If you are planning to operate an online business from Georgia which needs to receive international debit/credit card payments from customers based outside of Georgia (and even inside Georgia), you are going to face a number of challenges. Though taxes and business setup may be very favorable, online payment processing here is still years behind the Western world. 

This article explains the main problems with getting online payment processing setup, the typical workarounds and which do and do not work for various types of businesses, as well as the one main solution that definitely works, and whether it is right for you.

Meet Simon

Simon runs a software (SaaS) business. He registered a company in Georgia to benefit from the efficient setup and the favorable tax regime. He even partially relocated to Georgia, planning to spend 6 months a year here to qualify for tax residency and the advantages that it brings. He got a bucketful of great tax advice, a local bank account with Bank of Georgia, and even a second one with TBC as a backup, and his residency application also got approved straight away.

Everything was going well for Simon, and it looked like he was mere weeks away from being able to start transacting with his new Georgian company. The only missing piece of the puzzle was setting up payment processing. But how hard could it be to set up a new Stripe account anyway?

Well, for a Georgian entity or sole proprietor, it’s not just hard, it’s impossible.

“No matter”, Simon thought. “While I love Stripe and their APIs are great, there are other payment processors in the world. I’ll just sign up with one of those, and it’s problem solved.”

So he tried Braintree – nope. 2CheckOut – no, thanks. And nearly 10 other popular credit card processors, all of which showed him the door because they don’t serve Georgian companies. Though many of these companies claim on their websites that “Georgia is supported”, upon closer inspection, what that actually meant was that Simon could transact using a Georgian card, or a foreign card, from within Georgia. Not that Georgian businesses were eligible to open a payment processing account. 

He then tried PayPal as a last resort, and while he could set up a Georgian PayPal account, processing payments with debit/credit cards was not available.

Simon then realized that he may have a problem. And it may be quite a serious one.

Simon is a fictitious example, but at ExpatHub we talk to many “Simons” each month. Some of them have SaaS businesses, or sell digital products from their websites, while others are service providers. Some relocate while others just want to register an off-shore company in Georgia. No matter the exact situation – the problem is always the same:

It is virtually impossible for a Georgian company to obtain an online credit/debit card processing facility.

But surely, there are SOME options?

Yes and no.

The first option that most people who are in Simon’s shoes ask about, right after being rejected by all the international payment processors they speak to, is “What about the local banks in Georgia?”

Sadly, this isn’t anywhere near as straightforward as it could, or even should, be. Regardless of whether you talk to Bank of Georgia or TBC (the two largest banks in Georgia), or even a smaller “back-street” bank, the three obstacles you’ll run into are always going to be the same.

Obstacle 1 – Getting Accepted

The first roadblock that most foreign entrepreneurs face is not passing the ultra-strict KYC and other “acceptance rules” that the local banks apply to anyone requesting the payment processing facility. This is assuming you even manage to open a business bank account with a Georgian bank in the first place, which is a significant challenge on its own if your company is exclusively foreign-owned.

Once you do have your account setup, if your business is new and you don’t have years of bank statements to present to the bank, your chances of getting accepted for payment processing are very close to zero.

And even with an existing business, it’s very much the case of “your mileage may vary”. Perfectly legitimate businesses get turned down for seemingly no reason, all the time. It’s just the reality that we have to accept for now.

Note that it’s a different story if your customers are going to be from within Georgia. That increases your chances significantly. But since the majority of people reading this are selling to outside of Georgia, we’ll assume that’s the case.

Obstacle 2 – Card Acceptance

Let’s assume for a moment that, somehow, you manage to get past the bank’s KYC process and they actually grant you the payment processing facility. Sadly, that’s still not the end of your troubles.

For one reason or another (likely due to over-zealous fraud protection), a very large number of foreign credit and debit cards gets automatically rejected.

That’s the case with both Bank of Georgia and TBC.

And when saying a “large percentage”, we’re not talking about 5% or 10%. If you’re processing foreign cards, you can expect as much as half (or more) of all Non-Georgian card transactions to get a blanket rejection.

