Published: 28.09.2023

The most recent (autumn 2023) "Payment Radar" of Latvijas Banka suggests that the ratio of non-cash to cash payments in Latvia was 73% to 27% in August 2023.

The "Payment Radar" contains the latest information on the money habits of Latvia's households, businesses and the public at large. This information has been obtained from the results of the public survey conducted by the market and social research agency SIA Latvijas Fakti. The "Payment Radar" is published semi-annually.

Development of the proportion and interaction between non-cash and cash payments (as at August 2023) is the central measurement of the overview supplemented by more detailed numerical information and experts' commentaries.

Ratio of non-cash to cash payments

In August 2023, the use of non-cash payments increased somewhat compared to February 2023. Half a year ago, the ratio of non-cash to cash payments was 67% to 33% (a year ago, in August 2022, it stood at 71% to 29%). In August 2023, the average number of payments per capita in a week was 13.8 (compared to 14.3 and 12.6 in February 2023 and August 2022 respectively), including 10.1 non-cash payments and 3.7 cash payments.

The "Payment Radar" data suggest that the use of modern technologies in payments continues to gain ground. In August 2023, 19% of the respondents had used a smart phone to make payments (compared to 16% and 14% in February 2023 and August 2022 respectively), and 68% had made payments with contactless cards (compared to 63% and 66 % in February 2023 and August 2022 respectively). The use of instant payments remains on a stable path: in August 2023, 31% of the respondents reported daily use of instant payments (compared to 33% and 31% in February 2023 and August 2022 respectively).

"The number of the respondents who make payments with their smart phones keeps gradually increasing. Approximately 20% of the people in Latvia are using this payment technology, and their share continues to expand steadily every month. It is mostly used by young people, i.e. those aged 15–34,"
commented Aigars Freimanis, Director of SIA Latvijas Fakti.

The public supports the discontinuation of 1 and 2 cent coins

Traditionally, the "Payment Radar" measures several indicators describing the use of cash as well as expectations of the public in this regard. The share of the public supporting the discontinuation of the small denomination coins, i.e. 1 and 2 cent coins, has reached 49%, exceeding the share of the public expressing the view that these coins should remain in circulation (46%). In February 2023, 41% of the respondents took the view that the small denomination coins should be withdrawn from circulation, while 50% maintained that these coins should remain in circulation. The largest-ever support for reviewing the denominations of euro cent coins was recorded in February 2022 when 51% of the respondents supported the plan to discontinue 1 and 2 cent coins.

The "Payment Radar" contains a commentary of Zita Zariņa, Member of the Council of Latvijas Banka, where she notes that, over time, public support for reviewing the structure of euro coin denominations has risen and there have been active discussions with the institutions and businesses involved in cash circulation explaining this idea and searching for the best solutions for Latvia, its population and businesses.

Latvijas Banka has developed a draft law on rounding the total amount of a cash payment. Currently, discussions are underway with the Ministry of Finance and the State Revenue Service as to how the rounding of the total amount of a cash purchase (and not the price of individual items) might be implemented in practice. The greatest challenge involves adapting the cash registers and cash register systems to reflect the rounding of the total amount of a purchase in the receipt. Merchants should not only implement the changes in the systems, but also certify them in accordance with the current laws and regulations. This would significantly affect costs and increase the implementation time. Currently, Latvijas Banka, in cooperation with the Ministry of Finance, is looking for the most business-friendly solution to this problem.

The availability of financial services is important to the public in emergency situations

The survey conducted by SIA Latvijas Fakti in August 2023 suggests that the availability of financial services in the event of turmoil is important to the public. 78% of the respondents acknowledged the significance of the availability of financial services in various emergency situations. Moreover, 76% of the respondents have heeded the advice of the responsible institutions and have saved up enough to last them for at least a few days. At the same time, asked to provide a self-assessment, only 10% of the respondents considered themselves to be fully prepared for emergencies, while 15% noted that they were overall prepared. 30% of the respondents assessed themselves to be somewhat prepared for such situations. 20% of the respondents were completely unprepared for emergencies and 24% were only slightly better off, i.e. fairly unprepared. It is important to note that elderly people as well as those living in rural regions and those from lower income groups feel less prepared for emergencies.

