Plastic cards are not a popular payment method in Russia, though they are quickly growing in popularity. In addition to the global card brands (Visa/MasterCard/Diners/American Express) issued by Russian banks, there are local card schemes like Zolotaia Korona (Golden Crown) and UCI.
Russia has always been an extremely cash-oriented society and for this reason plastic cards are far from being popular there. Central Bank statistics show that ATM withdrawals account for the majority of card usage (90%). While the number of card accounts has reportedly grown in the recent years, the overall volume of card-based payments remains very low. Recent statistics have shown that in Q1/2012 the total value of the Russian card market reached $14 billion.
Card usage in Russia also varies by region: in larger cities (Moscow and surroundings, St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk) card payments are now widely accepted but still haven't become the payment standard. Large Moscow restaurants and most hotels accept card payments, but smaller venues traditionally only accept cash. Online payment acceptance follows after offline payments, so cards acceptance is usually supported by online stores that support other payment methods, namely local e-wallets (Qiwi, WebMoney etc).
That said, there is a clear understanding within the Russian financial establishment that in the near future, Russian society will use cashless payment mechanisms. For this reason, new card acquiring legislation is currently being debated which aims to make it mandatory for Russian retailers and service providers to accept card payments.
One of the major challenges of global merchants when paid by a card issued in Russia is low acceptance rate of these cards. Many of Russian cards are enabled for local use only and can't be processed by acquiring banks outside of Russia. There are dufferent reasons for this, high fraud volumes being one of them.
The situation with the local card schems develops rapidly. Recent legislative initiatives introduce changes to the Russian financial regulation in the areas related to card issuance.