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The news today states that Visa and MasterCard have stopped international service with some Russian banks. Does anyone know how this will affect our credit card use in Russia on a Baltic cruise?

Thanks for any info.

Pat

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The news today states that Visa and MasterCard have stopped international service with some Russian banks. Does anyone know how this will affect our credit card use in Russia on a Baltic cruise?

Thanks for any info.

Pat

 

The article I read made it appear it's limited to two banks. Also, did not mention whether it impacted merchant services (which is what we'd be concerned about). Personally, I'm putting it in the category of "bears watching".

 

I will also assume that the tour provider will contact us if there will be an issue. Weighing whether to contact them just before we go to make sure - wondering if they might say there is an issue and ask us to pay cash, when there isn't. :)

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Three years ago our private guide required payment in crisp $100's. When we purchased lunch, our guide paid for our meal, and then we reimbursed her in US dollars. We made no major purchases, but in some of the artisan booths outside Catherine's Palace, we paid in Euros. I realize today is a different situation, I would probably check with your guide.

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Currently the US sanctions have impacted two banks but some in congress, the usual suspects, call for cutting all banking and money transfers to Russia. The EU will not go along with that but if the US orders VISA and MC to stop, it could be a problem for US citizens. I doubt anything so foolish as that would happen, cooler minds will surely have taken control by summer. Some tour operators have US accounts so those would be untouched since those are US transactions. For those companies that require payment on arrival, those would be no longer accepting credit cards since they have Russian bank accounts, and those who insist on cash probably do not even have bank accounts.

If paying cash, it means they are not reporting the transactions so it is fair to deduct the taxes they are not paying from your charge.

If your tour is all inclusive, there really is no need for money in St Petersburg unless you want to go shopping, if so, Rubles are the best currency since any other is illegal to do business with, as with almost all countries.

Don't expect any changes here, except possibly lower costs for cruises with ships trying to cover cancellations. The Ruble has been allowed to float for a few months so it sank in value gradually over that period to 36:$1 from 34:$1 but has been climbing back a bit, last week, it recovered its initial losses. That means tours that cost Rubles or use Ruble paid services like guides, venue tickets and vehicles are lower in cost compared to selling price in US dollars or euros. A couple tour operators have lower prices based on the exchange rate but some have increased for some reason.

The city is ready to welcome its guests so nothing regarding tours, museums or other features are going to reciprocate in sanctions. The only big change is the addition of another world class museum, the Faberge Museum, that is really a highlight. I visited a few months ago and it really is beautiful.

 

I know the ships have stepped up their annual campaign to discourage their passengers from booking tours with local companies and some will be taken in by it but those on CruiseCritic know better.

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Currently the US sanctions have impacted two banks but some in congress, the usual suspects, call for cutting all banking and money transfers to Russia. The EU will not go along with that but if the US orders VISA and MC to stop, it could be a problem for US citizens. I doubt anything so foolish as that would happen, cooler minds will surely have taken control by summer. Some tour operators have US accounts so those would be untouched since those are US transactions. For those companies that require payment on arrival, those would be no longer accepting credit cards since they have Russian bank accounts, and those who insist on cash probably do not even have bank accounts.

If paying cash, it means they are not reporting the transactions so it is fair to deduct the taxes they are not paying from your charge.

If your tour is all inclusive, there really is no need for money in St Petersburg unless you want to go shopping, if so, Rubles are the best currency since any other is illegal to do business with, as with almost all countries.

Don't expect any changes here, except possibly lower costs for cruises with ships trying to cover cancellations. The Ruble has been allowed to float for a few months so it sank in value gradually over that period to 36:$1 from 34:$1 but has been climbing back a bit, last week, it recovered its initial losses. That means tours that cost Rubles or use Ruble paid services like guides, venue tickets and vehicles are lower in cost compared to selling price in US dollars or euros. A couple tour operators have lower prices based on the exchange rate but some have increased for some reason.

The city is ready to welcome its guests so nothing regarding tours, museums or other features are going to reciprocate in sanctions. The only big change is the addition of another world class museum, the Faberge Museum, that is really a highlight. I visited a few months ago and it really is beautiful.

 

I know the ships have stepped up their annual campaign to discourage their passengers from booking tours with local companies and some will be taken in by it but those on CruiseCritic know better.

 

Thank you Stan .....this is really helpful information! The cost of the tours is pretty high - so it would mean carrying around more dollars on this trip than we would prefer. Therefore, we'd like to pay with CC.

 

I'm kind of confused (par for the course) on what has happen with the Ruble Xrate. Is it lower in value now - so that the provider's ruble costs in dollar terms are less - or has it recovered back to 34?

