23 Dec 2022 14:47

VTB Kazakhstan starts issuing virtual Mir cards, plastic planned in Q1

ASTANA. Dec 23 (Interfax) - VTB Kazakhstan has started to issue virtual Mir cards for its retail customers.

"Our customers can use Mir cards in the VTB KZ Online app, make online purchases and receive money transfers from Mir cards issued by other banks. VTB Kazakhstan will start issuing plastic Mir cards in the first quarter of 2023," the bank said.

Depositing money into a virtual card account can be done through a transfer from the client's banking app, via a transfer from another Mir card or a third-party bank, or through ATMs or bank cash desks.

"The quality of banking services and timely financial solutions remain our top priority. Understanding the importance of providing access to Mir accounts, we continue to fully support Mir cards in Kazakhstan. This year we have doubled our ATM network to accept Mir cards. Today we issue a virtual Mir card to allow our customers to make online transactions. At the beginning of next year, we will be issuing plastic Mir cards," VTB Kazakhstan retail director Stanislav Kozyakov said.

VTB Kazakhstan supports both Mir cards issued by any bank without limits on withdrawals or the number of transactions.

The cash withdrawal fee on the Mir virtual card issued by VTB Kazakhstan at ATMs and bank outlets is 1% and at other Kazakhstan and foreign banks is 2%. The minimum fee is 500 tenge.

VTB plans to maintain a presence in China, India, Vietnam, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, where branches and subsidiaries will give it a stable channel of communication with friendly countries, VTB chief Andrei Kostin said at the beginning of September.

Kazakh banks have received permission from the United States Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to conduct transactions with the payment cards of Russia's Mir system, the press service of Kazakhstan's Agency for Regulation and Development of the Financial Market said in a statement.

"On December 8, 2022, regulators received a letter from OFAC, in which the U.S. agency explained that it did not object to individuals using the bank cards of the Mir system, namely citizens who have migrated from Russia to Kazakhstan, in order to conduct transactions that ensure their livelihoods," according to the statement.

"At the same time, the letter notes that transactions with this payment system remain under special control in order to prevent its use to circumvent sanctions imposed against Russia," the agency said.

It was also reported that decisions to connect to the Mir system are made by Kazakh banks independently on the basis of their own development strategies and internal risk assessment systems.

OFAC warned on September 15 that non-U.S. banks concluding agreements with Russia's National Payment System, the operator of Mir cards, were at risk of circumventing U.S. sanctions by broadening the use of Mir cards outside Russia. The clarification stated that the NPCS itself was not on any sanctions lists. However, at the same time as it published this document OFAC included NPCS chief executive Vladimir Komlev in its sanctions list.

After the OFAC warning, banks in Turkey, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan completely or partially stopped accepting Mir cards.

Information about the countries where Mir cards are accepted is not currently available on the NPCS website. As of the beginning of September, Mir cards were accepted in 11 countries: Turkey, Vietnam, South Korea, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The possibility of accepting the cards is also being worked out with Cuba, Egypt and Venezuela.

VTB Kazakhstan ranked 18th by assets among the 22 second-tier banks operating in Kazakhstan as of July 1, 2022, according to the National Bank.