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MasterCard to Lift Transaction Block on U.S. Cards in Cuba
By Elizabeth Dexheimer and Indira A.R. Lakshmanan Jan 23, 2015 7:08 PM

MasterCard Inc. (MA) said it will lift a block on U.S. bank-card
transactions in Cuba after receiving guidance from the Treasury
Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The change takes effect March 1, according to a bulletin the Purchase,
New York-based company sent to banks and other customers and obtained by
Bloomberg News. Seth Eisen, a MasterCard spokesman, confirmed the
bulletin’s contents.

President Barack Obama announced last month that the U.S. would relax
restrictions on trade and with Cuba, which would include allowing
Americans to use their credit cards in the country. MasterCard and Visa
Inc. (V) cards issued by banks outside the U.S. are already accepted in
the Caribbean nation.

North Korea will continue to be blocked by MasterCard for transactions
involving U.S. bank cards, while Iran, Syria and Sudan will be blocked
for cards issued anywhere in the world, the company said.

Larger rival Visa Inc. didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Treasury Department this month revised regulations tied to U.S.
sanctions on Cuba, which included allowing U.S. financial firms to open
accounts at Cuban banks to handle transactions, according to a Jan. 15
statement. U.S. companies also are authorized to enroll merchants and
process credit- and debit-card transactions for travel-related and other
expenses, the department said.

‘Deep’ Divisions

MasterCard’s announcement follows two days of talks between U.S. and
Cuban officials over restoring diplomatic ties, migration policies and
in Havana. While both sides praised the negotiations, U.S.
Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson said “deep” divisions
remain over human rights policy.

Restoring diplomatic ties doesn’t mean the U.S. on the island
would end. While Obama eased some travel and trade restrictions after
his Dec. 17 announcement, lifting the embargo would require
congressional approval.

U.S.-Cuba negotiations will resume again as early as next month in
Washington, according to two officials who asked not to be identified
because they aren’t authorized to discuss the talks publicly.

(An earlier version of this story corrected the countries still blocked
by MasterCard in fourth paragraph.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Elizabeth Dexheimer in New York
at edexheimer@bloomberg.net; Bill Faries in Miami at wfaries@bloomberg.net

Source: MasterCard to Lift Transaction Block on U.S. Cards in Cuba –
Bloomberg –

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