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MasterCard to allow transactions in Cuba using U.S.-issued cards

January 23, 2015

JetBlue New York Havana flightsJetBlue New York Havana flights
People load luggage from a Miami charter flight onto a car at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba, on August 30, 2014.Photograph by Enrique de la Osa — Reuters

(REUTERS) — MasterCard Inc said it would allow its cards issued in the United States to be used in Cuba, effective March 1.

The United States announced sweeping new rules this month that will significantly ease sanctions on Cuba, opening up the communist-ruled island to expanded U.S. travel, trade and financial activities.

MasterCard (MA) was removing the block following guidance from the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, the company said in a post on its website.

Transactions using its cards will, however, stay blocked in North Korea, Iran, Sudan and Syria, the company said in an e-mail to Reuters.

The Purchase, New York-based company said it was the first to unblock transactions in Cuba. American Express Co (AXP) said it was reviewing the OFAC guideline, while Visa Inc (V) was not immediately available to discuss its plans.

“We are evaluating the OFAC guidelines that came out late last week to better understand what is permissible and how we would operate if we choose to do so,” American Express said in an e-mail.

MasterCard shares finished flat at $84.39 in Friday trading on the New York Stock Exchange.