February 20, 2019

Money and Banking

The Ukrainian currency is called the hryvna (pronounced “grieve-na”), and the bills come in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200. Like the dollar to cent relationship, one hryvna equals one hundred kopecks (“ko-peck”) (kopiyok in Ukrainian). Kopecks are coins and come in units of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50; there is also a 1 hryvna coin. Currently, the hryvna is stable and its exchange rate only occasionally fluctuates. As of July 2005, $1 USD buys 5.05 UAH (hryvna). Click to link to National Bank of Ukraine's home page and currency converter.

Before you leave the USA, you should have a plan for accessing money while in Ukraine. The option that has worked best in the past is to simply open an account in a US bank (or use the account you already have) and make use of check card technology. Those funds can then be accessed through ATMs in Kyiv (see below).

Another possible way to get cash, or to send money throughout Ukraine, is through Western Union which charges a very high commission, but might be useful in an emergency. Thomas Cook and American Express Traveler’s checks can be redeemed at some Ukrainian banks for a 2% commission. This process may take some time and is not as simple as cashing traveler’s checks in the West.

Credit Cards and ATMs
A growing network of ATMs (bankomat in Russian and Ukrainian) penetrates the Kyiv landscape. These machines work much like ATMs in the USA, though you generally are not able to check your account balance and the local currency--hryvna--is dispensed. (The bankomat near the token window of Teatralna metro gives your balance.) Any ATM card connected to either the Mastercard or Visa network will work. Discover Card is not useful in Ukraine. There is no local fee to withdraw hryvna on most ATMs, but your bank may charge a service fee for using an ATM outside their system (usually $1-$2). ATMs offer menus in Ukrainian, Russian, English, and German. PrivatBank has ATMs at most Furshets (a large chain of grocery stores) and many other places around the city. They dispense USD up to $300 with a 3% charge. When using ATMs, always take the receipt. In some rare instances, money will not be dispensed correctly or at all, and the receipt will help you get the mistake cleared up with your bank. You also receive a worse exchange rate by withdrawing money through an ATM.

Credit cards may be used at a growing number of Kyiv merchants. However, it’s best to use only a credit card at established, well-known merchants. There is an enormous problem with credit card fraud in Ukraine. Protect your card. Often, in stores the connection between their phone lines and the bank does not allow the transaction to be completed, and you will have to pay with cash. The merchant may not be able to make a manual impression of the card. However, if you insist, they should be able to call their bank and complete the transaction over the phone. There is no full-service American Express office in Kyiv.

Cash dominates monetary transactions in Ukraine. Personal checking accounts do not exist and US checks are next to worthless. Expect to use hryvna in almost all transactions. Currency exchanges--if you have foreign currency-- are all over Kyiv and do not charge commissions unless you are buying US dollars (1% commission). Normally, rent for your flat must be paid in US dollars. Never exchange money with anyone on the street.

Web www.ueckyiv.org