Cuba experiments with debit cards in dollar stores

AP News
Posted: Sep 05, 2012 6:11 PM

HAVANA (AP) — Cuba has begun an experimental program letting islanders use debit cards for their peso bank accounts to shop in so-called dollar stores.

The measure has not been announced, but the program is being tried out at a state supermarket in Havana that also sells household appliances.

Cuba has a unique dual-currency system. Most salaries are paid in pesos, worth about 24 to the U.S. dollar.

A separate convertible peso trades at par with the dollar and is used in the dollar stores. To shop at the stores, Cubans have had to convert their pesos at exchange houses.

Cubans have long chafed at the system. President Raul Castro's government has talked about unifying the two currencies, but it is unclear whether the debit-card measure is a step in that direction.