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Tinkoff and 'letters of happiness': where should an arbitrator go?

What Tinkoff was loved for

  • The ability to conduct transactions with foreign banks even after the imposition of sanctions in spring 2022.
  • Favorable currency exchange rates.
  • Quick transfers.
  • Good cashback, bonuses for card transactions, interest on balance.
  • Fast service without paper hassle and office queues.
  • Simple transparent tariffs without multi-page fine print footnotes.

What went wrong

In recent weeks, the bank has introduced many restrictions on transfers and deposit amounts, changed requirements for minimum withdrawal and monthly expenses, and also introduced fees for currency transfers and deposits.

  • Restrictions on SWIFT transfers for legal entities.
  • Commission of 3% on incoming currency transfers (not less than $200, often taking the full transfer amount).
  • Commission on SWIFT transfers even from other Russian banks.
  • Commission on currency deposits and accounts (1% for account maintenance over $10,000).
  • Starting from June 16, the minimum amount for SWIFT transfers is $20,000.
  • The bank notifies about changes retrospectively or doesn't notify at all (informational posts on social media with daily changes to conditions, no direct customer notifications).
After introducing commissions for SWIFT transfers from June 16, the bank started canceling transfers made before this date that could have gone through without a fee.
Currently, accounts are being blocked based on the 115-FZ law (anti-money laundering law), funds are frozen, and income statements are demanded. This happens even if the card is debit and the amounts on it are minimal

Economist's opinion

We discussed the situation with Tinkoff Bank with economist and analyst Dmitry Golubovsky. According to him, when an account is blocked in the bank, especially if it doesn't have a physical office, it's advisable to escalate the matter to a higher authority.
If their account has already been blocked, I advise reaching out directly to the Central Bank if the blocking is unjustified. In this case, to be sure, you can attach any documents that prove the legitimacy of the funds in the account. Dealing with the bank itself in this situation is very difficult; it's generally challenging to work with a bank that lacks physical offices. The flip side of Tinkoff's convenience was that it was a bank without queues and offices, ostensibly reducing costs for clients. However, the actual costs for clients have been increasing there for a while, and as far as I know, the bank has problems as a financial institution. That's why their desire to somehow retain money and customers is quite understandable.

Analyst Dmitry Golubovsky

For clients who have accounts with Tinkoff that are not yet blocked, the economist advised closing them and discontinuing the use of the bank's services. According to Golubovsky's view, the future prospects for Tinkoff Bank could worsen even further.
The further it goes, the worse things will get there. For several reasons. Firstly, the organization [Tinkoff Bank] is adrift. If there were people interested in its development before, now they are absent. Secondly, I am basing this on information from various sources; the bank is facing serious financial problems. So, I wouldn't keep large sums of money there. And the third important detail is that we don't know who is responsible for its high-tech nature, who is the author of the bank's software solutions.

Perhaps the measures to block accounts are related to the fact that there has been an increase in cases of unauthorized access to accounts. And they are thus blocking accounts where, from their point of view, there was some suspicious activity that they believe is happening due to cybersecurity issues. It's possible, but they will never disclose this themselves.

Analyst Dmitry Golubovsky

If you are a law-abiding citizen and want to ensure that your accounts won't be blocked in the bank, first and foremost, you shouldn't accept large payments. Large sums always raise questions with the relevant authorities," the analyst noted.
Do not accept large payments for your services. If you're receiving payments in the range of half a million, you're immediately put under scrutiny. If you don't have valid reasons for such a transaction, you may face questions. These questions can be purely formal; you can always say that the money was given to you as a gift—gifts of money don't trigger taxable income. According to the civil code, money can be transferred as a gift without limits. Even if a billion rubles is deposited into your account, you can claim it was a donation for your livelihood. Theoretically, you shouldn't have any issues. However, in practice, you'll still face questions. What is this for? Who sent it? What do you plan to do with it?

Therefore, my advice is, if you're engaged in any activity, first and foremost, legitimize it. In other words, become self-employed and pay your 4% tax. Alternatively, if you're involved in small-scale activities and use an account for non-cash transactions, receiving transfers, and then making payments, ensure that they aren't large and don't exceed the bounds of your income that you can substantiate.

Analyst Dmitry Golubovsky

According to Golubovsky's viewpoint, there are currently no reliable banking methods for storing foreign currency. The economist reminded that even the Russian Minister of Finance, Anton Siluanov, has referred to dollars and euros as toxic currencies for Russia. Hence, they aren't favored in the country. Therefore, if you want to store currency within the country, it's best to do so in cash or invest in gold or investment coins.
If you want to store currency, keep it in cash at home. Purchase banknotes; it might be more expensive than using an app, but at least they'll be physical money, not just numbers in accounts. Because at any moment, you could lose those [currency in the app], as banknotes are banknotes.
Right now, it's hard to predict what will happen with currencies. Non-cash currencies are facing colossal issues because they could be blocked at any moment by the likes of the United States or Europe.
If you're looking for alternative investments, buy gold. Currently, you can buy it without taxes. If you want to purchase and store it within the banking system, buy gold bars. But keep in mind, these are long-term investments, and there's a significant difference between buying and selling prices. However, as of today, gold remains the only traditional currency value.
And if you want an alternative to ruble deposits for diversifying your savings, then sell currency, get rubles, withdraw rubles, and buy investment coins.

