Travelling with a bank card is normal in 2023. Not only it saves time when booking transport and accomodation online but it also makes things so much easier if one doesn’t speak the local language properly.
I often buy my bus and train tickets online because I absolutely hate queuing in Russia (I’m a Westerner, my personal space is sacred).
As someone who travel for long periods of time around Russia, it was important for me to get a local MIR debit card. Tinkoff appeared to be the most accessible and easiest one to get.
In this post I will explain you how to get a Tinkoff MIR debit card, share my personal experience with the Tinkoff bank and using the card in Russia.
Last updated : 01/09/2023
What is MIR payment system ?
MIR is a Russian made payment system established between 2015 and 2017 by the state Central Bank following a bunch of western sanctions. It became the main card payment system in Russia in 2022 when Visa and Mastercard suspended their operations in the country.
Tinkoff, the debit card for foreigners
You may wonder “but what is Tinkoff?” Long story short, Tinkoff is a neobank founded by Oleg Tinkov in the mid 2000’s. The bank doesn’t have any physical branches, only a few offices in Moscow and operates exclusively online.
It is extremely popular across Russia. Litterally everybody I know has a Tinkoff card.
Oleg Tinkov sold the last parts of his company earlier this year after publicly criticizing the SMO in Ukraine.
“Tinkoff black : debit card for foreigners” is the bank’s slogan. Can’t be more clear than that, right ?
Tinkoff offers a simple debit card with the MIR payment system and an online access of the bank account through the App.
How to open a Tinkoff account ?
Tinkoff is a neobank so you can open a bank account directly online, it takes only a few minutes to apply and a couple of days to receive the card wherever you are in Russia. The card is easily topped up at one of the many Tinkoff ATMs with immediate deposit on the account.
Learn how to open a Tinkoff account in a few steps !
Fill up the first phase of application form
Go to the application form (in english) on the Tinkoff website.
#1 Choose cashback categories that suit you best
– Taxi is the Yandex Taxi App
– Ozon is a russian e-commerce platform like Amazon
– Pyaterochka is a popular supermarket chain
#2 Enter your full name
Write down your full names (first names if more than one and last name) like shown on your passport. Accents on letters aren’t accepted.
E.g. my name is Noémie (french), I wrote down Noemie without the accent.
#3 Enter your email address
#4 Enter your phone number
Write down your phone number even. You will be able to change it later.
#5 Enter your date of birth
Write down your date of birth in the D/M/Y format
#6 Enter your nationality
Select “Not a Russian national“
#7 Select RUB and the MIR payment system
Note : Tinkoff stopped operations in euros since April. Maybe they did at the time of write or will do as well for US dollars.
#8 Click Apply
Confirm your phone number
Enter the confirmation code you receive by text. That’s why it’s important to have a valid phone number next to you.
Wait for the bank to contact you
The bank should contact you within two working days to set up an appointment with one of their staff and deliver you the MIR card.
Download the Tinkoff App
Meanwhile, download the Tinkoff App. It has an english interface.
Meet with a Tinkoff representative
One of the bank’s representative will come and meet you in the next couple of days weither you stay in an flat, hotel or hostel. You will need your passport, visa (if applies) and immigration card. The person will take a picture of everything, make you sign a few documents and give you an enveloppe where you will find your Tinkoff Black debit card, a card holder and your contract.
Go to the nearest Tinkoff ATM to top up your balance
To top up with balance, find the nearest Tinkoff ATM (they can all be found on the map in the Tinkoff App) and top up with however much roubles you want. It will be immediately deposit on your account and your card ready to use.
How to top up a Tinkoff card with cash ?
Now that you have the card, it’s time to top it up with actual money. There’s nothing easier, admitting that you have russian roubles in cash.
Find the location of one of the many ATMs through the App, top up your debit card with however much money you want and it will immediately appear on your account.
Note : None of the ATMs I’ve tried last summer 2022 had an english language option. Hopefully an english interface will son be available like on the App.
If you don’t really speak russian but can read (a must if you ask me), it is fairly easy anyway. See the pictures bellow.
Special mention about Crimea : There are no Tinkoff ATMs in Crimea but you can use any local bank ATM to top up your card. I used RNKB bank (РНКБ Банк) to top up mine, it worked just the same without any extra fees.
My personal experience with Tinkoff
In the summer 2022, I spent 3 months in Russia. I really wanted a bank card to book my accomodations and especially my bus and train tickets online (queuing in Russia with zero personal space is my worst nightmare).
To be honest, I would not have gotten a card if I was only staying a week or so in the same city, but in my case I travelled all around the Krasnodar Krai and Crimea for 3 months and a MIR bank card was very helpul.
I ordered my Tinkoff card the day I arrived, a sunday evening exactly. I received it the following tuesday, so two days later. A young woman named Alexandra came directly to my hostel in Sochi, we did the paperwork right in her car. She spoke very decent english to answer my few specific questions and show me around the App.
The whole process took 10 minutes and I got my brand new Tinkoff card with the MIR payment system ready to make my travels in Russia simpler.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can foreigners open bank accounts in Russia ?
Yes. Check out this article to learn how to open a Tinkoff account.
Can I withdraw money in Russia ?
With a Visa or Mastercard issued outside of Russia, no you can’t. With a russian MIR card, yes. You can withdraw money all across the Russian Federation and a dozen of other countries.
How much cash can I bring to Russia ?
A maximum of 10 000 US$ or € is allowed to be taken into Russia without customs declaration. Bigger amounts must be declared on arrival & departure of the country.
Where can a MIR card be used?
– In Russia : pretty much anywhere, in shops, metro, buses … You should see the contactless sign along with the MIR sign on the machines inside the transports or metro entry doors.
– Online : Every russian websites such as accomodation booking platforms (Yandex travel or Ostrovok when a prepayment is required) , the russian national railways company RZD, airplane booking platforms including the airlines’ websites etc.
– Abroad : The MIR payment system can be used in +10 countries. Many started accepting these russian made cards to boost their tourism such as Turkey, Armenia or Egypt. According to some News sources, a few of these countries have suspended the use of MIR quickly, following Western pressures.
If you have any extra questions, I would hightly suggest to ask directly to Tinkoff but first check their official page, you might find all of the answers.
Let me know in the comments if this How to open a Tinkoff account guide has been helpful to you and feel free to add anything else and share your own experience
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