WASHINGTON – MasterCard on Friday became the first major credit card company to say it will start handling U.S. card transactions in Cuba.
Citing new guidance from the U.S. Department of Treasury, MasterCard said it would begin processing swipes by U.S. card holders in Cuba beginning March 1.
The announcement comes one month after President Barack Obama said the U.S. would work to restore normal diplomatic relations for the first time in more than 50 years with the communist-run island. The move affects Americans who travel to Cuba to visit relatives or for a handful of other authorized purposes, including educational visits. General tourism to Cuba is still prohibited by the half-century old trade embargo, and it would take an act of Congress to lift the ban.
New regulations announced earlier this month lifted a ban on U.S. banks and credit card companies from doing business in Cuba.
A spokeswoman for American Express said the card provider is evaluating the new regulations released by Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control "to better understand what is permissible and how we would operate if we choose to do so."
Visa did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
MasterCard Inc., which is based in Purchase, New York, said in a statement cardholders should contact their bank before visiting Cuba to make sure their card will function on the island.