Caribbean Transfers: cash to Cuba.
Caribbean Transfers Ltd., a Cuban entity registered in the British Virgin Islands, now offers online money transfers to Cuba, accepting credit cards from anywhere in the world--including the United States--to process requests to send funds to recipients in Havana and other major Cuban cities.
With servers in Vancouver, the company is competing head-on with Toronto-based Duales, which for years has sent funds directly to recipients' debit-card accounts in Cuba.
"Our strategy is focused on implementing a business model that ensures a sustainable growth," says Caribbean Transfers' website. "Rather than compete with the existing providers of this service, we concentrate on the enormous amount of funds traveling using non-traditional banking channels, which are expensive, inefficient and risky."
In order to avoid having a given recipient in Cuba penalized for receiving U.S. dollars (which are subject to a 10% penalty by the regime's banking system whenever dollars are exchanged for convertible pesos, or CUCs), Caribbean Transfer processes wire transfers through an undisclosed bank in Mexico.
There, dollars are exchanged into Mexican pesos and sent to Cuba's banking system for eventual transfer into a Caribbean Transfers debit card issued under the recipient's name.
Such transfers take place within a 48-hour period for those residing in Havana, and three to five days for recipients living outside of Havana. The debit cards can be used in more than 6,000 outlets throughout Cuba, with a CUC 350 limit per transaction.
Recipients who want cash can visit the local bank branches of BPA, BANDEC, BICSA, Banco Metropolitano or BFI--as well as Cadeca foreign-exchange offices--to withdraw funds from their debit cards.
In order for a recipient to receive, for example, CUC100, the sender would have to send US$129.25 ($111.24 plus Caribbean Transfers' fee of $18.01).
The sender's credit card would be debited an additional amount for the funds to be processed through the Mexican banking system (approximately $10), meaning the whole transaction would cost over $140.
First-time users of this service also have to fill out applications with a photocopy of their credit cards and government-issued IDs before being able to use the service.
Despite the hassles, Caribbean Transfers is proving to be a reliable online route for sending money to relatives and friends in Cuba.
Since the users' credit cards are being debited by a Mexican entity instead of a U.S. remittance service like Western Union, Caribbean Transfers bypasses U.S. restrictions on money transfers to Cuba, which may not exceed $300 per three-month period.
The service also uses a toll-free number in Montreal to process transfers for clients leery of conducting online transactions.
Details: Caribbean Transfers Ltd. Tel: (877) 283-6842 or (809) 472-3206. Fax: (917) 5918895. URL: www.caribbeantransfers.com.