back to article PayPal, Visa, Mastercard suspend Russian services

More big technology industry players have cut off services to Russia, in protest at its illegal invasion of Ukraine and a new media law imposed to stop the flow of news from the war zone. Credit card giants Visa and Mastercard have each suspended their Russian operations. Mastercard's announcement states its decision means " …

  1. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Paypal will ban anybody at the drop of a hat while hanging on to their money "until a complete investigation can be completed", so no surprise there. I have a feeling that V&MC are worried that bills will be settled in Rubles and the number of zeros needed to calculate the exchange rate will exceed field allocations in their software. AmEx is late to the cancel club, but have also stated they aren't doing business behind the Putin Curtain for the time being.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Amex

      No biggie, as who takes Amex anyway?

      1. chivo243 Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Amex

        Diner's Club? Discover?

      2. Dabooka

        Re: Amex

        Oh FFS, I assume this is fishing for comments.

        You know, seeing as even Wetherspoons does.

      3. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Amex

        "No biggie, as who takes Amex anyway?"

        It can be very good for business travel. They have lots of perks when it comes to that sort of thing. They also cater to businesses that need a category breakdown of the charges for tax purposes based on the business where the charges are made.

        For day to day purchases it's not that useful. AmEx charges more per transaction so many businesses aren't keen to take it.

  2. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
    Coat

    Wouldn't it be ironic (and hilarious) if American Express continues to accept CC payments in Russia?

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
      FAIL

      Which reminds me of the time a decade or so ago when my company credit card was changed from Visa to Amex... while I was working throughout the former FSU, and most of the hotels hadn't even heard of Amex.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "most of the hotels hadn't even heard of Amex."

        Bizarre. AmEx has been around longer than me (and that's saying something). Any serious enterprise in the travel and hospitality industries not having heard of it is unlikely. I expect they were feigning ignorance to get you to use another card with lower fees. If you claimed not to have one, a manager would be brought to the counter to make excuses that the person you were dealing with was new and inexperienced and certain you could use the card.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > [ ... ] if American Express continues to accept CC payments in Russia?

    They've already announced they have suspended operations in Russia and Belarus:

    https://www.cnn.com/2022/03/06/business/american-express-russia/index.html

    On Sunday, the company said in a statement that globally issued American Express cards will no longer work in Russia, and cards issued in Russia won't work outside the country.

    American Express also said it is ending its business operations in Belarus.

    "This is in addition to the previous steps we have taken, which include halting our relationships with banks in Russia impacted by the US and international government sanctions," American Express said in a statement Sunday.

  4. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Who is the target?

    While the aim is to hurt the oligarchs I am not convinced this will have more impact on the average Ivan. If the effects of sanctions and WWII are any examples, this will only backfire and make the average Ivan more supportive.

    1. Piro Silver badge

      Re: Who is the target?

      Yeah, I believe that to be the case too. After all, the truly wealthy have had methods of laundering money and moving it about avoiding taxes and checks since time immemorial. The average man-on-the-street? Not so much.

    2. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: Who is the target?

      We-ell... the cards issued by Russuan banks work _inside_ Russia, just not _outside_ and cards issued by foreign banks outside of Russia (those people are "spys" or "foreign state actors" or whatever the propaganda calls them) don't work _inside_ Russia. If my card would stop processing money outside the EU / common market or even across country borders I would not relaise it (until I travel abroad next time, but that is not on the cards yet).

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Who is the target?

        True up to a point but you would realise it if you tried to make an online purchase from outside the EU. At the moment, however, the average Russian might not be making onlne purchases from outside Russia.

        The effect of all these impositions which are being decried on the grounds that they only affect ordinary Russians is to contradict the Russian government's efforts to pretend to its people that nothing out of the way is happening.

        1. Lon24 Silver badge

          Re: Who is the target?

          Except over the last decade the number of Russian language travel books mushroomed in many rather pleasant resorts I passed through. Methinks there must be a lot of Ruskies wintering in the Canaries looking for a flight home now their charter has been cancelled.

          That gives a choice between an expensive three legged route via the Middle East or an extended stay at the hotel - or both! (Not every Russian has a 250 metre yacht).

          What happens when their cards are presented to the airline/hotel cashier would be interesting. I haven't seen any of the media following this up. Or maybe they had a few euros left in their pockets to rent a beach deckchair?

    3. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: Who is the target?

      "While the aim is to hurt the oligarchs I am not convinced this will have more impact on the average Ivan. If the effects of sanctions and WWII are any examples, this will only backfire and make the average Ivan more supportive."

