Access to cash in rural regions has improved
There were 751 ATMs in Estonia at the end of 2018, which is some 200 fewer than a decade earlier. Residents of Estonia were also able to withdraw cash from 350 Coop shops and 82 Olerex service stations, and Swedbank clients could get cash from the tills in 24 other shops. Although these accounted for only 1% of all the withdrawals of cash, they substantially improved access to cash in rural areas. There are also 49 bank offices where cash transactions can be made.
Cards were used to withdraw cash from ATMs an average of 2.3 times a month in 2018. The average Estonian resident withdrew 220 euros a month, which is a quarter more than ten years earlier. Although ATMs are used less and less often in Estonia, the amounts withdrawn each time are increasing. The average withdrawal from an ATM in 2018 was 97 euros, while in 2011, the first year of the euro, it was 61 euros. The amounts withdrawn are larger because there are fewer ATMs and because prices have risen for goods and services over the years. Since the euro was introduced in 2011, residents of Estonia have paid larger amounts as card payments than they have withdrawn from ATMs. The average resident made card payments of 322 euros a month last year.
Statistics from the European Central Bank indicate that residents of all European Union countries are making card payments more frequently than they are withdrawing cash from ATMs. The differences between countries are wide, with residents of Portugal and the United Kingdom withdrawing cash more than three times a month, while people in Denmark and Sweden do so less than once a month. Residents of those countries instead make the most card payments in Europe.
There is much wider variation in the amounts involved. The amounts made as card payments are larger than cash withdrawals in half of the countries of the European Union, with the widest gaps in Sweden and Denmark, where card payments are more than eight times larger than withdrawals. Card payments in Estonia also exceed cash withdrawals, as 1.5 euros are paid by card for every euro that is withdrawn from an ATM. Half of the countries in the European Union still prefer cash though, as withdrawals are larger than card payments in fourteen of them, including Estonia’s neighbours Latvia and Lithuania, together with Italy, Germany, Austria, Poland and others. Cash can be withdrawn in shops in other euro area countries alongside Estonia, including Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands.