The banking sector in Russia has a contentious history that has led to much distrust for banks among the local population. The crisis of 1998 and years of unattractive interest rates were enough incentive for the majority of Russians to favour the space beneath their mattress to the alleged security of bank accounts. That mentality is certainly changing but, nonetheless, it's recommended that expats consider banking in Russia carefully.
Money in Russia
The official currency in Russia is the Ruble, which is abbreviated as RUB. Each ruble is divided into 100 kopecks.
Notes: 5 RUB, 10 RUB, 50 RUB, 100 RUB, 500 RUB, 1,000 RUB and 5,000 RUB
Coins: 10 kopecks and 50 kopecks, 10 RUB
It is illegal to pay for products or services in Russia with USD or EUR, even if the price is marked as such. Currency exchange offices can be found at airports, major hotels, train stations and on city streets. Do not change money outside of reputable, established entities, as it likely to be a scam.
Banking in Russia
Many Russian households don't have bank accounts, and the banking sector is small and remains somewhat fragmented. That said, there are a number of major banks in Russia, most of them state-run, that have made major strides in advancing their services and offering more modern options, such as contactless payments and app-based banking. Despite this, expats that choose to use local banks often send their savings abroad while maintaining a small Russian account for daily living purposes.
Banking hours vary, but are normally from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday. Some banks are also open from 9am to 3pm on Saturdays.
Opening a bank account
Opening a bank account in Russia can be a frustrating experience. The language barrier can compound issues and it's advised that expats bring a local friend or interpreter with them. The main problem expats face in opening a bank account is obtaining proper documentation. If possible, expats should do this properly ahead of time to minimise any stressful interactions.
Most banks require a copy of an expat's passport, visa and a minimum cash deposit. Some banks will also require a letter from an employer and proof of residence.
Expats should choose the branch at which they open their account carefully, as they may have to return to this branch specifically to manage account operations.
ATMs and credit cards
ATMs (bankomats) are widely available in Russian towns and cities in almost every metro station and shopping mall. Expats are also able to draw rubles from a Russian ATM using a foreign bank card.
Russia is still largely a cash-based society, especially outside of the main city centres. Within all major urban centres, most establishments will accept credit cards. Although expats are able to get a credit card from a Russian bank, many of these establishments are still reluctant to issue credit cards to foreigners.
Expats using credit cards in Russia should do so with extreme care as credit card fraud is still common in the country.
Taxes in Russia
Expats living in Russia will be deemed tax residents if they spend at least 183 days in the country in a single calendar year. Those who spend less than 183 days will be deemed tax non-residents.
Tax residents are taxed at a flat rate on their worldwide income, while those deemed tax non-residents are taxed a higher percentage of only their Russian income. This amount is automatically deducted from wages, but it’s still necessary to file tax returns by 30 April for the previous tax year.
Expats should also find out if a tax treaty exists between their home country and Russia. If there is a double taxation treaty in place expats are exempt from paying taxes to both countries. It's best to get professional advice on Russian taxation, as the rules may change with little notice and it can be easy to fall foul of the law in this area.