Cuba’s Two Currencies (CUC vs CUP), Exchanging Money, Credit Cards, ATMs

Updated on April 15, 2018

Havana Cuba - Money CUC vs CUP - Front TWO CURRENCIES

Trip Report Index
Who Can Fly To Cuba & When?
How to Book Award Flights To Havana, Cuba (fr United States NYC/EWR – HAV)
Our First Casa Particular Stay in Havana - Meh
Cuba: How To Get a Cuban Tourist Visa, Entry Requirements, Medical Insurance
How To Book a Casa Particular in Cuba Without the Hassle!
Cuba's Two Currencies (CUC vs CUP), Exchanging Money, Credit Cards, ATMs
Havana, Cuba Transportation, Taxis, Airport Transfers + Getting Around
Quick Havana Neighborhood Guide & Where to Stay
Havana, Cuba – Digital Detox Retreat From Internet & Phone (+ Where To Get It If You Really Need It)
I Loved Cuban Food...Until I Went To Cuba


Cuba has two official currencies called “peso” and your US credit cards and ATM cards are useless. Yes, it can be confusing, but I'll explain. One currency (CUP) is mainly used by locals and the other by tourists (CUC), but not exclusively so. As a tourist you might only see the CUC, aka “Peso Convertible”. Before you go, I recommend knowing what both look like, what they are worth, and where each can be used. The pronunciation is simple: CUC is “kook” and CUP is “koop”. Locals usually just said the amount without specifying the currency unless I asked which can be confusing.

Let's review:

  • CUC: Peso Convertible (mainly used by tourists)
  • CUP: Peso Cubano / “moneda nacionale” (mainly used by Cubans)

Converting CUC to CUP

1 CUC = $~1 USD = 25 CUP

The CUC is 25 times more valuable that the CUP. If you're not paying attention, someone may easily scam you. After experiencing price gouging taxi drivers, I was certainly on higher alert that I might get ripped off. Fortunately, no one tried to slip me the wrong currency as change.

Most of the time, you will just be using convertible pesos (CUC). CUP bills were a bit hard to find and only towards the end of our trip did we find a money exchange that offered both currencies. CUP is only really useful for smaller purchases like street food, cafeterias, or taxi colectivos (shared taxis).

While most places seemed to accept either currency, they displayed prices in either CUC or CUP (but did not always indicate which one). A few displayed both ways. You'll be able to figure it out. For example, if a sandwich costs 10, its probably 10 CUP (~ $0.40 USD), not 10 CUC (~ $10 USD). It took me a while to understand this walking back and forth on the main street seeing these stack of sandwiches for sale at the front of a restaurant for “10”. It's not 1/2 a month salary for a cuban so it CANNOT be CUC! Sure, a tourist may get tricked into paying 10 CUC (~$10 USD). If a chicken lunch plate (chicken, rice, beans, potato) costs 5, its 5 CUC (~ $5 USD), not 5 CUP (~$0.20 USD). Food can be very cheap in Cuba, but lets be realistic. Keeping in mind that the average salary in Cuba is 20 CUC should help you know which is which.

There are also tourist restaurants where you can spend 50+ CUC per person. It should be painfully obvious that an entree at a nicer restaurant in the middle of Old Havana is priced in CUC. Those are “special prices” for tourists who don't mind overpaying because not many Cubans can afford that. Be sure to check the prices before you sit down as your lunch could cost a few dollars to $50+ per person.

How to identify CUC vs CUP

  • CUC: says “Peso Convertible” on the front and back, has pictures of statues/monuments, and feels more official
  • CUP: has pictures of people and were generally lower quality and worn. A bit of monopoly money feel.
  • See photos of all the denominations here: CUC and CUP

CUP (left) – CUC (right)

Havana Cuba - Money CUC vs CUP - Front TWO CURRENCIES

The back sides of the currency look like this:

CUP (left) – CUC (right)

Havana Cuba - Money CUC vs CUP - Back TWO CURRENCIES

How Much Money Should I Bring?

I’d say bring at least $500 on top of what you plan to spend to be safe.  That means you need to be able to plan out how much you need accurately. I would not bring much more…just in case. Traveling with a lot of money can be risky.

What if I Run Out Of Money?

Well, if you have an US based ATM card, you can't get any more money. I have heard of someone getting extra money via Western Union but I would expect a lot of extra hassle. You'd have to first find a place that can do it, coordinate with a friend or family to send the money, and probably pay high fees. And all along you'll have to deal with almost non-existent internet service.


Exchanging Money

Cuban currency is only available in Cuba, so you'll only be able to get some after you arrive. Banco Central de Cuba publishes the official exchange rates on their website. Although the CUC is equal to $1 USD, unfortunately you cannot exchange anywhere close to this rate. All of the exchange houses charge a 10% penalty when exchanging US Dollars PLUS the usual 3%. There were no “fees”, however, they get their fee by giving you about 3% less than the actual exchange rate. That means exchanging $100 USD will get you about 87 CUC. When dealing with ANY exchange house while traveling, I just ask how much I will get back rather than trying to figure out rates and fees.

