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SEB: Estonian people using less cash after crisis

Passengers buying their tickets on board using a contactless bank card.
Passengers buying their tickets on board using a contactless bank card. Source: (Rene Suurkaev/ERR)

Estonian people have been slow to revert to using cash after the crisis as cash transactions have declined by one-fifth compared with last year, according to data by SEB.

Broken down by age group, people aged 36-64 were the quickest to drop cash transactions; however, people of retirement age also opted for using cash only 45 percent of the time, which marks an all-time low, SEB said on Thursday.

The first month of summer will show whether the relatively low share of cash transactions is a temporary deviation. The trend may be caused by people seeking to avoid cash, as is recommended by many stores, or by people shopping online or aiming to save money. The statistics may also be affected by some places of consumption still remaining closed.

When wages and pensions have been paid out, the population's behavior can be analyzed during a more active purchasing period of the month, which will allow to monitor whether the development is attributable to the coronavirus-induced precautionary measures or if Estonian people are indeed prepared to significantly reduce their cash usage.

Card payments have bounced back after the crisis relatively quickly, however, reaching the same level as last year within a week after the end of the emergency situation.

The number of online payments, standing orders and e-invoice payments remained unchanged compared with last year's level.

Lennart Kitt, head of client analysis and data science for the Baltic states at SEB, said: "While we've seen quite sharp drops and surges in consumption over the past few months, the channels for transfers have been rather stable in comparison."

Kitt added that various sectors of consumption are recovering rather quickly and while card payments rapidly bounced back to pre-crisis levels and the use of cash is recovering more slowly, then the use of transfers and payment channels before, during and after crisis seems to be set in stone. 

"The main conclusion we drew from this inconsistency was that diligent Estonians also duly paid all their bills during uncertain times regardless of changes in overall consumption," Kitt said.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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