In Russia, they stopped promoting the Mir system. Still no competition

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The National System of Payment Cards stopped paying banks for promoting Mir cards. Banking industry experts explain this decision by the fact that after the departure of the international payment systems Visa and Mastercard, there are no competitors left in the Russian market.

The world doesn’t need advertising

The National Payment Card System (NSPK) has reduced funding for the marketing budget, which was previously allocated to banks to promote Mir cards. RBC writes about this, citing sources in credit institutions. The information was confirmed by representatives of the NSPK.

“Representatives of the payment system openly said that they don’t need it now, since there is no competition on the market,” a source in one of the banks said, adding that now the costs for these purposes will fall on banking organizations.

Budgets have also been curtailed for joint PR activities of the NSPK with banks, the purpose of which was to encourage customers to switch to the domestic payment system. The operator generously funded the promotion of Mir cards of various categories, advertising, promotions within the framework of loyalty programs – for example, cashback or discounts, drawing tickets for various events sponsored by Mir.

The Mir system has been operating since December 2015

The NSPK clarified that the approach to marketing was revised, but “they increased the volume of investments in the development of the opportunities that Russian payment instruments provide to the residents of the country.”

At the same time, according to the industry publication AdIndex, we are not talking about such big money. Thus, the NSPK advertising budget in 2021 reached 326 million rubles. For comparison: at Sberbank it was 14.6 billion rubles, at VTB – 4.6 billion rubles, at Tinkoff Bank – 4 billion rubles, Alfa-Bank – 3.2 billion rubles.

History of “Mir”

The Russian payment system “Mir” became the country’s response to US sanctions after the annexation of Crimea. In the spring of 2014, Mastercard and Visa payment systems blocked all card transactions of a number of Russian banks, including Sobinbank, Investkapitalbank, SMP Bank and Rossiya Bank. In April 2014, the State Duma adopted a law on the National Payment System. Six months later, Visa and Mastercard officially completed work in Crimea and Sevastopol.

The Mir system has been operating since December 2015, and since that time all transactions with Visa and Mastercard cards have been processed through the NSPK. In May 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law according to which the payment of pensions, scholarships and salaries of civil servants is made to the cards of the domestic payment system.

“The reduction in NSPK marketing looks completely logical and expected. NSPK with their Mir card actually became a monopolist in the Russian market, – the expert in the field of financial technologies and electronic payments told CNews Alexander Voskoboynikov. – In addition, Visa and Mastercard incurred the costs of popularizing bank cards among the population 10-15 years ago. Now there are no global competitors, and Mir is reaping the fruits of their labors.”

How did Visa and Mastercard go?

In March 2022, after the start of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, Visa and Mastercard left the country. Previously issued cards work in the country, but under the control of the NSPK, which processes all transactions within the country. According to Voskoboinikov, technologically the current Russian Visa and Mastercard cards are technologically no different from the Mir card, and will be replaced by the Mir card when the statute of limitations expires.

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Outside of Russia, these cards do not work, as well as Mir cards, which are accepted only in a number of countries, for example, Belarus, Turkey, Armenia, and Vietnam.

“Mir operates only in the so-called friendly countries – these are a number of Central Asian states, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and the unrecognized republics: South Ossetia and Abkhazia,” Associate Professor of the Department of Economics at the North-Western Institute of Management of the RANEPA, Candidate of Economic Sciences explained to CNews Artem Golubev. – There is talk that Thailand and Egypt will join the system, but this is not certain yet. Therefore, Russians are now trying to get Visa and Mastercard cards in Belarus or Kazakhstan or get cards from the Chinese UnionPay payment system to travel abroad.”

The boycott of Russia by Visa and MasterCard means that domestic banks will no longer issue new cards linked to these systems – everyone who needs to replace a card or issue a new one must switch to the Russian Mir payment system.

The statistical bulletin of the Central Bank reported that in the first quarter of 2022, the number of issued bank cards for individuals in Russia increased by 12 million, to 341 million. This is the highest increase in the number of cards since 2012, and industry representatives attribute increased demand to active registration Mir and UnionPay cards. Thus, Dom.RF Bank reported that the number of Mir cards issued in 2022 increased five times compared to 2021.

Chinese UnionPay – not a competitor?

Thus, of the payment systems in Russia, only Mir remained working, as well as the Chinese China UnionPay, whose cards are issued by some banks.

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“This is the only alternative card payment system in Russia that remains,” Voskoboynikov said. – UnionPay may come in handy for trips abroad, but with the issuance of such cards in Russia, not everything is completely clear yet. Either the issuance of cards costs 50,000 rubles, or it is suspended because CHUP is afraid of secondary sanctions, or some banks ask for proof of travel abroad to issue a card … In general, who should increase marketing costs in Russia is CHUP. On the other hand, they have another monopolized market that is many times larger than Russia, so it is unlikely that we will see Chinese creative campaigns.”

Angela Patrakova

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