By Marc Frank
HAVANA (Reuters) - MasterCards from Florida-based Stonegate Bank <SGBK.O> are the first U.S.-issued credit cards that can be used to withdraw cash at automatic teller machines in Cuba, the first vice president of the country's central bank said on Monday.
Irma Margarita Martinez, speaking to media on the sidelines of a financial services conference, said Cuba was open to extending the service to all U.S. credit card holders.
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"To date no other U.S. bank has approached us or expressed an interest," he said.
Stonegate has issued about 500 cards, mainly to Cuban Americans who travel to their homeland and U.S. businesses interested in the Caribbean island, Tania Fernandez, manager of the bank's Havana office said in a press briefing outside the event hosted by Miami-based International Money Transfer Conference.
While the card can be used at hotels, car rental agencies, some restaurants and now at Havana cash machines, it was still not being accepted at more than 10,000 retail shops run by the state, Fernandez said.
Stonegate, which in May 2015 became the first U.S. bank since the 1959 Revolution to open an office in Cuba, issued the MasterCard earlier this month. MasterCard Inc said in January it would allow its cards issued in the United States to be used in Cuba, effective March 1.
As part of a growing detente between the two Cold War foes begun in 2014, more Americans are traveling to Cuba and U.S. businesses are taking a closer look at the once forbidden island, but financial services are lagging far behind.
President Barack Obama, as part of his efforts to improve relations with Cuba, has loosened restrictions on financial services to reduce the risks U.S. travelers face from carrying large amounts of cash, but little has changed.
However, until this month no U.S. bank would back credit card transactions, citing the continued U.S. embargo and insecurity over deregulation by the Obama administration.
(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Richard Chang)