Credit Cards in Russia: What To Do in 2024?

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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 2024? 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.

Mastercard Visa 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 February 2024 if you give one euro to AlfaBank, they will give you 85 rubles in exchange.

If you give the same coin to Sberbank, they will give you 87 rubles.

In Moscow, the most favorable exchange rates I have found are at Bank Avangard and Bank Zenit; both give you 92 rubles for one euro.

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.

credit cards in Russia

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

ATTENTION! DUE TO THE NEW SANCTIONS, STARTING FROM TODAY 02/28/2023, IT IS NO LONGER POSSIBLE TO SEND MONEY TO TINKOFF BANK CARDS WITH KORONA PAY. I WILL UPDATE THE ARTICLE ONCE I FIND ANOTHER SOLUTION (PROBABLY, NOW I WILL GET A RAIFFEISEN BANK CARD TO SEE IF IT WORKS).

YES, AS FOR NOW 01/04/2023 YOU CAN SEND MONEY TO A RUSSIAN RAIFFEISEN CARD WITH KORONA PAY. HOWEVER, IF YOU ARE NOT RUSSIAN, YOU HAVE TO GO PHISICALLY TO ONE OF THEIR OFFICES TO GET A RAIFFEISEN BANK CARD AND HAVE A TRANSLATION OF YOUR FOREIGN PASSPORT WITH YOU.

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.

credit cards in Russia

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!

Click here to request your Tinkoff Black card.

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!

how to send money to russia

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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42 thoughts on “Credit Cards in Russia: What To Do in 2024?

  1. dear Friend, (sorry, i dont know your name),
    i am travelling to Moscow end of february and very much scared. Scared of the strange situation in 2022/23. Scared that i cannot use good old master card to receive the cash from bankomats in Moscow.
    I want very much thank you from all my hearts for the help to me and other people who need to travel to Moscow but simply helpless due to the difficult current situation.
    I do speak good russian, but need to be in Moscow i dont know how long (it maybe few months to a year) and would need to look for job to support myself. Due to situation, the jobs with perfect russian, good english and even german, probably are non-existent. But i will try:-)
    I want to tell you that you have great blog. So kind of you to take so much time to help others!
    God bless you and huge thanks for all your work!

  2. I am trying to get to Novosibirsk at the end of Feb 2023.
    I can fly from the UK to Antayla Turkey no problem paying for that leg of the journey.
    The next leg Antalya to Novosibirsk by S7 Airlines is difficult to pay by visa or Mastercard as they are not taking either card.
    Do you have any suggestions how to pay for this journey.
    Regards
    John

    1. Hi John! Unfortunately, there’s no way you can pay for an S7 airline ticket with your UK Visa or Mastercard. The only thing you can do is go to Aviasales and find a flight from Antalya to Novosibirsk operated by another non-Russian company.

  3. Hi,

    Thank you for the very informative blog.

    Do you know if Koronapay is still available to download?

    I cannot find it on GooglePlay.

  4. Hello,
    I would like to ask you for info whether I will be able to set up a bank account in Russia with valid Passport or not, if I am there not legally.
    Thank you in advance for your reply.
    Jean.

    1. Hello!
      Well, I really don’t know what you mean by “not legally”. To set up a bank account you will need a VALID Russian visa and the migration card you are given when you enter Russia at the Passport control.

  5. Can I use my UnionPay debit card in Russia? I will be studying in Russia and the money that I will receive will be transferred to my Unionpay card.

      1. Hello, thank you for this useful information. Do you know if it matters by which bank the UnionPay debit card is issued?

  6. Hello sir, have you tried RAIFFEISEN BANK CARD? I am curious to know what has happened

  7. Thanks a lot for this article, i was wondering why I couldn’t send to tinkoff anymore, thanks for the explanation;)

  8. If someone will travel to Russia though Estonia better check first the site of the Estonian ministery.
    Pay attention:
    To take euros is not allowed, only very few for the trip.But they dont clarify how many.
    Better take dollars, or send money with unistream if it works in your country

    https://www.emta.ee/en/private-client/consignments-travel-settlement/travel/declaration-cash#restriction

    Pursuant to Council Regulation 2022/398 (amendment 2022/577 opens in a new tab), it is prohibited to export banknotes denominated in any official currency of a Member State to Belarus, or to any natural or legal person, entity or body in Belarus, including the government and the Central Bank of Belarus.

    Export of the following banknotes to Russia and Belarus is prohibited:

    euro (EUR)
    Croatian kuna (HRK)
    Romanian leu (RON)
    Bulgarian lev (BGN)
    Hungarian forint (HUF)
    Czech koruna (CZK)
    Polish zloty (PLN)
    Swedish krona (SEK)
    Danish krona
    Export of the banknotes listed above is permitted only:

    for the personal use of natural persons travelling to Russia or Belarus or members of their immediate families travelling with them,

    Amount for personal use is deemed to be an amount which covers the needs of travellers (incl. truck drivers) and family travelling with them during the journey until arrival to destination. There is no minimum threshold for the amount considered for personal use. Therefore, any amount that does not meet the conditions set out in the exemption may be subject to sanctions, whether a cash declaration is required or not…..

