Central Bank limits phone minutes’ role as alternative currency

CUBA STANDARD — Phone minutes, which have emerged as a sort of alternative currency for remittances since the U.S. government blocked most remittance channels, cannot be converted into bank balances, the Cuban Central Bank announced.

Reverting previous regulations, Resolution 216, published in the Gaceta Oficial Sept. 3, prohibits the conversion of phone recharges from abroad into bank balances, independent news site El Toque first reported.

In March, the Central Bank allowed state telecom ETECSA to facilitate financial transactions through the Transfermóvil platform’s mobile wallet. Under that previous regulation, Cuban customers were able to transfer their phone top-up balance into hard-currency (MLC) bank accounts that could then be withdrawn in cash at ATMs.

The new resolution clarifies that bank cards are the only way to deposit funds in mobile wallets, and that the money cannot be withdrawn in the form of cash but may be transferred between bank accounts and wallets.

ETECSA is not authorized to act as a remittance channel.

The Central Bank also announced an increase in the maximum mobile wallet balance to 15,000 CUP and transaction amounts to 7,500 CUP.

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