      For any Russian who actually believes the official line of "Not a war, it's a limited military operation against the Ukrainian Nazi Government", measures like these serve a very useful purpose. You can deny reality all you like, and 'believe' Putin all you like, but it should be becoming blindingly obvious that nobody else outside Russia believes it.

      I live in a democratically 'free' country which has occasionally(!) done things our media have also described as 'limited military operations'. The official messaging here could well also be propaganda (it works both ways), but if everything I own suddenly stops working because ALL of the companies have pulled out of my country in protest, I'd have to be wilfully blind to not question whether my government is telling me the truth on whether something bigger is happening.

      As a secondary point, these measures tell me something too - not just the Russians. I also believe that this is actually a war and Russia is actually the aggressor (rather than a peaceful intervention misrepresented by fake news media); not because my State-owned media outlet tells me so, but because a hell of a lot of companies are actually taking action - which may hurt them financially - as a result of it.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Who is the target?

        Because of the new laws on what you can say, somebody in Russia had fired up Photoshop and knocked up a nice book jacket: Tolstoy's 'Special Military Operation and Peace'.

        I worry about us making the sanctions go too far, and having such a catastrophic effect on the Russian ecomony that Putin sees it as war. But equally his government made the choice to suddenly ratchet up the repression to Soviet levels again - and so it's pretty hard to justify a foreign company sending in staff at the moment. And that's ignoring the effect of sanctions, meaning that it's going to be incredibly hard to get paid.

        It's now effectively a criminal offence to be a foreign journalist operating in Russia - which wasn't the case in Soviet days. The effect of Russia's economy having been relatively linked to the rest of the world, and then suddenly shutting it off, means that we're likely to end up with even less interaction than during the Cold War. Aeroflot used to be able to fly, now with most/all their planes being leased, they're going to struggle to leave the country without having them siezed. And being foreign models, spares are going to become a huge problem even to fly internally.

        It's going to take some careful thought and language by Western political leaders to try and keep this from escalating constantly. I was pleased to see both Biden and Boris Johnson in interviews say this isn't about regime change, just about imposing costs on the Russian government for the invasion.

        At the moment Putin doesn't want to climb down, but as it becomes increasingly obvious that winning militarily is near impossible, I hope that we can find clever ways of giving him a way out of Ukraine. If that's possible.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Your average person in the Russian street

    Is going to wonder how the Ukraine has so much control over the rest of the world.

    Sergei: Netflix, more like Nyetflix!

    Sasha: I blame those Ukrainians.

    Sergei: How is your cold turnip?

    1. Grunchy Bronze badge

      Re: Your average person in the Russian street

      Just surf to Pirate Bay, presumably.

    2. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: Your average person in the Russian street

      The average Russian isn't as stupid as you're led to believe.

      Over the weekend, a large factory went on strike as they were only paid half of their salary due to the collapse of the rouble.

      The average Russian is fairly reliant on western services, and the more they are turned off, the more the babushkas talk to other babushkas about the text messages they've received from their sons detailing how utterly shit and depraved the whole situation is, you'll have more public pressure generated within Russia to put a stop to this.

      1. MiguelC Silver badge

        Re: Your average person in the Russian street

        You just hope so. But I've watched people in Ukraine reporting their relatives in Russia don't believe them about what's going on, relying instead on what Russian state media (as non-state has all but been banished) blurts, like a random guy telling his mum about how he's enlisted and actively fighting the invaders and she'd reply that he should just keep safe until Russian troops get there and 'save' him...

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Your average person in the Russian street

          I've seen reports of that, but it doesn't mean all Russians believe it. And it was Russian babushkas that did a lot to put a stop to the Soviet war in Afghanistan. And that "only" killed 15,000 Soviet troops in 10 years. If the Russians keep losing people at the rate they did in the first week of the war - they're going to hit that milestone in the first month. And that's assuming the Ukrainians are over-stating things, and they don't hit it this week.

          From videos online it's also clear that many Russian troops are pretty reluctant to kill babushkas in Ukraine. At least face-to-face - it's different when it comes to firing rocket artillery into cities.

          You wonder how long Russia's security forces can go on arresting anti-war demonstrators. It's one thing beating the crap out of some students (with their long hair and horrible music, we had proper respect for dictators in my day...) - it's a whole other ballgame when you have to start arresting granny.

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: Your average person in the Russian street

            Saw it on the BBC last night. There's a little old lady in her mid-90s in St Petersburg. One of the survivors of the Leningrad siege (she's well known and basically local royalty). She came out with her two anti war banners, that were literally bigger than she is. And the whole crowd were applauding her - you could see they were too scared to protest themselves, but they were there to watch and they applauded her until she was politely (and rather gently) arrested. Then all went silent - and I rather suspect went home ashamed of themselves for not doing more.

