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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russians Charged $1.4Bln On Their Visas Last Year

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Russians holding Visa cards charged $1.4 billion worth of goods and services last year, up 167 percent over 1999, Visa International said Tuesday.

Of that figure, some 19 percent, or $277 million, was spent abroad, an increase of 50 percent, said Visa, the dominant player in Russia's credit card market.

Russian Visa holders traveling abroad charged the most in the United States ($34 million), France ($29 million), Germany ($26), Great Britain ($25 million) and Italy ($24 million), the company said.

The average value of an international transaction by a Russian cardholder last year was $175, while the average domestic transaction was $96.73.

Visa said its Russian clients traveling in Europe used their cards to buy goods and services four times more often than they used ATM's to get cash.

"This illustrates how cardholders are relying more and more on the ease and flexibility of paying with card in shops, hotels and other establishments," the company said.

Two Visa competitors, Europay and Mastercard, said Tuesday they did not have specific information about their Russian turnover. And a third, American Express, said its turnover in Russia is "a secret."

Foreign Visa cardholders spent nearly a half a billion dollars in Russia last year, up some 17 percent over 1999.

The $495.6 million total for 2000 is a record for Visa in Russia, the company's representative office in Moscow said.

The top three spending countries were the United States, which charged $106 million here last year, followed by Britain, which spent $53.5 million, and Switzerland, $49 million.

Lou Naumovski, general director of Visa International in Russia, said in a press release that "through close cooperation with our member banks and investment into local payment card infrastructure … foreigners are [feeling more] comfortable using their cards here."

Russian banks polled Tuesday said that all their plastic card operations — charge, debit and ATM — were showing significant growth due to increased availability and security.

Igor Zotikov, who runs Rosbank's charge-card operations, said his bank issued 25 percent more cards last year than it did in 1999 and the volume of transactions increased 40 percent. "Despite the convenience of plastic cards, few people have them and the capacity of the Russian market is still huge," said Zotikov. But "the market is growing now and we are expecting further growth," he added.

Bank of Moscow plastic card chief Andrei Kuptsov said the volume of transactions using plastic doubled in Moscow last year.

"Confidence in banks is coming back," Kuptsov said. "Customers are now keeping arriving funds in their accounts, while in the aftermath of the 1998 financial crisis salaries were withdrawn immediately," he said.