to Cubans. But as of February 2020, that all changed.
The company released the following statement, frustrating many Canadians who frequently send much-needed money to family members back in Cuba.
“Due to the unique challenges of operating remittance services from countries outside of the United States to Cuba, Western Union is unable to operate money transfer services to Cuba from countries other than the United States, effective February 26, 2020.”
The statement said little else about the reason behind the closure of locations, but many political experts speculate it’s because of aggressive US sanctions imposed on the country during the former Trump administration’s time in office.
The closure leaves many Cuban-Canadians scattering to find other ways to get money to their loved ones. What are the other alternatives?
With the closing of Western Union locations and other popular peer-to-peer (P2P) payment services like PayPal unavailable in Cuba, figuring out how to get money to loved ones can be tricky. Here are some of the top alternatives to try.
Why it’s a good option? It doesn’t have government restrictions, and it’s one of the easiest money transferring services customers can use to get funds to Cuba.
Through EnvioDinero, Canadians can send money to Cuba, where the recipient receives an AIS card. This card is a national debit card used in Cuba.
If the recipient doesn’t already have an AIS card, EnvioDinero automatically generates one. The card is reloadable, making it easy to keep sending money through the service.
The recipient can use the card at ATMs located throughout the country or make purchases. To start, you would need to set up an account and deposit money using either a debit or credit card.
Money transferred to an AIS card can be received in as little as 24 hours but can take up to 48 hours.
There are other ways to get money to your recipient besides the AIS card. You can make a direct deposit into a savings account at Banco Metropolitano S.A. or arrange a cash pickup at one of its branches. Cash pickups are available within three hours and direct deposits within a day.
Why it’s a good option: Duales is a privately owned Canadian company making it possible to send money transfers to family members in Cuba. They’ve been in business for over 27 years, so it’s a proven option.
With Duales, you can pay for the transfer through a variety of options – debit and credit cards, EFTs, email money transfers, international money orders, and bank drafts.
Recipients can receive the money through an AIS card or even home delivery.
Per their website, the fees are in US dollars. They include a USD 8 fee per every USD 100 for home delivery in Havana. For anywhere else, expect an additional USD 4 charge. Money sent to a bank card incurs a similar charge – USD 8 per every USD 100.
Why it’s a good option: Transferring money from your bank is a reliable way to ensure the recipient receives the money promptly.
While Canadian banks are bastions of trust and security for many, when it comes to Cuban transfers, they venture into complicated territory.
Some Canadian banks do allow money transfers into Cuba. Regulatory challenges and the necessity to dodge potential diplomatic pitfalls mean that bank transactions may come with higher fees and longer processing times.
In a CBC article about Western Union stopping their Cuban services, they reached out to a customer service rep at RBC that said clients can transfer up to $2,500 online.
However, there’s a $13.50 fee, along with another charge of $20 by the international transfer agent. If that’s not enough, the recipient will most likely pay a fee when they get the money.
While bank transfers are secure and reliable, they’re expensive. Additionally, not all of Canada’s top banks allow transfers to Cuba.
As shown, if a bank does allow a transfer, it’s either an in-branch wire or through online banking but never both.
Banks are typically known for being a bit slower than other money services, so keep that in mind if the timing is of the utmost importance.
Impact of Geographical and Political Factors
Cuba’s geographical closeness to the U.S. has inevitably entangled it in the spider web of American foreign policies. This includes the economic sanctions put in place due to historical and ongoing political differences.
These sanctions aren’t just a U.S.-Cuba affair; they cast a long shadow on transactions from third-party nations like Canada. As a result, Canadian financial services, eager to cater to the substantial Cuban-Canadian population, must tread carefully.
They’re in the delicate position of balancing service provisions without crossing the line of U.S. stipulations and sanctions.
Understanding the Recipient’s Perspective
For Cubans awaiting funds from abroad, the remittances serve multiple purposes. Beyond the financial support, they’re emotional anchors, signifying love, care, and ongoing connection to relatives who ventured overseas.
In a country facing economic strain, these funds can be the difference between scraping by and leading a comfortable life. They might help a child go to school, aid in medical treatments, or be the seed money for a local business. Hence, any bottleneck or delay in this flow isn’t just an inconvenience; it can be a roadblock to better prospects.
Currency exchange is usually a straightforward affair, but not so much with Cuba’s dual-currency system. The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) and the Cuban Peso (CUP) each have their roles and values in the Cuban economy.
For someone in Canada looking to send money, this introduces an additional layer of complexity. It’s important for senders to have a pulse on these rates and the differences in the dual-currencies.
Wise is one of the top money transfer services and is known for its low fees and fast service. But can you use the company to send money to Cuba?
According to their website, it doesn’t look like Cuba is one of the countries Wise provides services from.
Are there any restrictions or limitations on sending money to Cuba from Canada?
No direct Canadian governmental restrictions exist, but service providers may set transfer limits. Also, Canadian entities must avoid breaching U.S. regulations due to global financial integration.
What is the most reliable and secure way to send money to Cuba from Canada?
Banks, like RBC, are generally secure and reliable. Private services like EnvioDinero and Duales offer specialized, often faster services.
Sending money to Cuba isn’t impossible, but it certainly isn’t easy. There are limited options, and you’ll ultimately have to choose between a private service or a bank.
If you already have an account at one of the banks that allow transfers to Cuba, that might be your best bet.
Just know you’ll probably incur higher fees. If you frequently send money internationally, check out Wise, one of the top services.