Credit Card Giants Visa & Mastercard Protest Putin & Cease Service In Russia

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Visa and Mastercard are suspending services in Russia in response to the Putin regime’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. As Visa explained in a statement posted to the company website, “Effective immediately, Visa will work with its clients and partners within Russia to cease all Visa transactions over the coming days. Once complete, all transactions initiated with Visa cards issued in Russia will no longer work outside the country and any Visa cards issued by financial institutions outside of Russia will no longer work within the Russian Federation.” And as Mastercard summarized their move, “With this action, cards issued by Russian banks will no longer be supported by the Mastercard network. And, any Mastercard issued outside of the country will not work at Russian merchants or ATMs. ”

Visa CEO Al Kelly said that company executives “regret the impact this will have on our valued colleagues, and on the clients, partners, merchants and cardholders we serve in Russia. This war and the ongoing threat to peace and stability demand we respond in line with our values.” In a slightly longer statement, Mastercard added that the company doesn’t “take this decision lightly. Mastercard has operated in Russia for more than 25 years. We have nearly 200 colleagues there who make this company so critical to many stakeholders. As we take these steps, we will continue to focus on their safety and well-being, including continuing to provide pay and benefits. When it is appropriate, and if it is permissible under the law, we will use their passion and creativity to work to restore operations.” American Express has also announced that it is suspending all operations in Russia.

Russia possesses domestic payment systems that will blunt the impact of these companies’ decisions. As summarized by Reuters in reference to a large Russian financial institution, “Sberbank said its customers would be able to withdraw cash, make transfers, pay both in offline stores and Russian internet stores because transactions in Russia pass through the domestic National Payment Card System which does not depend on foreign payment systems.” Still, that list of possibilities doesn’t appear to include the ability to make out-of-country transactions — although those would likely be more difficult in the first place thanks to the sharply declining value of Russian currency. Governments around the world have gotten behind strict economic counter-measures targeting various points inside Russia, from financing for the military to wealthy individuals with ties to Putin. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had been among those pushing for Visa and Mastercard to take these moves, and the Biden administration has expressed support. During a conversation with Zelenskyy, Biden “welcomed the decision this evening by Visa and Mastercard to suspend service in Russia,” according to the White House.

UPDATE: Mastercard slightly clarified their move, offering updated remarks about their decision: “With this action, cards issued by Russian banks will no longer be supported by the Mastercard network regardless of where they’re used – inside or outside of Russia. And, any Mastercard issued outside of the country will not work at Russian merchants or ATMs.”