In her commentary included in the "Payment Radar", Ilze Posuma, Member of the Council of Latvijas Banka, indicates that in crisis situations the financial services will be provided by all Latvian credit institutions whenever possible. Meanwhile, the critical financial services will be provided by the credit institutions with the largest number of Latvian customers and volumes of household deposits:

  • Swedbank AS,
  • AS SEB banka,
  • AS Citadele banka,
  • Latvian branch of Luminor Bank AS.

The critical financial services are as follows:

1) internet banking and mobile app payments which, in a crisis situation, must be ensured for at least 70% of the regular service provision time;
2) payment card payments which, in a crisis situation, must be ensured in full, unless the access to the infrastructure of international card schemes is disrupted;
3) cash withdrawals – 99 ATMs are considered critical and, in a crisis situation, will be prioritised for cash supply.

The survey conducted by SIA Latvijas Fakti also measured people's awareness of the network of ATMs. The absolute majority of people, i.e. 96%, are aware of the ATMs located in the vicinity of their home. Meanwhile, only 4% are informed about the critical ATMs that will be prioritised for cash supply in emergencies.

The survey was conducted in August 2023, but the public awareness campaign about the progress made in the field of critical financial services and the future plans took place in September. In light of this, Latvijas Banka is hoping that the public awareness will significantly increase, and it will continue to actively work towards it.

The network of ATMs plays a significant role in ensuring the availability of cash to the public. In August 2023, 85% of the respondents were fully or fairly satisfied with the options for cash withdrawal from their bank accounts.

Future banknotes: preparations in full swing

In the autumn 2023 "Payment Radar", Jānis Blūms, Head of the Cash Department of Latvijas Banka, notes that approximately 400 thousand Europeans took part in the survey about the design themes for the new, third series of euro banknotes. More than 2000 people in Latvia also took the opportunity to give their opinions on each of the seven themes proposed by experts.

People were asked to express their opinions on the following possible design themes of euro banknotes:

  • European values mirrored in nature,
  • European culture,
  • The future is yours,
  • Our Europe, ourselves,
  • Birds: free, resilient, inspiring,
  • Hands: together we build Europe,
  • Rivers: the waters of life in Europe.

The results of the public survey will be a helpful resource for the Governing Council of the European Central Bank (ECB) in choosing the design theme for the next generation of banknotes in the coming months. After that, the selection of the potential motifs will begin and a competition for design samples will be held. In 2026, the Governing Council of the ECB will decide on the future banknote design as well as the time of the production and issue of the new banknotes.

To follow the process of developing the third series of euro banknotes, please visit Latvijas Banka's website under the Section "Future banknotes".

The public interest in and awareness of the digital euro is growing

The survey conducted by SIA Latvijas Fakti in August suggests that more than half of the people in Latvia (57%) have heard about the potential future introduction of the digital euro. The figure is 8 percentage points higher than that recorded in February 2023.

Emīls Dārziņš, Latvijas Banka's expert of modern payments, notes that the Eurosystem-wide digital euro project is nearing the end of its investigation phase. The Eurosystem is currently producing the summary of the results obtained from the investigation phase to submit it to the ECB's Governing Council which will decide whether (or not) to move to the next stage of the digital euro project – the preparation stage. It is expected that the ECB's Governing Council might take this decision in late October.

The potential decision on moving to the project's next stage does not include the decision on the issue of the digital euro. The digital euro project is sizeable. Therefore, it requires careful examination and preparation so that the final offer would match with the initial objectives set by the Eurosystem – to ensure an efficient, accessible and lasting digital payments solution across the euro area.

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