            I remember she was out protesting straight after the invasion. Back when it was single protesters only, and quite a lot of violence used to arrest them. No organisation and almost everyone else too scared. Again she went out alone with her banners and again she was quietly and politely arrested - with a large crowd looking on. Applauding here and then dispersing.

            I guess she knows all about Nazis, and recognises them when she sees them. I wonder how long she gets arrested for, and how many times she's been out demonstrating, in Winter in Russia.

            I bet the guys arresting her were nervous though. I can imagine that crowd going from too scared to show too much support to angry mob in no seconds flat.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Your average person in the Russian street

        "The average Russian is fairly reliant on western services"

        It's not just Russia. Most of the world is interdependent. From raw materials to components to finished goods, the things we use everyday are often made from sources around the world. Energy is a very good example and a big warning. Any country that can bring another country to its knees by turning a valve might get a sudden attack of hubris. The country on the receiving end might find themselves sitting the dark and huddled together for warmth.

  6. Grunchy Bronze badge

    Problem with that

    Suppose Visa stops working one day. Am I obliged to pay my Visa bill anymore? What are they gonna do if I don’t make minimum payments: send me to fight at the front lines of some kind of special operation or other?

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Problem with that

      You do realise that Visa are not the one lending you money, right? That would be your bank. And I believe YOUR Bank WOULD want THEIR money back pretty sharpish. All Visa is, is a payment provider - they let your card issuing bank talk to the bank of wherever your trying to spend your money. That's it.

      So if you stop paying your credit card bill, YOUR Bank is going to be the one sending in the enforcers, Visa doesnt give two hoots if you pay your bill or not...

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        Re: Problem with that

        "So if you stop paying your credit card bill, YOUR Bank is going to be the one sending in the enforcers, Visa doesnt give two hoots if you pay your bill or not..."

        Visa has already paid your bill on your behalf; the end-creditor already has their money. The Visa bill is you reimbursing them for the payment they've made, so the OP's original point is valid.

        That said, I'm certain Visa won't just abandon any money they're owed. They'll probably continue to suck it out of your bank account via direct debits as per the 'agreement' you have with them, just refuse to allow you to make any more purchases on your card.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Problem with that

          No, Visa hasn't paid your bill. Visa has authorized your payment, period. It means they did checks, including with your bank, to say that yup, money is going to flow from the buyer's account to the merchant's, soon, and they put the Visa stamp on the transaction.

          They did not send money.

          Neither buyers nor merchants are Visa customers, banks are.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wow... well Vlad 'Hitler' Putin got at least one part of what he wanted.. he at least got the 'economy' side back to Soviet levels from 1991...

  8. Zolko Silver badge

    post-covid

    So, if I understand correctly, after 2 years of wrecking the world economy and taking on thousands of billions of debt for an illness that is barely more dangerous than the regular flu, the "western" governments think that it's wise to cut-off from the world economy – already facing shortages on many products – the provider of the worlds 10-30% of raw material ? And that supposedly for a country absolutely nobody cared for in the past 7 years ? The only logical thinking I can come up with is that either these governments are complete idiots, or there is a hidden plan.

    Said hidden plan being actually not so hidden and called" The Great Reset". Exactly how they want to achieve that by wrecking the western economies is not quite clear. I hope their plan is well worked out, because I quite trust the Russians and the Chinese that they did some long-term planning ahead. Unfortunately, I don't have the same level of confidence in the planning-ahead when thinking about Boris, Ursula, Joe or Emanuel.

    1. Jedit Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      "So, if I understand correctly,"

      Я не говорю по-русски, товарищ.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: post-covid

      Vlad's planning ahead did not even include fuel for the 2nd week, or a coherent line of propaganda for non-Russian consumption, so he seems more like the impulsive kind to me, and that's rather worrying.

  9. Ian Baker

    Visa's announcement states that its efforts will mean "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." Isn't there an obvious loophole here whereby Visa cards issued in Russia will still work within the Russian Federation?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's not an obvious loophole. It's what they said.

      Transactions inside Russia are not handled by Visa, but by a domestic processor (same as in many other countries). This processor is not controlled by Visa.

      The banks issue the cards, not Visa. What payment processor is used is decided by the bank. In Russia, the Visa logo on the cards means that transnational transactions will be processed by Visa, but there's likely also the domestic processor logo on the cards to show it's used for domestic transactions (as happens in many other markets).

