Russian banks may begin issuing credit cards with China’s UnionPay after Visa and Mastercard announced the suspension of their Russian operations due to the invasion of Ukraine, according to media reports citing the Russian central bank.

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Fast facts

  • Russian banks are also leaning on the local payments system Mir, as international transactions on Visa cards will no longer be processed after March 10, Moscow time.
  • UnionPay operates in 180 countries and regions and already serves Russian financial institutions, but a further shift from Visa and Mastercard to the Chinese payment system would essentially allow Russians access to overseas payments.
  • U.S. payments giant American Express also stopped operations in Russia, as well as Belarus.
  • Russia’s largest bank, state-backed Sberbank, is exploring co-badged Mir-UnionPay cards while the nation’s largest private bank Alfa-Bank is reportedly working on UnionPay cards. 

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