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Russia enforces MIR card adoption in new countries

Thursday 26 May 2022 13:07 CET | News

Following the decision of Visa and Mastercard in early March 2022, followed by Chinese UnionCard, to back away from its territory, Russia has pushed the adoption of the homemade MIR cards, according to EWDN.

Visa and Mastercard leaving affected dozens of millions of cardholders from this country. While Russia managed to keep their cards active for domestic transactions at least until they expire, Visa and Mastercard cards can no longer be used abroad and on international ecommerce sites. In April 2022, Visa and Mastercard cardholders could not even be served, at least temporarily, on AliExpress Russia, a major ecommerce platform co-owned by Russian and Chinese digital giants.

Russia’s answer has been to accelerate both domestic and international adoption of the homemade MIR cards. As of 1 March 2022, MIR claimed 116 million cards in Russia — which accounted for 25.7% of bank card operations in Russia and 32.5% of new card issuance, according to Russia’s central bank. But MIR cards can be used only in a handful of countries — Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam, as well as Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two territories which have been controlled by Russia since the Russo-Georgian war in 2008.  

In some of these countries, e.g. Tajikistan, as witnessed by East-West Digital News, the use of MIR cards is rather widespread. In some other, much remained to do, as is the case in Turkey, one of the most popular destinations for Russian tourists. Russia’s Vice Prime Minister Alexander Novak announced extensions of the use of MIR cards in Turkey’s banks and hotels, with the introduction of dedicated card payment terminals. To date, however, the use of these cards in this country is not always possible and convenient, as reported from the ground in Antalya by a Russian tour operator association earlier in May 2022. 

Three major Turkish banks — Ziraat Bankası, Vakıfbank, and Iş Bankası — indeed process transactions with MIR cards, making cash withdrawals possible from their numerous ATMs at a favourable exchange rate. However, MIR acceptance signs are not always displayed on these ATMs, and the instructions on the screens are not always available in the Russian language, noted the association’s reporter. 

Meanwhile, using MIR cards in retail may still pose problem because not all outlets work with the three banks that partner with MIR. In addition, MIR cards might not work for technical reasons in some of the outlets that are supposed to accept them through these banks. 

Another, even more important reason is that virtually no retailers display MIR card acceptance signs, even among those who work with Ziraat Bankası, Vakıfbank, and Iş Bankası.

The association’s reporter heard, however, that many Antalyan shops are actively preparing the installation of card payment terminals with these banks to better serve Russian tourists whom they expect to come en masse this summer (2022). 

This story was first published on EWDN.com and can be read here.


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Keywords: Russia Ukraine War, Visa, MasterCard, debit card
Categories: Banking & Fintech
Companies: Mastercard, Visa
Countries: Russian Federation
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