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What payment systems work in Russia?

Since 24 February 2022, the political situation in the world has changed dramatically, followed by the economic situation. Many payment services and systems have rapidly changed their terms of use and introduced new restrictions.  How to make payments and receive money from other countries now?

The data was updated on 14 March 2022.

How do payments via bank with plastic cards work?

In March 2022, the European Union and the United States announced that some Russian banks have been disconnected from the SWIFT interbank payment system. Almost simultaneously, Mastercard and Visa payment systems announced that they had banned several banks from Russia: VTB, Otkritie, Sovcombank (now Sinara Bank), Promsvyazbank and Novikombank.

  • What is the SWIFT system? It is a system that controls the exchange of data between banks. For example, if a user wants to withdraw money from a terminal of another bank, SWIFT requests account information and, after confirmation, instantly releases funds. If one of the banks is disconnected from the system, such a money transfer becomes impossible. Since 2014, Russia has had its own SWIFT counterpart, System for Transfer of Financial Messages (SPFS). More than 330 financial institutions are currently connected to it, including those from Turkey and some CIS countries.  In addition to SWIFT, there is also SEPA, the Single Euro Payments Zone. Previously, Russian banks did not work with this system, but now anything is possible.

The Japanese payment system JCB is also suspending operations in Russia. The cards already issued in Russia will not be available abroad from 14 March.

How to pay with cards in Russia now? 

  • It is possible to use plastic cards within Russia and transfer funds.
  • It is not possible to use Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay.
  • Russians will still have the Mir payment system, which operates in Russia, the CIS countries like Vietnam, Cyprus and Turkey. 

The decision by Visa and Mastercard to restrict work with Russian customers has prompted demand for cards from China’s UnionPay payment system. UnionPay is now the only way for Russian plastic cardholders to access the rest of the world, and is accepted in about 180 countries. Plans to issue cards of this system have been announced by Sberbank, Alfa and Tinkoff, VTB, Home Credit, Expobank and MKB. Post Bank has issued a virtual UnionPay card (available in the app), with a plastic version coming later.

Which payment systems are blocked in Russia?

The electronic payment system PayPal will block the e-wallets of Russian users from 18 March. It is necessary to withdraw funds from the accounts before that date!

The Western Union money transfer system suspends operations in Russia and Belarus.

TransferWise / Wise from 11 March 2022 closes the possibility for Russian citizens to deposit funds in EUR; from 7 May 2022 all accounts will be blocked. 

Paxum payment system has disabled external card withdrawals to Russia since 10 March.  There is no possibility for Russian residents to withdraw their money inside Russia. Paxum’s Russian clients can continue to use Paxum P2P transfer system to send and receive payments to other Paxum account holders worldwide as usual.

As of 9 March 2021, Skrill and Neteller prohibited deposits and withdrawals for Russian citizens. Also, ecoPayz accounts are not available to Russian residents at this time. 

The payment company PayPal Holdings Inc (PayPal payment system) decided to stop operating in Russia. Since March 2, registration of new users from Russia has been stopped and a “certain period of time” has been given for withdrawals.

For several days Piastrix wallet could not be deposited by card or qiwi wallet, registration of new customers from Russia was prohibited.  On 10 March, cards were returned, and deposits from cards and qiwi wallets were made.

The use of cryptocurrency is also hampered. Crypto exchanges CEX IO, BTC-Alpha, KUNA, Upbit, Coinlist, Qmall and Binance have more or less restricted service to users from Russia and Belarus.  At the same time, according to experts, Russians have dramatically increased their investments in cryptocurrency. According to ENCRY Foundation, the growth of transactions grew by 3 to 5 times and the first demand is for Stablecoin (pegged to the dollar exchange rate), in particular Tether (USDT). 

On 14 March, Japanese authorities also obliged local crypto-exchanges not to process transactions from Russia. This is more than 30 crypto-exchanges. Conducting unauthorised payments can be punished with prison (up to 3 years) or a fine of 1 million yen ($8,500).

Lithuanian company Paysera has stopped transfers to and from Russia: transactions in roubles are no longer serviced, accounts of Russian clients will be closed and transfers to and from Russian banks will be restricted. 

  • Previously, at the beginning of February 2022, WebMoney Wallet lost its bank and stopped servicing Russian wallets. The license of JSC Conservative Commercial Bank was revoked at the request of the Central Bank and was linked to “an increased risk of involvement” in cooperation with illegal gambling and illicit players in the financial market. After customer accounts were unfrozen, the rouble funds were converted into dollars and transferred to WMZ wallets.

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