Cuba Business

US Embargo reaches into wallets of Canadian citizens

Posted November 02, 2007 by publisher in Cuba Business.

CBC news

Millions of Canadians whose MasterCard charge cards were issued by credit unions are now being forced to abide by U.S. economic sanctions that prevent use of the cards in countries including Cuba and Iran.

CU Electronic Transaction Services (CUETS), which issues MasterCards to credit unions and caisses populaires, was in October acquired by the Canadian subsidiary of the Bank of America. As a result, CUET MasterCards will not work in Cuba, North Korea, Burma, Iran and Sudan.

MasterCards issued by other Canadian financial institutions are not affected and will continue to be accepted around the globe.

Ellen Tucker, a travel agent in Saint John, said the change will certainly affect travellers headed to Cuba, a favoured hotspot for Canadians.

“Say you’re staying at a hotel in Varadero and you want to take the full-day excursion into Havana, say it’s $60, $70 a person, you probably wouldn’t want to carry that much cash with you,” she said.

Catharine Downes, assistant vice-president of marketing with the North Shore Credit Union in B.C., said her group has worked steadily to keep consumers in the loop.
“We had a member newsletter that went out in mid-October, we did a bit of a web update in the context of the cards themselves to make sure that on an ongoing basis people would be aware of the restrictions,” she said.

Consumers should call their credit union to determine if their cards are affected by the boycott list.

Member Comments

On November 07, 2007, Larry wrote:

I was unknowingly caught up in this political circus. There were no circulars issued by my CU before I left for vacation. I even called up the issuer to ensure that there would be no interruptions while I was away on vacation in Cuba and Mexico. Essentially, telling them that yes I will be in Cuba and wanting to use my card. The representative gave no indication that I would have any sort of problem. I actually used my CU MC a few days before the end of September to rent a car in Holguin and it was processed without a problem, but the following week while in Santiago I attempted to rent another car and was rudely denied. Try calling a 1-800 for MC help from Cuba, they do not even list a real number to call. I know I spent $5 just trying to get through the automated directory assistance, with a little over a minute to spare I got through to the live person to be told there was no number available in Vancouver. That was when the time ran out, but I guess the cost of international directory assistance calls is a different story.
The card resumed working in Mexico, but I am weaning myself off this CU MC until I can find a new MC provider. One which truly keeps their customers in mind. So much for the owner controlled Credit Union Services! Back to a big bank.

On November 08, 2007, publisher wrote:


Thanks for the first hand report. I hope some of our other readers can offer some advice or insight into the situation.