- Centurion Member
- Posts: 284
- Joined: Wed Apr 09, 2014 9:40 pm
- Location: Lawton, ok
I just returned from ten days in Russia and I thought some may be interested in the credit card situation there.
First and foremost, visa and MasterCard by far seemed to be the dominant payment networks. I used my Amex, but mostly just at the hotels and extra touristy areas and higher end shopping spots like GUM and tSUM. Because you have to carry your passport with you at all times as a foreigner (a police officer may always check your "papers") I only carried two cards with me, as my passport wallet has two card slots. I chose to go with my PRG and my Aviator MC. PRG for when I could get away with using it, and the Aviator for both the MC acceptance and the fact it supported a PIN.
Chip cards are most definitely useful there, even if it's just chip and sig. While I'm sure many places would have been CAPABLE of doing a swipe if forced, they were certainly not inclined to do so. As a matter of fact, my friend and I were regularly told when sitting down in restaurants and cafes that their card machines weren't working, and they could only take cash. While I'm not positive, I'm pretty sure this was because they didn't want to del with our American credit cards and their need for a signature, and possibly a swipe. Those mobile chip card readers so prevalent in Western Europe are common in Eastern Europe as well.
The aviator card was awesome as it enabled me to use the unmanned ticket kiosks at all the attractions I visited. The lines at the ticket offices always seemed long. But the kiosks were generally deserted. Most of them supported English, so having a chip and pin card let me skip a lot of line waiting. One odd thing happened at the kiosk for the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg. It accepted my card no problem, but then printed out a signature receipt as well as a payment receipt. Obviously being a kiosk there was nobody to give my signed receipt to so I wasn't sure exactly what to do with that, but it spat out my tickets as well and they scanned properly so I'm not sure what happened there. It never asked for a PIN.
Aside from the museum kiosks, I used the aviator at the Saint Petersburg metro token/card machine as well. Again no issue, it prompted me for a pin and spat out a card. I never tried it in the Moscow metro kiosks because they seemed to be Russian language only, so I signed my way to an entry card with a live person. Same with the post office kiosks. No English.
While I primarily used cash in country, I did go out of my way to use credit at a few spots just to get a feel for acceptance. Hopefully this info is useful to somebody looking to travel to the region in the future. On a non credit card related note, I really encourage you to. It's easy to discount Russia as a vacation spot because it's Eastern Europe, but Saint Petersburg is truly beautiful, and Moscow is an amazing and unique city. The people are generally friendly, the streets felt safe, and enjoy talking with Americans.
Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard
AMEX Everyday Preferred
Chase Sapphire Preferred
NFCU nRewards Visa