Apple Pay and Google Pay suspends Russia with financial banks hit by sanctions

Insider reports that many Russian bank customers are no longer able to use their bank cards with Google Pay and Apple Pay due to new financial sanctions imposed on Russia. The two are both US-based online payment methods.

 Apple Pay is an online platform accessible on a number of Apple devices such as the iPhone and  Apple Watch. This digital wallet allows users to make purchases with their device instead of credit card or cash first. Google Pay is also a digital wallet platform, allowing users to buy, transfer and pay to multiple merchants that require payment.

 Due to the suspension of Google Pay and Apple Pay, there are affected financial institutions including VTB Group, Sovcombank, Novikombank, Promsvyazbank, and Otkritie FC Bank, according to a press release from the Central Bank of Russia.

Customers may continue to use these institutions’ bank cards in Russia, but they will no longer work abroad or make online payments in stores and services owned by countries that have imposed sanctions against Russia. This includes card payments, but the Central Bank says it can still be used as a bank card itself, provided contactless payments are supported.

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, several countries imposed financial sanctions. According to Ursula von der Leyen, chairman of the European Commission, the sanctions imposed by the European Union (EU) target 70% of the Russian banking network. The US imposed sanctions on Russia’s two largest financial institutions, Sberbank and VTB, and the UK froze all the assets of the other five Russian banks.

Statistics show that in 2020, the most popular online payment service in Russia was the Russian-owned Sberbank Online, followed by the two most popular Russian online banks, YooMoney (formerly Yandex Money) and QIWI. At the time, 29% of Russians reported using Google Pay and 20% using Apple Pay, but this does not explain its popularity as a form of contactless payment. 

The possibility of excluding Russian banks from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) interbank system could lead to currency fluctuations that would further damage the country’s economy.