Find out how to pay in Georgia and which payment methods Georgians prefer
Today’s topic is Georgia, and more specifically, financial and payment nuances in the country. In other words, we’ll continue our series of articles about payment markets in different countries.
Georgia is mostly known for its astonishing ski resorts and luxuriant vineyards, but actually, Georgia has a number of attractions that would impress even the most sophisticated travelers. First of all, it is located at the intersection of Asia and Europe, which makes it culturally rich, given the fact that it has absorbed the fruits of Western values (such as freedom and democracy), while managing to preserve its own traditional culture and age-old customs. Today, more than 3.71M people live in Georgia, and its GDP is about $15.16B. Moreover, the country has earned a high score on the Index of Economic Freedom. Georgia has simplified much of its tax codes and regulations, making it easier for companies to survive. Overall, the private sector has boomed over the past two decades. In 1991, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Georgia, as well as any CIS country (stands for Commonwealth of Independent States, meaning the ones that were part of the USSR) has faced a severe economic and cultural crisis. But today the situation is normalized.
The economy of the country is mostly based on tourism (the Black Sea resorts and beautiful mountains, such as Kazbek and Shkhara), agriculture and mining (given its natural resources), and of course wine and cognac production.
Georgian market basics
According to different sources, somewhere between 57% and 68% of Georgians had internet connections as of December 2018. In 2011 this rate was 35%, so the country made a big step towards computerization and digitalization. There is no official info on internet penetration for 2020 (but allegedly, this rate is more than 68%). According to datareportal.com,
According to Trading Economics, GDP per capita PPP in Georgia was about $10,100 in 2018, and is expected to be $10,200 – $12,000 by the end of 2020.
There are no official statistics on smartphone penetration in Georgia, but according to Newzoo’s Global Mobile Market Report, in 2018, Georgia didn’t join the top-50 list of countries by smartphone penetration. Ethiopia was last on the list with a rate of 11.2%. Thus, it is to be concluded that as of 2018, less than 11.2% of Georgia’s population had smartphones. However, we believe this cannot be taken as a reliable conclusion in 2020. Furthermore, even official statistics sometimes can’t show the overall picture, so consider this point-blank or N/A.
Over the decades, payment systems in Georgia have evolved significantly in line with technological advancement. Significant progress has been achieved in improving the e-payment system infrastructure. The evolution of e-payments in Georgia can be characterized by the following: debit (including prepaid) and credit cards, credit and debit transfers compose a core set of cashless payment types commonly used today by consumers and businesses. These core cashless payment types are used both in traditional ways, such as in-person purchases, payroll deposits, and bill payments, and in innovative ways, such as contactless and mobile payments, e-commerce and online bill payments.
As of 2019, the most popular payment options in Georgia were:
- Credit cards
- Qiwi wallet. This payment system is one of the most widely used ones across CIS countries.
- Web Money. Basically, it’s an eWallet that works with multiple currencies (as well as Bitcoin).
- Yandex money. Yandex money was created in Russia, and it is very popular in CIS countries as well.
- Mobiamo. Mobiamo is a mobile payment solution, and helps clients carry out payments via mobile devices in no less than 65 countries.
- Mint. Mint prepaid card is a secure and intuitive cash payment option.
However, Georgia still remains a more conservative and “old-school” country when it comes to the newest payment methods. More than half of payments are still carried out through cash and credit/debit cards. eWallets and mobile payments are not so popular in the market, yet they’re gaining ground nowadays.
Alternative payment methods
According to Shopify, the following payment providers are available in Georgia as well:
- Alipay Global
- Coinbase Commerce
- eps-Überweisung (Mollie)
- MyBank (Mollie)
- PayPal Express Checkout
- Przelewy24 (Mollie)
- PUT IT ON LAY-BUY
- Splitit Monthly Payments
Leading payment services in Georgia
Statistically, IFSPAY is one of the most popular payment service providers in Georgia.
International Financial Services, also known as IFSPAY, was established in 2017 in Georgia, and officially, it is registered as a payment service provider at the National Bank of Georgia. The company provides the completely legal provision of services, both for bank and electronic wallet payments. Yes, you’ve got it right, IFSPAY combines conventional banking, a multi-currency account, and eWallet.
This system allows you to pay for services not only with a card, but also through various electronic payment systems, as well as cryptocurrencies. Normally, payment service providers do not trust electronic wallets, not to mention cryptocurrencies.
IFSPAY offers an international payment service, which means that the client can pay for services and goods in a variety of ways, including local and familiar to him methods. As we’ve already mentioned above, IFSPAY offers multi-currency accounts for individuals and corporate clients as well.
Money Movers is a multifunctional payment acceptance system, which allows online stores to receive payments through different payment channels with only one integration. More than 170 payment methods are integrated into MMPAS (Money Movers Payment Acceptance System), allowing you to work in four currencies. Furthermore, the system has a modern and user-friendly interface, while the system’s design can satisfy all requirements of even the most demanding and sophisticated online stores’ owners.
Allegedly, it is the largest payment service provider in Georgia, and it carries out more than 60M transactions per year.
Money Movers was founded in 2009 and became one of the first organizations in Georgia, which carries out such activities as ecommerce, Internet marketing, intermediary services for ecommerce, payment services, etc.
Money Movers is the only company in Georgia that directly cooperates with leading electronic wallets, such as Webmoney, Wallet One, Dengi Online, Telemoney, Qiwi, Ukash, KazMoneyUnion, RBK money, Easy Pay, Moneta.ru, Mail.ru Money, Yandex Money, etc.
Statistically, the most visited e-commerce websites in Georgia are adjara.com, tbconline.ge, and aliexpress.com. The Georgians also used to order stuff from amazon.com and ebay.com.
Credit cards and e-wallets are the most popular payment methods for digital purchases.
As of the web search engines, the most popular ones are Google (85.4%), Yahoo (6.2%) and Bing (4.2%).
How to pay
Georgian LARI is the only official currency of Georgia (ISO 4217: GEL), and the only legal means of payment. According to the currency ranking, the most popular exchange rate is GEL to USD rate, then comes EURO, Turkish Lira, Pound sterling, and Russian Ruble.
You can use both banks and exchange points in order to exchange your money, but exchange points are more preferable options.
The subunit of Lari is Tetri.
Current coins are: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 Tetri and 1 and 2 Lari;
Current banknotes are: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 Lari;
In Tbilisi (the capital of Georgia) and other cities, big hotels, markets, cafes/diners/restaurants and other major points of sales, you can pay with both cash and debit/credit cards. However, it will be harder to find points of sales and merchants that accept banking cards in a rural area. Moreover, it would be hard to find an ATM in the countryside. What’s more, keep in mind that normally, you can pay for taxis only with cash.
As of the payment systems, Visa and MasterCard are the most common. It would be hard to pay with an AmEx card (sometimes it is declined), and it will be totally impossible to pay with a Discover card.