The emergency situation has left clear traces in how residents of Estonia behave when making purchases and handling cash
- Transaction numbers: 37% fewer card payments were made than a year ago, while the number of transactions in cash is down in total by 42%
- Transaction turnover: the turnover of card payments is 20% lower than a year earlier, and the turnover of cash transactions is down 27%
- The turnover of purchases from Estonian online stores has increased by a fifth
Card payments in Estonia
Card payments worth 10.6 million euros have been made each day on average in Estonia during the emergency situation, which is 28% fewer than a year earlier, when daily card payments averaged 14.7 million euros. Retail card payments abroad have averaged a million euros a day under the emergency situation, down from 2.5 million euros a year earlier.
Residents of Estonia are making an average of 557,000 card payments per day under the emergency, which is 37% fewer than a year earlier, when an average of 883,000 card payments were made each day. Individual payments are larger though, as the average card payment has risen to 19 euros, having remained quite stably around 16-17 euros over the past year.
Card payments were made remarkably modestly in the first days of April, but in the past week the number of payments has started to rise a little. This may partly be because many people are paid on the fifth day of the month or later, and pensions are only paid after that date.
Cash transactions in ATMs
Estonian residents and businesses have made an average of 52,000 withdrawals of cash a day from ATMs for a total of 8 million euros under the emergency. A year ago withdrawals averaged 90,000 a day for 11 million euros. The number of transactions is 42% down on normal, while the turnover is down a quarter. This is quite understandable since people are moving around less under the emergency and many shops, restaurants and other outlets are closed. The recommendation by shops and by the government for clients to prefer card and contactless card payments has also helped reduce the number of cash transactions.
At the start of the emergency situation, notably larger amounts of cash were withdrawn from ATMs than usual, but in recent weeks the amount withdrawn in cash has not increased. The number of transactions paying cash into ATMs has also fallen noticeably under the emergency, and is down 30% on a year earlier. In April last year, clients paid an average of 5.5 million euros onto their accounts through ATMs, but under the emergency this has been 3.5 million euros.
The number of banknotes issued by Eesti Pank rose to around 1.8 million in the week the emergency situation was declared, which is more than double the usual number, but it stabilised during the week after the announcement of the emergency. People can still withdraw cash from ATMs, though the frequency of use of them has fallen.
Purchases from online stores
The much discussed increase in the use of online stores and particularly online food stores during the emergency is confirmed by the payment statistics from the banks.
The turnover of purchases from Estonian online stores has increased by a fifth. Purchases of 2 million euros a day have been made from Estonian online stores, where in April last year they were 1.6 million euros. The number and the turnover of purchases made from foreign stores has fallen by around a third during the emergency.
In April 2019 Estonian residents made an average of 93,000 purchases a day online for a total value of 3.5 million euros. A year ago half of online purchases were from foreign stores, and those purchases provided 54% of the turnover.
Card payments abroad by residents of Estonia
The drop in purchases abroad using Estonian cards has been particularly drastic. As tourists can no longer come to Estonia during the emergency, the number of purchases using cards issued outside Estonia has fallen to record low levels, with 12,000 purchases a day in April, which is a quarter lower than in April last year.
For understandable reasons, residents of Estonia have not easily been able to make purchases abroad either. A year ago, people from Estonia made an average of 83,000 card payments a day abroad, but this is now down to 48,000 card payments a day, which is 41% fewer. Cards have been used abroad for an average of 1.1 million euros a day under the emergency, which is 58% less than a year earlier, when cards were used to pay an average of 2.5 million euros a day abroad.
Under normal circumstances, people from Estonia most commonly make payments in Finland, where 26% of all card payments abroad are made, followed by Russia with 10% and Latvia with 9%. The change in card payments in Finland has been relatively modest under the emergency, which is probably because many people from Estonia work in Finland and use their cards issued in Estonia to make payments there.
The decline in purchases made in Russia and Latvia has been quite eye-catching though. Cards issued in Estonia were used an average of 8000 times a day in Russia in April last year, but this is now down to 1000 transactions, while transactions in Latvia have fallen from 10,000 to 2000.
* Eesti Pank is able to observe changes in the number and turnover of payments on a weekly basis during the emergency, while reporting under normal circumstances is monthly. The three largest banks, whose transactions normally average 95-99% of the total market, have been submitting data during the emergency.