  10. Jedit Silver badge
    Stop

    "Visa and Mastercard have each suspended their Russian operations"

    Pay attention to what Visa and Mastercard have actually done here. They have not ceased operations inside Russia, only blocked transactions into and out of Russia. They are still claiming fees and interest from their Russian customers, just as they did before. Anton in St Petersburg can't buy from Wladislaw in Wroclaw any more, but he can still do all his shopping at Sergei's store down the street - which is 95% of what he uses his card for. Well, 100% now because Wladislaw told Anton to stick his roubles up his arse when the invasion began.

    In other words, Visa and Mastercard are trying to steal valour by refusing to process payments that other companies were already refusing to accept.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Visa and Mastercard have each suspended their Russian operations"

      Pay /even more/ attention to what they're saying:

      they haven't ceased operations inside Russia, because they are not doing any operation inside Russia. Domestic operations are handled by Mir, which is unrelated to either Visa or MasterCard.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mir_(payment_system)

      1. Jedit Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: "Visa and Mastercard have each suspended their Russian operations"

        So they just license their brand rather than collect directly? Fair enough, and I appreciate the correction. They're still not really doing anything though, are they?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Visa and Mastercard have each suspended their Russian operations"

          No, it's not brand licensing, and they're never collecting directly anyway,

          The Visa logo means that when the card is inserted in a payment terminal that supports Visa, the payment terminal can use Visa processing infrastructure.

          Same goes for the Mir logo, it means the card can also, separately, use the Mir network.

          And so on for other logos, MC, CUP, JCB...

          That means that when the card from a Russian bank is inserted in a Russian payment terminal, the payment terminal will automatically select the Mir network to process the payment. Visa has absolutely no say in it, so it will be accepted..

          If the Russian card with a Visa logo is inserted in a non-Russian terminal that supports Visa, but not Mir, then the Visa network will be used, and right now, that network will immediately refuse the payment.

          Conversely, if a foreign card with a Visa logo is inserted in a Russian terminal, that foreign card can't use the Mir network, so it will select Visa, which again will refuse the transaction.

          The payment fees in any case are always paid to the bank by the merchant, the bank then pays Visa and Mir whatever their contract say they should pay. The card itself is paid by the cardholder to their bank, again not to Visa nor Mir.

          Having several logos on a single card show which networks it supports It's called co-branding. It's usually a domestic network (eg Mir) and an international network (eg Visa).

          There are variations, there can be two international networks, for example Chinese cards can have CUP and Visa, the former being international but still less commonly accepted globally.

          It now seems likely that very soon, Russian cards will switch to CUP.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: "Visa and Mastercard have each suspended their Russian operations"

          "They're still not really doing anything though, are they?"

          In a way, they are. When you pay for some piece of software, you may find out that the payment processor that author has chosen is based in another country. I've had just that happen when I tried to use a pre-paid card which often can't be used cross-border. It happens a lot with CMS web store systems using platforms such as WordPress. You buy the template and don't often care where the transaction takes place as long as the fees are acceptable and the money gets to your account quickly.

  11. DS999 Silver badge

    Shutting down app stores

    While that sounds nice in theory, it will also hurt those wanting to find out the truth from downloading apps for non-Russian news sources, or gathering to protest if they can't download apps for secure messaging.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shutting down app stores

      I'm afraid it'll help Russian propaganda more than anything else. It's making it easy for them to say «the West» is trying hard to hurt the common people, while being hypocritical, since Western allies don't get cut out when they bomb civilians.

      Ie, that's helping Putin to stay in power :(

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Shutting down app stores

        There's a huge difference. The west really tries to avoid civilian casualties in when operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. It does not always succeed, but comparing the much publicized misses/mistakes to Putin's indiscriminate long range sustained shelling of civilians is ridiculous.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Huge long food queues in Russia

    Russian’s love queuing, it’s in their DNA.

    Let’s make it so.

    1. Zolko Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Huge long food queues in Russia

      Russian’s love queuing, it’s in their DNA.

      isn't this fundamentally racist ? Or is it now accepted to be racist if it's against the villain-du-jour ? Before that, the villain-du-jour was Al Quaida and Bin Laden (Arabs/Muslims), and the next ones will be the Chinese. I'm sadly surprised how easily many people are brainwashed into such Pavlovian bite-reflex, and how easily this blatant hatred is accepted – even welcome – by educated people like those from ElReg.

      1. Aspie73

        Re: Huge long food queues in Russia

        No, it's stereotypical, like saying the French are arrogant, or that the British all love fish and chips and roast beef.

        The poster didn't discriminate against Russians, or say anything remotely similar, at all there.

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