ArmInfo. The pilot launch of the project on compatibility of Armenian Card payment system and Russian MIR national payment system will take place by late summer 2017, Armenian Card CEO Ishkhan Mkhitaryan says in an interview with ArmInfo's correspondent. He notes that by late summer the national ArCa cards will be used outside Armenia and the MIR cards will be served by Armenian banks.
"I would say that this is a very serious project and it is technically complicated. Much work is to be done in terms of regulatory agreements, intersystem agreements, standards, rules and system requirements. The intersystem interaction between our two national payment systems is the first practice within the CIS," he stresses, noting that the tariff policy will be guided by the principles of competitiveness, because otherwise the project itself will be unprofitable for both the Armenian and Russian sides, not to mention the users. "If there is no economic expediency, we have nothing to talk about. As you know, by the end of the year all Russian state employees are to receive MIR cards. This is a great number of people. Given the expected big inflow of tourists to Armenia from Russia due to the reduced air ticket prices and the signing of an agreement on visits with Russian national identity documents, the MIR cards will become a real means of payment," he says.
"Due to the fact that this is an intersystem cooperation and that we are a national system, almost the entire card infrastructure of Armenia that serves ArCa will serve the MIR cards. That is to say, all the banks operating in our processing center will automatically start serving the Russian payment system. The banks will not have to exert special efforts to that end," Mkhitaryan explains.
To note, the agreement of intent between CJSC "Armenian Card" (operator of ArCa payment system) and JSC "National System of Payment Cards" (operator of Mir payment system) was signed on 3 June 2016. The document envisages mutual servicing of the ArCa and Mir cards in the payment infrastructures of their participants.
According to Armenian Card, 15 out of the 17 banks of Armenia are participants in the Armenian national payment system. The remaining two banks are Mellat Bank (the Iranian Mellat Bank's subsidiary) and ArmSwissBank that specializes in investment banking and issues no cards.
The Central Bank of Armenia reports that as of 1 Jan 2017, there were 1,570,758 active cards (9.1% year- over-year growth, following 6.5% growth a year before), including 521,273 ArCa cards (5% y-o-y decline, following 0.4% rise a year before). By 1 Jan 2017, the ATM network had 1,432 ATMs and 6,971 POS terminals, including 827 in the banks and their branches. In 2016, the transactions with plastic cards amounted to 1.4 trillion AMD, including 361bln AMD with local ArCa cards. The total amount of the transactions dropped by 2.1% in 2016 as compared to 2015 (versus 13% growth in 2015). Those with ArCa cards declined by 0.4%, following 4.3% growth in 2015.