 

And, I would take it that except for the two banks, a US bank ATM card should still work in a Russian Bank's ATM, correct?

Edited by buggins0402
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All of Europe, Scandinavia and now Russia has switched to the chip and pin cards so some of your cards might not work here. My advise would be getting a debit card, which will work, requires a pin.

It is best to pay before you arrive, when you are home. There are several reasons for that. One is you know the rate and are not surprised by an unfavorable exchange rate your own bank applies, it is never in your favor. Another is that you have no recourse if a booked tour does not materialize. The booking contract requires some payment for it to be a contract. Most people understand that when reserving a flight or hotel, does not constitute an obligation to provide it until it is paid for. A number of tour operators advertise that they do not accept payment until the end of the first day or second day as if it is a "feature" when it only benefits them by not having a contract, so reimbursement from the bond posted with the federal tourism agencies is not impacted. Getting claims against it can really increase their costs and the reserve bond. It is not unheard of that small companies with limited resources, will take the better booking even if there is a proposed booking for that time. Every time I have been at the passenger terminals, there are stranded visitors bewildered by not having anyone show up. I have tried to assist tracking down their company or guide but it there is no payment there really is no contract so there is very little that can be done.

 

At the moment, 36.2450 Rubles = $1 Januarary 1 was 33=$1 The Ruble has been allowed to float since Nov 2013 when it was 32. The prediction at that time it would settle at 35 which was the central banks preferred level to help make Russian products more attractive for foreign trade. It had been kept strong and reduced inflation for several years but the decision to float it was for trade growth. So we have seen 10 minute spikes to 37 in the morning of March 2 and it has been oscillation between 36.2 to 36.6 since March 2 till now. The tours were priced last year when the ruble was stronger so the tour operators have received a windfall profit from the decline in the Ruble value of about 14% because their costs are in Rubles and income in dollars. I know of only one tour operator who lowered prices to reflect the difference in currency value, but they are American based and their card charging is all in the US, which makes all this concern over Russian charging of cards a non-issue.

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All of Europe, Scandinavia and now Russia has switched to the chip and pin cards so some of your cards might not work here. My advise would be getting a debit card, which will work, requires a pin.

 

So the usual US ATM card that requires a pin and works in most European banks ATM's will work? We have scheduled an "Evening Your Way" "tour" after our day tour. Our intention is to make it as independent as legally possible - basically strolling Nevsky Prospect.

It is best to pay before you arrive, when you are home. There are several reasons for that. One is you know the rate and are not surprised by an unfavorable exchange rate your own bank applies, it is never in your favor. Another is that you have no recourse if a booked tour does not materialize. The booking contract requires some payment for it to be a contract. Most people understand that when reserving a flight or hotel, does not constitute an obligation to provide it until it is paid for. A number of tour operators advertise that they do not accept payment until the end of the first day or second day as if it is a "feature" when it only benefits them by not having a contract, so reimbursement from the bond posted with the federal tourism agencies is not impacted. Getting claims against it can really increase their costs and the reserve bond.

This won't be an issue with some of the larger Tour companies - will it? It seems to cut both ways - if for some reason the ship doesn't make port the cruiser has not prepaid

 

It is not unheard of that small companies with limited resources, will take the better booking even if there is a proposed booking for that time. Every time I have been at the passenger terminals, there are stranded visitors bewildered by not having anyone show up. I have tried to assist tracking down their company or guide but it there is no payment there really is no contract so there is very little that can be done.

 

At the moment, 36.2450 Rubles = $1 Januarary 1 was 33=$1 The Ruble has been allowed to float since Nov 2013 when it was 32. The prediction at that time it would settle at 35 which was the central banks preferred level to help make Russian products more attractive for foreign trade. It had been kept strong and reduced inflation for several years but the decision to float it was for trade growth. So we have seen 10 minute spikes to 37 in the morning of March 2 and it has been oscillation between 36.2 to 36.6 since March 2 till now. The tours were priced last year when the ruble was stronger so the tour operators have received a windfall profit from the decline in the Ruble value of about 14% because their costs are in Rubles and income in dollars. I know of only one tour operator who lowered prices to reflect the difference in currency value, but they are American based and their card charging is all in the US, which makes all this concern over Russian charging of cards a non-issue.

 

LOL! It seems that capitalism is alive and well among the tour providers. I had noticed ours increased prices since we have booked. So with the Ruble falling in value and the price increase they have a 20% improvement to their bottom line.:)

 

After you posted about the Xrate movement - I checked on Bloomberg - it really has moved.

 

http://www.bloomberg.com/quote/USDRUB:CUR/chart

Edited by buggins0402
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