Russia banks turn to China’s UnionPay after Visa, Mastercard suspension


Russian banks said Sunday they planned to issue cards using China’s UnionPay system after Visa and Mastercard moved to suspend operations in Russia over Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine.

Russian Visa and Mastercard bank cards will no longer be valid abroad, and cards issued abroad will no longer work in Russia, the global payments companies announced Saturday.

Major Russian lenders Sberbank and Alfa Bank said they are working on a rollout of UnionPay cards.

“Sberbank is working on the possibility of issuing co-branded Mir-UnionPay cards. We will inform you later about the timeframe for the issue,” Russia’s largest bank Sberbank said in a statement.

The country’s largest private lender Alfa Bank said it is “already working on launching cards on UnionPay, China’s national payment system”.

Rosbank, Tinkoff Bank, and the Credit Bank of Moscow (MKB) are also working on releasing UnionPay cards, Russian news agencies reported.

Russia’s economy and in particular its financial sector are reeling under the weight of unprecedented sanctions after Moscow sent tens of thousands of soldiers into Ukraine with the aim of overthrowing the Kyiv government.

Russia’s central bank said that Visa and Mastercard cards already issued by national banks will continue to work within Russia until their expiry, since all payments in Russia are made through a national system.

However, it warned that Russians travelling abroad would need to carry alternate means of payment.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French state-owned international news agency based in Paris. It is the world's oldest news agency, having been founded in 1835 as Havas.

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