  9. Regards,

    thanks a lot , I am colombian,
    Could you please tell me if I can currently cross the border by land
    from Latvia or Estonia to Russia by Bus to Saint PEtersbugh
    or Moscow? I mean, if land borders are open in those
    countries to foreigners like me,
    ALso, could you please update on the topic of Visa and Mastercard,
    are they now working for foreign issued cards?

    Thanks a lot

    1. Hello! Yes, if you have a valid Russian visa you can cross these borders by bus and enter Russia!
      I have written a post about cards, you can find in on my blog. The situation didn’t change, in Russia you can use only cards issued by Russian banks or in some cases UnionPay cards, but they don’t always work

  10. Hi
    Thank you for this! I am travelling to Moscow via Dubai. Can I exchange Euro to Rubles at Moscow airport?
    What does an average meal cost please?
    Coffee? Taxi from the airport to the Red Square. Is it ok to use any taxi service or is there something I need to be wary of. ( I am trying to work out how much to bring… I am there for 3 days.)
    Thank you so much

    1. Hello Adele! It all depends on what you are looking for. Moscow is a city where you can have a full meal for 10 USD or 1000 USD. It depends on the location. Taxis are quite cheap, from the Airport to the center cannot be more expensive than 1,500/2,000 rubles. This is the price if you use the app.

  11. Ciao caro amico Italiano!

    I am a Maltese citizen married to a Russian woman and i live in Russia too.
    I also find using advance cash useful for sending money from my SEPA EU account to her Sberbank account. There is fees for this service of course, but exchange rates are good!

  12. This is a great source, thank you.

    What about UnionPay cards? You mention Visa and Mastercard, but not UnionPay.

    1. Because the situation with UnionPay is really complicated and nobody can figure it out. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt. Russian banks started issuing UnionPay cards themselves, then stopped.

  13. I just found this post, and first of all, I want to say HUGE thank you 🤍 I am Brazilian and I’ve been looking in my mother tongue information about it and talking with Brazilians who live there but they don’t know how to explain or give a good option for digital rubles (since I need exchange money to spend long time in Russia)… It is kind frustating that they don’t know.
    Second part is about doubts, I hope you can answer me, I am planning to visit Russia in December 2023 January 2024 but all will depend in financial situation so 1* – how much money (paper, dollars) I can enter in Russia? I will probably get a flight from Brazil that will go to Ethiopia or Dubai (only those options available to go to Russia), I would like to know how much I can enter if I come from those countries to Russia? Where I can look this information?
    2* I heard to bring dollar to exchange in Russia is better?
    3* From Moscow airport, where is the nearest and less expensive place to exchange dollars into rubles? I know from banks and at airport is not good and I will definitely need rubles to pay for a taxi to get out of the airport.

    I tried to make tinkoff account today but I need at least migration card so that migration card is that paper you receive when you enter in the country as tourist, right? It needs to registrate in each city you’ll pass by or isn’t necessary anymore?

    I hope you can help and again thank you for the post, I will try the options above too and look up more posts in your blog.

    1. Hello Barb!
      1) You can enter Russia with a maximum of 9,999 USD cash
      2) Yes, it’s better to bring USD or Euros as they are widely accepted in exchange points all around the main cities, which offer a better exchange rate!
      3) In Moscow there are 4 airports and each of it has an exchange point inside. Unfortunately, they offer orrible rates.
      4) Yes, every tourist can open a bank account in Russia’s main cities, but you have to be phisically in here and provide the migration card.

      I hope it helped!

  14. Just wondering are Australian $ widely accepted for exchange in St Petersburg as I’m planning on visiting there in September.

    1. Australian Dollar is widely accepted only in banks! And as banks offer a way worse exchange rate than the many exchange points you can find in St Petersburg and Moscow. For this reason, I would suggest you to bring with you USD or Euros.

  15. Hi! Thanks for the information!
    Im travelling to russia in january and i was wondering how can i make my online reservations (plane and train tickets) from abroad. Do you know if there are any agencies that may help me with the purchase? Or if there is any other way?

    Thank you very much!

  16. Hey!
    Does it work to make a transaction with European bank from Estonia (Mastercard) to Russian Raiffheisen bank?

    I am currently in Moscow and in need.. I tried but sending credit to bank card did not work…It doesnt allow me to enter my full bank account number (receipent)

    Any idea?

      1. Hi

        Can I please talk to you in private regarding how to send money to someone in russia. Please email me.

  17. Привет всем!
    Last week I tried to send money from my Raiffeisen bank account in Czech Republic via Koronapay and it did not work, the error message was “Sorry, you have been blocked. You are unable to access upc.ua” (Yup, Ukrainian Processing Centre)

    I opened a ticket to Koronapay support but they suggested to contact Raiffeisen CZ.
    My workaround was to send money from Raiffeisen to Revolut and from Revolut to Koronapay, this way I was able to receive the money in cash in Fora Bank in Sochi.

    Best Regards,
    Jorge

  18. Thank you for the very informative blog. It is very helpfull. By the way, can you say how esay is to exchange euros ina russian bank?,
    Which would be the second most common language used in Russia, after the Russian of course?
    Can you find many people that speaks german or english?

    Thank you very much.
    Greetings from Mexico

    1. Hi Miguel!
      Yes, exchanging money in banks is easy and it takes only few minutes. You can also go to the many exchange point you can find everywhere in the main cities.

      In big cities you can find many people, who speak English! In general, Russians love learning languages. However, for your everyday life you need to know Russian.

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