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Banking In Russia
November 16, 2012 12:14


Russian banking sector these days consists of a number of major retail banks, both state-owned and privately held, as well as several smaller banks. In this article we will guide you through the process of opening a bank account in Russia.

How to open a bank account

The law generally stipulates that a foreign citizen can open a bank account in a Russian bank. It is likely to be a simple current account in which one’s Russian earnings can be transferred. A customer will need to explain this, as a banker may assume that the customer would like to apply for a credit card and turn them down.

Most banks issue either a Visa or a Maestro Card.

Note: international credit cards are accepted in Russia, and some ATMs dispense cash in foreign notes or show balance in dollars or euros.

To open a bank account in Russia, an individual will typically have to provide:

  • a passport;
  • a residence permit;
  • a signature card;
  • a filled-in application for a bank account.

If someone is applying on your behalf, they need to have a letter officially authorising them to carry business in your name. 

If a person is a representative of a business entity and want to open a company bank account, the following documents are required:

  • a passport;
  • a migration card (if needed);
  • a Tax Office permission to carry business in Russia;
  • an authorisation letter from the business owner;
  • a filled-in application for a bank account.

To open a current account in Russia, an individual does not have to provide any bills or tax payment evidence. This significantly simplifies the process for those who are new to the country. A current account may also come with a savings book, which will help to better manage money. The savings book is given on the day of application, a card may take up to 10 days to arrive through the post.

An account in dollars, euros, or rubles can be opened at practically any Russian bank. For other currencies, a customer needs to inquire with the bank.

A salary account is usually opened by a person’s employer, in which case an employee does not have a choice of the bank.

Online and telephone banking

Both options are very popular in Russia, especially online banking. An online banking interface allows a card holder to manage accounts, pay for utilities, telephone and the Internet, donate to charities, and so on. If for any reason a person cannot access Online Bank from a PC or Mac, they can use cash machines in the street, in stores and in the actual banks. Using an ATMs at the bank they can also deposit money into an account, in order to replenish a current account, to invest in savings, or to pay off a credit. In this case there is no need to fill in a deposit slip: money is fed into a cash machine port and instantly credited to the account.

Direct debits are also in use in Russia, although most people still choose to have one account from which they withdraw money to pay the bills. Alternatively, you can ask to open a basic current account from which to pay for utilities, taxes, phone, and the Internet. It will only have to be replenished regularly, to avoid a payment bounce.

Sberbank account holders with different accounts in the same name can access all accounts via the same Online Banking interface.

Dealing with a card loss

In the unfortunate instance of losing the cards or having them stolen, a person must urgently call the branch where their account has been opened and cancel the card. If the loss occurred out of the bank's working hours, or the banker's English is insufficient, call the general helpline specific to your bank and ask to talk to an English-speaker. In case of a theft, a person must also visit the police and file a report.

Credit cards and cheques

Cheques are not widely in use, and the two preferred methods of payment are by bank transfer or cash.

If a cheque needs to be cashed, the bank typically charges a commission that varies according to the sum and the currency of a cheque.

A foreign resident can apply for a credit card at a Russian bank. During the 2008 crisis banks all but stopped this service, but now it is available once again at some banks. The terms and conditions vary from bank to bank. In addition to a traditional credit check, a banker is likely to also run a “residency check”, to establish:

  • the size of the customer’s household; 
  • how long they have been living at their last address;  
  • what property and possessions they have in Russia; 
  • how long they plan to stay in Russia for. 

The amount of credit will depend on the above assessment. A decision is usually made instantly, although the card may not be issued straight away and will arrive through the post a week later. However, if a customer is not a permanent resident, the credit card is likely to expire together with their stay in Russia.

Services and Statements

As mentioned above, in Russia a bank account is a gateway to many services, among these:

  • utilities payments (water, gas, electricity);
  • the equivalent of a council tax; a car tax and other taxes;
  • Internet, TV, and telephone (landline and mobile numbers);
  • some types of insurance;
  • donation to charities;
  • credit payments;
  • account services (savings, card-to-card transfers, money deposits);
  • FOREX trading;
  • mortgage;
  • various types of deposit and savings accounts.

Eligibility for accounts and services needs to be confirmed with a bank. 

Reading a bank statement is actually very easy. A customer can request to receive statements by post (but they may take a while to arrive), email, or print them out at the ATM. There may be a charge for this service, at Sberbank it is RUB 30 (less than GBP 1).

A statement lists the latest transactions and withdrawals, with the dates and names of agents (e.g. ATM number, a shop name, a cafe etc.).

An account's balance (without transactions) can also be printed out at any time using an ATM. A fee may be applicable, which depends solely on the banker. Alternatively, Online Banking is an easy and convenient way of watching one’s incomings and outgoings.


Author: Anna Dorozhkina

Tags: banks business online banking credit cards bank account 

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