Russian telecom offers bank cards linked to phone balance

In Russia, you can pay with a card, and have that funds charged to your phone bill.

Russian telecommunications operator MegaFon has announced a new feature to its subscribers, allowing them to pay for pretty much everything, and have it charged to their phone balance.  Together with Round (a Russian bank), it released a new MegaFon card that acts like a MasterCard (and is accepted wherever MasterCard is accepted). 

It links with the subscriber’s phone balance, so whenever a person uses the card for purchase, the amount is billed to their phone. According to MegaFon, this feature is the world’s first.  At rollout, which is due October 1, citizens of Moscow, St Petersburg, Yaroslavl, Tver, Kaliningrad, Murmansk, Archangel and Vologda can use the feature, with more locations coming soon.  

What’s also interesting is that users have been offered eight per cent interest rate for funds that remain in balance. Some locations offer a 10 per cent cash-back. The feature can also be used to send money without commission.  

“MegaFon has given its customers the unique opportunity to make free use of their mobile balance: pay for purchases, transfer money and earn interest. We already have more than 76 million subscribers; all they need to do is get a card, and with it, the key to the money on their mobile account,” said MegaFon CEO Sergey Soldatenkov.  

“The spread of cashless payments is good for business, consumers and the country overall – this is why in Russia we are making every effort for e-payments to replace cash, and for payment technologies to be as widely accessible as possible. At MasterCard, together with our partners, we create innovative solutions that make solving everyday issues easier,” said Alexey Malinovsky, General Manager of MasterCard in Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Armenia.  

“With the new MegaFon card, Russians have obtained a new interesting opportunity to go cashless – they can pay using funds from their mobile account, save money, get cash back and make purchases in one touch with MasterCard contactless in a fast and secure way.” In order to get one of these cards, a MegaFon subscriber needs to take their passport and head to the nearest MegaFon store. Each account can hold up to ten cards, which are free for subscribers using the All Inclusive tariffs. For other tariffs, the card’s cost starts at 99 rubles (£1,07).

Image Credit: Megafon