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Exit of Visa and MasterCard Prompts Russians Banks to Adopt Chinese UnionPay

According to the Russian newspaper Kommersant, the demand for China’s UnionPay cards has increased significantly as Visa and MasterCard exited from the Russian market, which has made it impossible to use cards issued by Russian banks for overseas and cross border payments.

Founded on 26 March 2002, UnionPay, also known as China UnionPay (CUP), is an association for the China’s banking card industry, operating under the approval of the People’s Bank of China (PBOC, the central bank of China). It is an electronic funds transfer at point of sale network, and the only interbank network in China that links all the automatic teller machines (ATMs) of all banks throughout the country. UnionPay cards can be used in 180 countries and regions around the world. In 2015 UnionPay overtook Visa and Mastercard in the total value of payments made by customers and became China’s largest card payment processing organization. However, only 0.5 percent of this payment volume was outside of China.

Gazprombank issued 1,000 physical and 3,700 virtual CUP cards on March 9 alone, despite an average issuance of 400 bank cards per month. Bank ZENIT claims to have received 1,000 daily applications, although there was little demand for CUP cards before March 6. The Russian Agricultural Bank has issued hundreds of thousands of CUP cards since 2017. The Post Bank (Russia) has started processing virtual CUP cards since March 9, the daily applications once exceeding 12,000.

A total of 10 Russian banks have launched UnionPay cards. In addition, five banks are studying the introduction of Mir-CUP dual cards. Mir is a Russian payment system for electronic fund transfers established by the Central Bank of Russia.

The CUP card can be used by Russian citizens abroad for ATM transactions. In recent years, Chinese tourists have frequently travelled and spent money abroad. Many countries around the world have started adopting CUP cards.

Source: Sputnik News, March 11, 2022