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Russian Banks Seek Tie-Up With China’s UnionPay After Card Ban

The two large US payments firms said they were suspending operations in Russia, joining the list of companies severing business links with the country

An increasing number of Russian tourists are using Chinese credit cards when visiting countries such as Finland.
Russian tourists have been using UnionPay credit cards to make big withdrawals in Finland in recent weeks since it became easier for them to cross the border. This image shows a UnionPay sign is seen outside a pawn shop in Macau. Photo: Reuters.


Some Russian banks would look to use China’s UnionPay system after credit cards issued using the Visa and Mastercard payment systems stop functioning overseas after March 9 due to sanctions, Russia’s central bank said on Sunday.

Russian-issued Mastercard and Visa cards would be accepted within Russia until their expiry, the bank said,

The overseas ban also applies to cards issued by local subsidiaries of foreign banks, the bank said.

Its announcement came after the two large US payments firms said they were suspending operations in Russia, joining the list of companies that are severing business links with the country after it invaded Ukraine.

The central bank added that many Russian banks plan to issue cards using UnionPay, a system it said was enabled in 180 countries.

While several Russian banks already use UnionPay, others, including Sberbank and Tinkoff, could start issuing cards co-badging Russia’s domestic Mir payments system with UnionPay, it added.

Thousands of Russians, including holidaymakers, are stranded abroad after many countries closed off their airspace to Russian aircraft while Russia has retaliated with flight bans for many foreign airlines.

The central bank advised citizens currently overseas, to withdraw cash before the ban came into force.


  • Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell



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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.


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