Russians are looking for foreign credit cards to keep in touch with the outside world

Since the suspension of Visa and Mastercard operations in Russia, many professionals are facing serious problems that put their business at risk. The only solution for them: to open accounts abroad with all the difficulties that this currently represents.

Several Russian travel agencies already offer bank tourist stays © AFP / AFP

If for many Russians the most concrete effect of the international sanctions that have hit the country is the increase in prices in shops (16.7% on a year in March, unheard of since 2015), for a part of the middle class – thin- another was Visa and Mastercard’s decision to suspend operations in the country. The consequence of this measure is twofold: Russian bank cards no longer work abroad and foreign cards no longer work in Russia.

To mitigate the effects, the Russian government could highlight its “MIR” bank card system, developed after the 2014 sanctions, following the annexation of Crimea, the limited number of countries where these cards are accepted (mostly countries of the USSR) makes them impractical for those who want to continue making international transactions.

“We immediately realized that we could no longer work in Russia”

Tatiana, a digital marketer, was in Yerevan, Armenia when the war broke out. “Suddenly I found myself without a means of payment“, she says, “and it was very difficult to find cash, not to mention that I lost a lot of money in exchange transactions“. Today, this thirty-year-old is back in Moscow.”We quickly realized that we could no longer work in Russia in my sector, as the platforms we work on (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are blocked. So you have to work with overseas, but I couldn’t get money from my international clients. So I created a legal entity in Armenia and opened an account there. But I was very lucky. “ she breathes.

Armenian banks are becoming much more demanding of Russian citizens who wish to open accounts with them. Some are starting to apply for residency certificates, if we are to believe the many testimonies that are starting to flourish on the Telegram loops that bring together candidates for this form of banking exile. “I have architect friends who are in a very difficult situation“, continues Tatiana,”they can no longer pay subscriptions for the software they absolutely need in their work and for which there is no alternative in Russia.“For the moment, it is she who pays them.

“I want to watch series on Netflix, not pirate sites”

Many Russians suddenly found themselves cut off from the digital services they were used to, like Yulia: “I have a Google account, YouTube, services for work and now I cannot continue to pay for them and there are no alternatives to these services in Russia. I also want to watch the series on Netflix, not pirated sites, and I can’t pay for them right now“, Explains this other candidate to go abroad to retrieve a bank sesame.

Karolina, decided that she would take advantage of her next vacation in Turkey to open an account there. Even this young project manager sees in the international market only a solution to escape the looming economic crisis.I understand that I will not be able to support myself with payments in rubles alone, considering what will happen and the number of unemployed we will have“, explains.”My foreign clients have abandoned me due to payment problems, but I have some ready to sign as soon as I have the bank details in Turkey “tells the young woman who has carefully studied all possible solutions to be able to bill international customers.

Travel agencies specialize in banking tourism

For those who do not want to, or cannot arrange everything by themselves, there is the solution of specialized trips. Several Russian travel agencies already offer “bank tourism” stays in neighboring countries, mainly like Armenia and Uzbekistan. “In these two countries, most of the people speak Russian and this is very important for our customers.“, Explains Ivetta Berdian, advertising director of the BSI agency in Moscow, which for some months has been marketing vaccination stays for Russians looking for doses of Pfizer or Moderna not found in their country.

Demand creates supply“, justifies Ivetta Berdian,”we collaborate with many companies, for their business trips, which have explained to us that they have a vital need for international means of payment “. A stay is billed around 600 euros, to which we can add bank support. “The service costs $ 250 and includes escorting the customer to the bank as well as notarial documents for issuing the credit card and opening the account,” explains Ms. Berdian. A remarkable figure, even for a middle-class Russian.

Enemies in Russia, enemies abroad

A sacrifice that many are still ready to make, even if they deplore the reasons. “I understand the logic of international sanctions“explains Tatiana,”but it must be understood that from this point of view they strike above all people who carry out creative professions, who are often opponents of the regime. Both are painful for us and at the same time I don’t think the sanctions are stiff enough, like for example on gas, which would be a real disaster for us. But I understand. I know people who oppose war and take it badly because they are enemies in their country and enemies abroad because they represent their country. “

Karolina doubts the effectiveness of these sanctions : “From what I understand, many media outlets suggest that they [les occidentaux] try to get us out of our homes to protest and influence power from within. Obviously I never wanted to be in the current situation. But currently I see no other way out than to try to reinvent my life with the constraints that are ours.

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