Foreigners who were actively developing the world sometimes came as far as Russia. They were fol-lowed by the appearance of international card systems in the USSR. At first, structures of Intourist
state travel agency used them to accept cards as payment. In 1958 the American Express
opened its representative office in Moscow. In three years Intourist became the first organization in the Soviet Union to accept American Express
credit cards for payment. In 1969 a similar agreement was signed with Diners Club
. After that, VISA
(Americard at that time) (1974), EuroCard
(1975) and Japan’s JCB International
(1976) appeared in the USSR.
The USSR State Committee for Tourism
signed all agreements from the Soviet side, while VAO Intourist
, which was specially founded under the Committee
, serviced plastic cards in Beryozka
hard currency stores and respective hotels through VAO Intourservis
settlement center. In 1988 Intourist
became the first VISA
member in the USSR, despite the fact that it was not a banking institution.
During that period all international card settlements passed through USSR Vneshekonombank
. It be-came the first Soviet bank
, which issued VISA
cards for the Soviet national team at the 1988 summer Olympic Games in Seoul. The rival payment system immediately responded to this move. Already in 1989 Vneshekonombank
gold cards. These were super-elite cards (according to PR rumors, they were intended for Gorbachev
and other high-placed officials).
Soon the circle of plastic cardholders expanded and became more open. Joint ventures and state enter-prises that had got out of the supervision of various state departments, and also associations and other commercial structures receiving revenues in convertible currency, began to open accounts with Vneshekonombank
and display interest in credit cards whose number had risen to 500 by that time. The epoch of commercial banks put an end to monopoly on the market of international cards.