Residents of Estonia managed to go shopping more often in May

Tiina Soosalu
Tiina Soosalu
Eesti Pank Payment and Settlement Systems Department

The emergency situation left clear traces in how residents of Estonia behave when making purchases and handling cash. As the emergency measures eased, normal life started to return a little in May, though the volumes of card payments and cash withdrawals have not yet fully recovered.

The change in the volume of card payments in Estonia during the emergency situation was similar to that in the rest of the euro area as it is estimated that the volume of domestic card payments elsewhere in Europe was a third lower at the end of March and in early April than it was a year earlier. The figures started to rise in the first half of May though.

Card payments in Estonia

Although the figures for card payments by residents of Estonia rose increasingly from week to week in Estonia and the number of payments was around a third higher than in April and the turnover around a quarter larger, this was still less than a year earlier. An average of 718,000 card payments were made each day in May, which is 19% fewer than a year earlier. The average daily amount of card payments was 13.2 million euros in May, which is 10% less than a year earlier. When card payments by Estonian residents were particularly affected in April, there were 37% fewer of them than a year earlier and the turnover was down 28%.

The drop in purchases abroad using Estonian cards has been particularly drastic. As tourists could no longer come to Estonia during the emergency, the number of purchases using cards issued outside Estonia fell to record low levels, with 12,000 purchases a day in April, which is a quarter as many as in April last year. Foreigners made twice as many purchases in Estonia in the second half of May as in April but still not as many as a year earlier, when they made an average of 53,000 purchases a day in Estonia in April and May.

Card payments abroad by residents of Estonia

For understandable reasons, residents of Estonia were not able to make purchases abroad either. In May last year, people from Estonia made an average of 82,000 card payments a day abroad, but this year it was down to 45,000 card payments a day, which is 45% fewer. Cards were used abroad for an average of 1.1 million euros a day under the emergency, which is 54% less than a year earlier, when cards were used to pay an average of 2.4 million euros a day abroad. The figures for April and May are quite similar, though there are differences between countries because of the gradual opening of borders.

Card payments were made most in Finland during the emergency, where 36% of all card payments abroad were made, and in Ireland, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The change in card payments in Finland and Ireland from normal times was relatively modest under the emergency, which is probably because many people from Estonia work in those countries and use their cards issued in Estonia to make payments there.

The situation is different in countries where people from Estonia mainly go as tourists or on shopping trips. Latvia is a clear example, as the closure of the border reduced the number of card payments in Latvia in April to a fifth of what it was a year earlier. The number of purchases started to rise quickly once the borders opened though, so that while 2100 card purchases were made each day in Latvia in early April, 6400 purchases were made in the second half of May.

Purchases from online stores[1]

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 was 31% higher in April than a year earlier. As people went more and more to the shops in May, online sales were 24% more than a year earlier and a little less was bought from online stores than in April. Purchases of 2 million euros a day were made from Estonian online stores in April and May, where they were 1.6 million euros last year. The turnover of purchases from foreign online stores fell by around a third during the emergency.

Cash transactions in ATMs

Residents and companies in Estonia withdrew noticeably less cash from ATMs at the start of the emergency, as the number of transactions was 42% lower in April than a year earlier and turnover was down by a quarter. These figures rose in May though as an average of 70,000 withdrawals of cash were made each day from ATMs for a total of 9 million euros. There was a particularly noticeable rise at the start of May, which is probably because a lot of people are paid at that time and pensions are paid out then. The figures are still lower than in May last year though, as the number of transactions is down 25% and the turnover down 18%.

The number of transactions paying cash into ATMs also fell noticeably under the emergency, as clients paid an average of 3.5 million euros onto their accounts through ATMs in April, and 4.4 million euros in May. The figure for May is still less than a year earlier though, when 5.8 million euros were paid onto accounts.

* Eesti Pank was 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, were submitting data during the emergency.

 

[1]     The figure for online purchases is an estimate as there are no precise figures for e-commerce.