Thirty-five Russian banks have agreed to participate in the launch of a new national payments card intended to challenge the dominance of Visa and MasterCard.
So far, seven of the banks have tested the basic functions of the new' Mir' card in their infrastructure for cash withdrawal and deposits through ATMs, payment for goods and services, and fund transfers between cards. Another group of banks is to complete tests by the end of 2015.
The Bank of Russia holds 100% of the shares of the National Payment Card System, which was founded in July 2014 at the behest of President Vladimir Putin in response to US and EU sanctions which saw MasterCard and Visa cut off services to several of the country's banks.
Olga Skorobogatova, deputy chair of the Bank of Russia, says: "In a year and a half we have been able to create not only a national payment system, but also to solve two strategic objectives. First, we transmitted the processing of major international payment systems to the NPCS operation clearinghouse. The second objective is the issuing of our own national card.”
The new cards will bear the branding of MasterCard, JCB and American Express under a 'co-badging' agreement to ease their acceptance in the market during the pilot phase and to allow for transactions in overseas markets
The central bank commemorated the first issue of Mir cards with a silver coin depicting the cards in a denomination of 3 rubles.