The Russian search giant Yandex yesterday announced a new step toward integrating its electronic currency, Yandex.Dengi – which translates as Yandex.Money – with bank systems. Users of this virtual currency can now obtain a MasterCard debit card tied to their Yandex.Dengi account and make payments using funds from Yandex.Dengi.

The co-branded card can be used worldwide online and offline, wherever MasterCard is accepted. In addition, authenticated Yandex.Dengi users can withdraw cash from ATMs using a PIN code available upon request.

The card is available to Yandex.Dengi customers anywhere in the world and can be ordered free of charge at the Yandex.Dengi website.

The Yandex.Dengi card is issued for a three-year period with no service or transaction fees (except a 3%-plus-15 rubles fee for cash withdrawals). Users can track their transactions at the Yandex.Money website or via SMS alerts.

The card is issued by the Tinkoff Credit Systems bank, a partner of Yandex.

Yandex began integrating its virtual currency with bank cards as early as July 2010, when it made a virtual MasterCard available to customers. This card could be used only for online purchases, but became a useful tool for Russian Internet shoppers on foreign sites such as Amazon and eBay.

In February of last year Yandex.Dengi customers became eligible to register their bank cards to make online purchases using Yandex.Dengi – an arrangement similar to the one PayPal offers its users.

Yandex went even further last February, when it enabled fund transfers from Yandex.Dengi accounts to any bank accounts with a Visa or MasterCard card.

Although cash remains by far the most widely used payment method in both offline and online retail, electronic payments have developed at a remarkable pace over the last few years in Russia. Mobile operators have launched payment systems that go far beyond the settlement of bills, while offline payment terminal operator Qiwi has developed its electronic wallet system into a full-fledged competitor with traditional e-currencies such as Yandex.Dengi and WebMoney.

All these payment operators have sought integration with bank accounts and bank cards. The latest example is Megafon, a major mobile operator which last December introduced a new virtual payment card in association with Visa.

Among other recent movers is Rostelecom, the national telecom operator, which has teamed up with Mastercard to issue the first bank card with e-government access.

  • RUSSIAN E-COMMERCE REPORT 2012 – The total volume of Russian online retail reached 310 billion rubles, a little more than $10 billion, in 2011, up 25% from the previous year. EWDN’s research study of Russian e-commerce, which includes an analysis of payment systems, will be available soon. To receive free insights or to order the full version, please contact us at editor@ewdn.com.