Yep, today we’re talking about credit cards in Russia and how to solve the problem of receiving and sending money to Russia and fill the void left by Mastercard and Visa in the country.
Just to give you a little bit of context: I’m Italian and I’ve been living in Moscow for about 9 years now. I have credit cards in Russia, but also European ones, which I cannot use here since Mastercard and Visa cut Russia out. Or can I?
Do foreign cards work in Russia in 2022? What about PayPal? How do you get money in Russia? How to pay in Russia today?
Here you’ll find the answer to all of these questions and even more. Let’s proceed step by step.
- Credit cards in Russia: What’s the problem?
- Get yourself a Russian debit card
- How to send money to Russia
Credit cards in Russia: What’s the problem?
Once upon a time everything was simple: you could pay with any credit cards in Russia, but also debit, prepaid and even PayPal.
Now, following the tragic events that are taking place in Ukraine, the international payment networks Visa and MasterCard Russia have temporarily CHANGED their service. That’s right, they didn’t left the market, but made things much harder
1) Visa and MasterCard cards issued by Russian financial institutions work, but only in Russia. If you have a Russian debit card, for example, you can use it only within the territory of the Russian Federation. Payments won’t go through in any other country.
2) Visa and MasterCard cards issued by banks from other countries DO NOT work in Russia either for paying or withdrawing from ATMs.
What does all this mean?
If you live and work in Russia (as I do) and get paid rubles, you won’t be able to spend your money abroad. You have to withdraw cash and change it to other currencies.
If you live in another country and want to come to Russia for work, study or tourism, you cannot use your European card to pay in Russia. As above, you need to bring cash with you.
But fear not! There is a solution to this inconvenience! Indeed, there is more than one.
Solution 1: Good old cash
This is what I would recommend to those coming to Russia for short periods.
Just bring some cash with you and change it into rubles once in Moscow, Saint Petersburg or whatever city you’re planning to visit first.
However, there are some aspects you should consider to live without credit cards in Russia:
1) Ruble exchange rates now vary from bank to bank.
For example, as of today December 1, 2022 if you give one euro to AlfaBank, they will give you 53 rubles in exchange.
If you give the same coin to Sberbank, they will give you 57 rubles.
2) Pay attention to the condition of your banknotes.
Banks have become very picky lately and now they pay close attention to the integrity of the banknotes.
Of the 300 euros I wanted to change, Bank Avangard only accepted 160 because the other banknotes weren’t perfect. Luckily, Bank Zenit is less fussy and changed my remaining euros. Only euros though…
I also tried to change some US dollars into rubles and none of my banknotes was accepted because they were “old and with signs of damp“.
So, if you want to stay without a credit card in Russia, bring some euros.
3) How much money can you bring into Russia.
If you want to stay without credit cards in Russia, know that from Europe you can bring a maximum of 10,000 euros cash.
Of course, you can still bring more, but you have to declare them to the customs authorities.
If you’re entering Russia from Estonia, you can have with you only 300 euros. They made up a new rule.
Solution 2: Credit cards in Russia
If you want to continue using credit cards in Russia you have to open a bank account in Russia and then transfer money from your “home” bank to the Russian one.
This may sound scary, but it’s actually very easy and it takes only a few days. But first, let me clarify some things.
1) I write about “credit cards in Russia” because that’s what most people call them. However, as a foreign citizen, you cannot get a credit card in Russia. You can only request a Russian debit card.
2) You can get a Russian debit card even if you are here for study or tourism, you just need to have a regular visa and migration card. You don’t even have to go to a bank office. Everything can be done online. But remember. You have to be in Russia and you have to know Russian to fill up the request.
3) Always take the card with you. In Russia, Apple Pay and Google Pay suspended operations.
4) Many Russian banks are now subject to sanctions and cannot receive money from abroad. So you have to pick a bank that is not sanctioned. This brings us to the following paragraph.
Get yourself a Russian Tinkoff Bank card
Yes, I’ve been with Tinkoff for ages and that’s why I can suggest you this bank. Also, it’s one of the very few that can still receive money from abroad. And it also has other advantages:
- They bring your brand-new Russian debit card straight to your place/hotel within 3 days
- They do not require a notarized passport translation
With a Tinkoff Black card (Russian payment system MIR) you’ll be able to send yourself money from your bank account or have parents, friends, or relatives send you money to Russia (I’ll explain it in a while).
Applying for this card is really easy, but, again, you need to know Russian and be in Russia.
A page will open with a form to fill out. The first field will ask you to select your cash back categories that I usually choose at random. Then you’ll have to enter your personal data.
You’ll also have to choose whether to open an account in dollars or euros as well. You can do it, but honestly, I don’t see the need for that. I only have a rubles account.
You can also choose whether to have a MasterCard or Mir card (Mir is the Russian payment system).
The advantage of having a Mir card is that you can also use it in other countries such as Thailand or South Korea. Also, Mir debit cards give you some small discounts in Russia, for example on metro tickets.
Once completed the form, you will need to download the Tinkoff app on your mobile phone, photograph and upload your passport and wait for the card to be brought to you. That’s it!
How to send money to Russia: Korona Pay
Now that you have your Russian debit card, you can transfer money from your “home” account to the Russian one.
Well, not only to yourself: you can send money to Russia to anyone who has a Tinkoff card (or other non-sanctioned banks, therefore NOT Sberbank, AlfaBank, VTB, etc…).
To do this, you will need an app, one of the few that still works in Russia: Korona Pay.
Yes, I know they have a website, but it doesn’t work! To send money to Russia you need the mobile application.
Once downloaded, you will need to enter your tax information (name, surname, address, etc.) and send a photo of your passport to confirm your identity. In a few hours (maximum 48) your profile will be activated and you will be able to transfer money.
CREATE A KORONA PAY ACCOUNT USING YOUR FOREIGN TELEPHONE NUMBER, NOT THE RUSSIAN ONE OTHERWISE, IT WILL NOT WORK!
Choose “Russia” and you’ll be shown this page. Here you can enter the amount you want to send and the correspondign ammount in rubles.
As you can see, the exchange rate is pretty good (it changes every day, of course) and, by the way, there are no commissions!
Click on “continue” and answer some questions about the reasons for sending money to Russia (gift, help, etc…) and then enter your data both as the person sending and receiving the transfer.
That’s it! It works as a normal online payment. You enter the data of your “home” card as if you were making an online purchase and in seconds rubles will arrive to your Russian account.
Credit cards in Russia: Conclusion
These are the two methods that I know and personally use to solve the problem of money and credit cards in Russia.
Hope this will help you!
That’s all for now! Why don’t you read one of these posts?
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