Even at ExpatHub, our local online payment facility sees more than half of our incoming foreign card transactions getting rejected, making it incredibly difficult for our clients, who often have to try 2, 3, or 4 different cards, for their payment to finally go through.

As a service company, we can navigate the situation, but a SaaS or e-commerce company would likely lose most of those clients.

Obstacle 3 – Payment Currency

The final obstacle that you’ll be facing is that it is, for all intents and purposes, it will be impossible to accept payments in currencies other than GEL through a local payment gateway.

In theory, both BoG and TBC support USD payments, but in practice, it is impossible to get this facility, unless your primary market is Georgia, and USD/EUR payments only make up a very small portion of your overall charges.

Now, whether your clients are happy to be charged in GEL – a currency that most of them likely haven’t even heard of before landing on your site – is a question I cannot answer. But I suspect for most people reading this, the answer is a resounding “no”.

A Word on Local Non-Bank Processors

When asking around on forums and Facebook groups, many people (usually ones who don’t have any first-hand experience in the matter) are quick to recommend local third-party payment processors like Payze, Unipay, and others.

Sadly, these options are rarely any better than what’s described above, as they all still use one of the main banks on the “back-end”, meaning that you will still be going through the exact same application process – just with a middle-man in between. Though that middle-man may help you get approved in some instances, providing your business model is one they both understand and see as low risk (i.e., minimal chance of chargebacks or money laundering activity), this does not solve the additional obstacles of card acceptance and currency. 

The Only Real Solution

So what should Simon do? Move his business to a more developed country where either international payment processing services are available, or local banks discriminate against foreign-owned businesses less?

Maybe.

But there’s one, slightly complex, but ultimately feasible solution, which many entrepreneurs in Simon’s shoes eventually go with:

Registering a foreign (usually UK or US) subsidiary of your Georigan entity and having that subsidiary obtain a Stripe account act as the “payment processor” for the main Georgian entity.

While slightly complex to set up, it’s the only solution that allows you to both benefit from the Georgian tax regime and business climate, as well as access the worldwide payment processing industry.

If going with the DIY approach, there are some serious legal pitfalls that you’ll want to read up on and avoid, such as Transfer Pricing issues, as well as potential tax residency related issues, should you incorporate in a country that you have other ties (such as citizenship or prior tax residency) with, but these questions aside, it’s a structure that has been tried and tested, and it works.

For those of you who prefer a Done-For-You approach instead, ExpatHub offers a service where we set up the whole thing.

Full Business & Payment Processing Setup

A start to finish package for companies looking to move their operations to Georgia.

  • 1 hour Senior tax consultation to assess your exact needs and risks
  • A Georgian LLC or IE* with a local multi-currency bank account
  • Virtual Office for the Georgian entity, if required.
  • UK LTD with a local address and an international bank account
  • Stripe account for the UK LTD**
  • Official written Tax Opinion to reduce the risk of Transfer Pricing issues

The cost of this full service is subject to a lot of factors, so it’s essential to contact us for a quote. NOTE:  We offer a full refund on the service if we fail to obtain banking for both companies. If you’re interested, fill out the form below to get started and get the quote.

*Pricing varies depending on the complexity of your LLC or IE structure

Payment Processing Setup Only

Already operating a Georgian Business (LLC or Individual Entrepreneur)? We can help you solve your payment processing issues.

  • 1 hour Senior tax consultation to assess your exact needs, risks and current structure
  • UK LTD with a local address and an international bank account
  • Stripe account for the UK LTD**
  • Official written Tax Opinion to reduce the risk of Transfer Pricing issues

**UK LTD is the best option, but if you are a UK citizen or tax resident, there may be complications and a US LLC may be worth discussing.

Contact us for a quote below.

Accounting Services

Once your setup is complete, your Georgian business is normally required to file monthly tax declarations. ExpatHub can assist with these.

For your UK LTD, you will need to file as per UK law. We cannot provide services for this, but we are happy to pass on suggestions of UK firms who would be able to help.


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Tom Williams
Tom Williams

Managing Partner @ ExpatHub.GE | Expert on Tbilisi/Georgia re-location, visas/residency, business, food, wine and more. Previously from the UK, now a full time expat in Tbilisi.