Electronic payment systems are actively developed in CIS countries. The most popular payment solutions are bank cards, internet banking, e-wallets, and mobile commerce (m-commerce).
The list of the most popular payment methods in the CIS countries was approximately identical until recently. VISA and MasterCard were at the top among bank cards; YooMoney, QIWI Wallet, and WebMoney, as well as m-commerce (sending/receiving money using a mobile phone), stood out in the list of alternative payment methods.
Pavel Dergachev and Sophia Balashvili from 4H Agency present this review of payment solutions that are common in the CIS, and how the situation changed last year.
The situation has changed dramatically for Russia, as this market met a number of restrictions from payment systems since the spring of 2022. When Russia began hostilities in Ukraine, international payment systems ceased their activities in this market.
Probably, we can all agree that VISA and MasterCard’s decision to suspend all operations in Russia was the biggest shock for the market. Their cards issued by Russian banks are no longer valid abroad and on foreign online platforms. The cards themselves are assigned to the local Mir payment system.
The VISA and MasterCard cards issued by Russian banks continue to work until the expiration date, however, only in Russia and on domestic online platforms.
On the other hand, Mir operates in Russia and a few foreign countries (Armenia, Belarus, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan), which technically makes this system international.
The Chinese payment system UnionPay also actively started its expansion and in partnership with a number of Russian banks began to issue cards with limited functionality: they can be used in foreign POS terminals, but the online payments are limited.
As for Apple and Google Pay, these payment methods are currently unavailable in the country.
Following the global trend, direct bank transfers have strongly developed in the last two-three years. In Russia, this system is centralized on the basis of the Central Bank. It allows you to pay for services, and conduct P2P transfers, having reduced commissions for these operations. The system by its execution structure is similar to the Indian solutions UPI and NetBanking or the Brazilian PIX, which are also operated with the state’s participation.
Alternative payment methods, especially foreign ones, have also suspended their work in Russian. Among them are WebMoney, NETELLER, Skrill, ecoPayz, MuchBetter, PayPal, and others. The share of these methods was small in general, so the remaining channels – QIWI and Yoomoney – managed to slightly strengthen their positions.
Russian citizens are also increasing their share of transactions in cryptocurrency. Payments in cryptocurrency (more often in USDT) are gaining popularity among payment providers as well. This method is in a gray (dark gray), not fully regulated zone, but is one of the few options in times of sanctions.
However, there is significant pressure on the cryptocurrency market from regulators (some exchanges and platforms block accounts), but major players such as Binance are still relevant to users.
Thus, the market in Russia is currently quite closed and turbulent for the majority of payment providers.
Kazakhstan is the second largest economy in the CIS while maintaining a course towards active international cooperation. Kazakhstan has become a leader in the FinTech industry – the state is actively developing local payment systems. Like the Russian Quick payment service, the National Bank of Kazakhstan is promoting its own system of instant payments. It was launched in 2022, and obviously, the state makes every effort to force out foreign players – Visa and Mastercard.
However, Visa and Mastercard are leading in terms of transaction volume, followed by Mir and UnionPay. A small share also belongs to AmEx.
The list of payment systems also includes e-wallets and other alternative payment systems: Qiwi Wallet, YooMoney, or mobile payments. Depending on the purpose of use, these methods can take a large share when it comes to High/Medium-risk payments.
Unfortunately, Tajikistan is not among the economic and FinTech countries of the region. This happened because of a number of factors: remote geographical location, low level of political competition, a poor economy (in terms of GDP, Tajikistan is between Armenia and Kyrgyzstan), negative migration balance, and low level of Internet penetration (about 30%). At the same time, these factors are good starting points for new payment systems to penetrate. According to KPMG, there are 53 Fintech startups in the country.
Major players – Visa and Mastercard – hold a significant share. Currently, the payment system Mir has also become widespread, which indicates active labor migration to the Russian Federation.
Among the alternatives, Alif Mobi became the strongest player on the market. This mobile application (wallet) allows one to carry out basic operations.
Uzbekistan has its unique environment of payment systems. Besides international payment systems – Visa, Mastercard, and UnionPay – the country has two more services based on Humo and Uzcard, which occupy significant market volumes.
Additionally, 28 banking applications and more than 10 payment companies are successfully operating in the country: OSON, Joyda, Apelsin, and others.
It is also worth noting that new cards and payment methods aggregator Click recently managed to occupy more than 70% of the P2P payment market. To some extent, it works like European MiFinity.
Despite the country’s size and small population, VISA, Mastercard, UnionPay, and local ELCART, which is actively integrated into the Mir payment system, are present and actively used in the country. Like in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, Mir’s presence is determined by the large migration flow in Russia.
Alternative methods are Pay24, Mobilnik.Dengi. Most of them are tied to cash register payment terminals.
The payment market of Belarus overlaps with the Russian market by 80%. However, Visa and Mastercard are still operated in the country. Among the local payment systems, it is worth highlighting EasyPay and iPay.
In Azerbaijan only 30% of the population use bank cards. Thus, besides the above-mentioned payment systems, there are alternative payment methods such as PayPal, BitPay, Paysera, Skrill, Boku, Mobiamo, etc.
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