Analyst Dmitry Golubovsky

Furthermore, in Russia, there are currently no safe banking methods for transferring currency abroad, Dmitry Golubovsky pointed out. In this situation, cryptocurrency can come to the rescue. For instance, stablecoins like USDT can serve as an alternative to dollar transfers, or Bitcoin, which can be sent without limitations to any point on the planet.
The only reliable means for cross-border payment currently is digital currency. This means you buy a USDT token on the blockchain and can transfer it to any other counterparty wallet. Your transaction will go through. Or an even more cautious approach is to buy Bitcoin. No one will be able to block this transfer. You can convert Bitcoin to any other currency anywhere on the planet. Therefore, crypto enables cross-border transfers. And the USDT token rate is even better than the rate of physical dollars. As of today, this remains the only dependable payment method. If you need to transfer in dollars, transfer in USDT, don't attempt SWIFT transfers. It's like a gamble – it might go through, or it might come back, but you'll still be charged a fee for the unsuccessful operation, and the money might even disappear without a trace.

Analyst Dmitry Golubovsky

The economist explained that there are problems with banking money transfers even to countries that haven't imposed sanctions, such as Georgia, for instance. Its banks are perfectly willing to accept money from Russia. The issue lies in the fact that these transfers go through correspondent accounts of American banks, Dmitry Golubovsky clarified. Therefore, they might go through, or they might come back to the sender's account. In the process, a fee for the unsuccessful transfer attempt might be deducted, or the money might even get lost. Payments might not go through and get stuck somewhere along the way.

Another option, as the analyst believes, is transfers in currencies of other nations apart from the dollar and euro. Common options include the currencies of China, India, and the UAE.
Alternatively, pay in currencies of other nations. For instance, in UAE dirhams. The payment will go through smoothly. Currently, payments with India are processed through the UAE, in their currency. In China, pay in yuan. Payments in these currencies will proceed. Yuan, UAE dirham, Indian rupee. If it's a currency from CIS countries, it's a localized issue, not international payments.

Analyst Dmitry Golubovsky


For currency storage and foreign currency deposits, commissions are currently charged in almost every Russian bank. The figures can vary from bank to bank, but storing dollars, euros, pounds, and other popular currencies is becoming disadvantageous.

As for transfers: we've compiled several methods that have become popular recently.

Golden Crown Bank

With "Golden Crown," you can send rubles abroad with conversion. Currently, you can transfer money to 12 countries, including Azerbaijan, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Israel, Korea, and Jordan. Additionally, the "Golden Card" allows you to send savings to yourself.

The drawbacks of this method include double conversion. The transfer is initially done in rubles, then the sending bank converts it to dollars at its rate, and the receiving bank dispenses it in the national currency.


For those facing issues with Tinkoff Bank, they recommend sending currency through Raiffeisenbank. This Russian bank, a subsidiary of the Austrian banking group Raiffeisen Bank International, still continues to perform currency transfers via SWIFT from Russia to abroad. Considering the new fees in the bank, for transfers of dollars or euros, the bank charges a 3% commission for transfers at the branch, and 2% for transfers through "Raiffeisen Online" or autopayments. However, as economist Dmitry Golubovsky mentioned earlier, it's important to remember that the payment might not go through in the end, but the commission will still be deducted. Hence, caution is advised.

There is a commission for currency accounts — 0.2% per month for balances over 5000 USD. For clients with "Premium" and "Premium 5" service packages — 50,000 USD. The commission applies from June 30 for accounts in euros, US dollars, British pounds, Swiss francs, and Japanese yen.


In the current circumstances, cryptocurrency is one of the methods to transfer money to any point on the planet without any restrictions. Here, you can use stablecoins like USDT, whose value is pegged to the dollar.

Alternatively, you can buy other cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum and then send them to the recipient. They can convert the cryptocurrency into any currency. Here, it's advisable to study trading pairs in advance and choose the most convenient option in terms of transaction fees and conversion rates. In online exchanges, you can exchange cryptocurrency for fiat currency.

Wise и Revolut

Another way to transfer money from Russia abroad is by using a Russian bank card on the online service Wise. It's important to provide documents during the account opening process that show you reside in a different country other than Russia (otherwise, the account won't be approved). Foreign driver's licenses, resident ID cards, or visas lasting at least 6 months are acceptable.

To move money from Russia to Europe, you can use a non-bank card from Revolut. First, you need to acquire cryptocurrency on the Binance exchange, which Revolut's service supports. Then, send the digital assets to Revolut, where they'll be converted into fiat. However, only Russians with documents indicating residence abroad can obtain a card from this non-bank institution.


Restrictions and fees on currency operations are present in all Russian banks.

Tinkoff became the latest bank to jump on this bandwagon. In such a situation, the only option is to be highly vigilant: regularly review service conditions, limitations, and transfer fees before sending money somewhere or requesting payouts. Additionally, in the case of Tinkoff Bank, it's advisable not to withdraw cash since there's a high probability that your account could be frozen, and they might demand a stack of documents as per Article 115 of the Federal Law.

If you do find yourself in an unpleasant situation, ask the bank's customer support to duplicate your correspondence with them via email — it will be useful if the matter reaches the court (there are already many interested in filing a collective lawsuit online).