Can anyone provide me information on using debit & credit cards in St. Petersburg or Moscow? My wife and I are taking a Viking River Cruise at the end of the month and have received mixed information on how best to get cash.
If at all possible, use your debit cards at ATMs to withdraw cash and use the cash where you can. Some smaller businesses won't be able to process a debit transaction and there is also a lot of known fraud with some transactions. Your debit card will work the same at the ATMs as here- although you probably won't be able to access your savings accounts and you might be doing your transaction in Russian. Most ATMs will have an English button to choose, but in my case I'd sometimes miss that step or press the wrong button. Doing the transaction in Russian was still pretty easy. The bigger stores in Moscow and St Petes will take your credit card with no problem. Again, if you go to the open markets or to small businesses, you might have trouble. Definitely get your cash from the ATMs!
You will LOVE your river cruise! Even on our flight to Moscow, we could start to feel the difference in culture (as our final flight from Amsterdam to Moscow was on a Russian staffed plane). Moscow and St Petes have such different vibes from each other, they aren't similar at all. If you get the chance, take a canal cruise in St Petersburg. It was probably one of the favorite things I did!
We had no problems using the Atms in St. Petersburg, though we mainly used the ones at the main banks. Credit cards were very easy to use for most restaurants and main sites. Again, we experienced no difficulty there or afterwards.
We had some problem using our credit cards here and there e.g. I bought a fairly expensive amber necklace and the jewelry store system would not accept the credit card. (there is a huge amount of credit card fraud in Russia) I had to go to an ATM and get cash for the purchase. We never had any problem using ATMs and usually not using credit cards at hotels and restaurants and such. I used ATMs in bank vestibules for security.
Thanks to all for your comments -- I feel much better.
There's no any significant differences between using a debit/credit cards in Russia and EU countries. You can use any MasterCard/Visa card, no matter what kind of the bank issuer. Of course, you may have some additional commissions so you should check out your bank tariffs.
Btw, offline card fraud in Russia isn't common (unlike internet card fraud). Of course you're have a chance to faced with ATMs with the skimmers so the rightest way - cash out your money at the ATMs in the bank branches.
I have used Master Card in Moscow and did not get any problem. But still, I had cash with me, just in case.
What kind of "mixed information" have you received? Seems there's always somebody out there ready to give travelers a "my friend told me..." story which usually amounts to nothing. Russia is the same as the rest of Europe.
1) Alert your credit union/bank/institution that you'll be using your debit and credit card overseas.
2) Use debit card or atm card to withdraw cash from ATMs
3) Use your CREDIT card if you purchase something using a card
That's about all you really need to do/know about using your cards in Russia.
We visited Russia in 2011 and had no problems using Visa or MasterCard, but AmEx only in a few places in St. Pete. Got Rubles from ATMs.
I would not use a debit card in a shop or outside an ATM.