Cashless Payments during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™

 July 18th, 2018

Cashless Payments: Short-Lived or a Normality?


Russia, the world’s largest country by landmass, spanning over 11 time zones and two continents, hosted an incredible World Cup this year. The tournament surprised the most of us, with promising contenders such as ‘die Mannschaft’ (Germany) failing to survive the group stage, the Belgian Red Devils upsetting the ‘Seleção’ (Brazil) in the Quarter Finals, and Croatia reaching the World Cup final for the very first time. In the end, it was France who lifted the trophy after a breathtaking six-goal final.

For one month, all eyes worldwide were focused on Russia and football. Now that the World Cup has come to an end, many might ask themselves what Russia’s society is like. After all, Russia has evolved from a communist nation to the new capitalist Russia and so did the country’s economy. Can its payment culture and infrastructure surprise us? At optile, we can’t help but wonder what payments truly are like in Russia.

Visa, Cashless Payments, and Wearables

Visa, the official financial services partner of FIFA and Alfa Bank, a regional sponsor of this year’s edition, facilitated cashless spending and provided a seamless payment experience throughout the 2018 World Cup in Russia. As well as equipping venues with more than 3,500 point-of-sale terminals and 1,000 mobile concessionaires, Visa enabled contactless payments with Visa credit and debit cards across all stadiums. With the introduction of new contactless payment technologies, which included wearables in the form of wristbands and rings, cashless payments in Russia were experienced like never before. According to an analysis that Visa released on the 13th of July, 2018, contactless technology powered 50 percent of purchases at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. Ekaterina Petelina, country manager at Visa Russia, commented: “The Russian payment industry is undergoing a dynamic transformation and has seen huge growth.”

An Accommodative Russia

More than 100,000 Chinese football fans visited this year’s World Cup. Russia was well-prepared since Chinese tourists were able to pay using their favorite messaging app WeChat. The implementation of WeChat Pay in retail outlets is quite recent – the first Russian retail outlets started accommodating WeChat Pay in January 2018.

optile’s Insider Perspective

In order to gain a deeper understanding of what payments truly are like in Russia, one must experience it. optile was lucky enough to do so firsthand. While enjoying exciting football matches, Kathrin Pamp, Senior Account Manager at optile, was positively surprised with how advanced payments in Russia are.  She was able to pay contactless pretty much everywhere, whether she went for a dinner or took the metro down-town, her Rubles were kept untouched and her PINs uncompromised.

One of our Product Managers, Georgy Kopanitsa, noticed that payments in Russia are much more advanced than some EU countries: “Comparing Russia to Germany, I’d say Russia is more open in terms of adopting payment innovations. Russians show readiness, and, more importantly, willingness to use new ways of payments.”

We asked Georgy, who is from Russian descent, about his experience as an expat visiting his home country during the World Cup. “Everywhere, no matter if you’re buying a bottle of water at a street kiosk or taking a bus ride, you’ll be able to pay cashless. For example, I visited the city of Tomsk and was even able to pay by credit card for some local delicacies at a street market. Are you neither carrying cash nor your payment cards? In Russia there are retail stores that accept an online bank transfer at the point of sale. This only shows that Russians are flexible and uncomplicated when it comes to payments. “

"Russians show readiness, and, more importantly, willingness to use new ways of payments."

A Surprisingly Open Payment Culture

At first glance, Russia seems like a country that is very open to adopt new payment technologies. However, do not forget that cultural and ethnic diversity are indispensable features of a heterogeneous and large country such as Russia. This has its impact on the nation’s payment culture, with cashless payment adoption and payment innovation differing strongly between big, cosmopolitan cities and smaller, providential ones. For instance, in Russia’s major cities, you can easily go about your day cashless: you can pay for your morning commute coffee with your Starbucks wallet or use your debit card for a contactless payment after your lunch at a restaurant. Outside of the larger cities on the other hand, mobile and contactless payments are rarely accommodated by local stores, whilst restaurants and hotels don’t always accept international cards.

However, undeniable is the fact that geographic, cultural and demographic factors play an important role in the adoption of cashless payments – it is a truly enormous country. Nevertheless, Russia’s willingness and flexibility to adopt payment innovations proves the country’s readiness for transformation of its payment landscape to the entire world.

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