Supposedly, there is a black market where you can get 100 CUC for your crisp $100 USD bill, but that's not something I felt comfortable exploring. The front door to my Airbnb apartment had about 5-6 locks plus a metal gate despite being in a great area in Vedado.

Avoiding the 10% USD Penalty

Trying to avoid the 10% penalty did not work out as well as I had hoped. I exchanged $500 USD to Euros at Citibank. The exchange rate was about 6% lower than the actual spot rate plus they charged a $5 fee. Not all banks carry foreign currency and may need to order it, adding hassle to the process. When I exchanged the Euros in Cuba, I lost another 3%. In the end, I lost ~6% at Citibank + ~3% for a total loss of about 9% during the exchange process. Exchanging USD would have cost me even more ~13%.

  • Exchanging USD: 3% + 10% penalty.
  • Exchanging non-USD costs ~3% + cost of getting the other currency

Bottom Line: Pick your poison: Bring USD and lose 13% or change your money to EUR, CAD, GBP, CHF, MXN or JPY and lose around 9% or less. Either way, bring extra cash because your credit and ATM cards won't work.


Here are the exchange rates from this money exchange “Casa de Cambio”. You'll be looking at the numbers on the left labeled “COMPRA”, or “BUY”.

  • Change $100 USD, you get $100 x 0.9685 = 96.85 CUC less 10% penalty = 87.165 CUC.
  • Change 100 EUR, you get 100 x 1.0685 = 106.85 CUC.  The Euro/USD was ~ 1.09 at the time (2nd week of March).
  • Change 1 CUC, you get 1 x 24 = 24 CUP. We got ~ 200 CUP to use for taxi rides and small purchases.
Havana Cuba - Money Exchange Rates Casa Cambio Rates

This was one of the few money exchanges that offered CUP!

Below are the rates at Habana Libre hotel which are displayed a bit differently. I didn't exchange here but I believe the math would work like this:

  • Change $100 USD, you get $100 / 1.14548 = 87.30 CUC (this should include the 10% fee) Slightly better than above.
  • Change 100 EUR, you get 100 / 0.94718 = 105.57 CUC.  Slightly worse than above.

Havana Cuba - Money Exchange Rates Hotel Libre

Want to exchange money? Get in line:

Havana Cuba - Money Exchange Rates Casa Cambio

Credit Cards & ATMS

Cards from banks based in the United States won't work. Even my HSBC credit card didn't work. While non-US credit cards may work, expect to pay cash for most purchases. Still, it's a good idea to bring some US credit cards. If you run out of money, at least you'll be able to buy some bad food at your connecting airport.


My Cameras: These photos were taken using either my Canon S110 (newer model is S120) or my Sony a6000 (with this wide angle lens).  The Canon is fits in my pocket and takes amazing pictures. The Sony packs the power of a full size DSLR while being small enough that I'm still willing to bring it!


Going to Cuba? Let me know if I missed anything.


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  1. Cuba’s Two Currencies (CUC vs CUP), Exchanging Money, Credit Cards, ATMs – there… – My Exchange Student Blog 2019 says:

    […] Cuba’s Two Currencies (CUC vs CUP), Exchanging Money, Credit Cards, ATMs –… […]


  1. Thank you so much! I just happen to find you. I really want to visit Cuba before it gets crazy. You helped with the money situation. Any help on how much to take with me?

    • That’s hard to answer as it depends on how long you’ll be there and what you want to do. You’ll need to budget everything you plan to spend and then take extra since you won’t be able to get more and you can’t use your credit card. I was able to pay for my Airbnb with my credit card so for me it was just eating and touristy stuff. Food there is mostly very inexpensive. There are tourist traps that can charge ridiculous sums even up to $100 USD per person (I heard) but you’ll always be able to see prices before you order. Some things like shows meant for tourists are expensive like $75-125 per person, which you should check ahead of time. Of course you will discover some things after you get there. For car rentals, they were about $80 USD / day plus ~$200 USD Cash deposit, though many won’t rent to you unless you booked ahead of time (before you arrived). I’d say at least $500 on top of what you plan to spend to be safe.

  2. yes thank you very much, for the signs, i live montreal canada, and was thinking about going to cuba,and after reading your browser. i am for sure on my way destination cuba, gracious

  3. I feel I should have some CUP along with CUC. Can I get CUP at airport exchange too? Or do they have 1 cuc that I can use for cup purchases and get change from vendor?

  4. Is the visa / travel card application a smooth process? I will be travelling from Miami to Cuba the end of December?

  5. Hi,
    A question about International currency exchange rates in Cuba.
    How current are the ICE rates in Cuba?
    for example; today 2/16/19 the US vs. CAN is 0.75$. Will Cuba use the daily CAN exchange rates?
    Thanks, Andy R.

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