Russian banks looking to find a new way to connect to global payments have turned to China’s state-owned UnionPay system to allow Russians easier access to banking.
According to Fox News Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank by assets, Alfa Bank and Tinkoff Bank have said they’re working to pursue the option of issuing cards that would be powered by China’s UnionPay.
Russian lender, Gazprombank, is also looking for solutions, saying customers can do cross-border transactions by getting cards that use UnionPay or Japan’s JCB system.
This comes after Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc. suspended their coverage of Russia making it hard for Russians to buy any goods while they were aboard as an extension of boycotts on the nation invading its neighbor.
“The workarounds show Russia may increasingly rely on China in the face of isolation by the West,” Fox News reported.
“It wasn’t clear whether the move signaled a shift toward greater cooperation between China and Russia to help Moscow find alternative ways to connect to the global financial system.”
Alfa Bank announced Sunday that its customers’ Visa and Mastercard cards would face restrictions on their use outside Russia starting March 10, and they urged users abroad to withdraw cash to get them through.
The bank, however, said it would continue to issue cards with both Visa and Mastercard partners, and some have cited their millions in stock as the possible reason:
“We hope that the international payment systems will return to our country. Then the cards will automatically start working all over the world,” it said.