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Estonians withdrew €4 billion in cash from ATMs last year

Euro bills (photo is illustrative).
Euro bills (photo is illustrative). Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Despite the declining popularity of cash usage, authorities do not anticipate a total elimination of bank notes and even advise to keep small amounts at home.

Rait Roosve, the head of cash and infrastructure department at the Bank of Estonia, said Estonians withdrew €4 billion euros in cash from ATMs last year.

"An important trend is that the share of cash in retail payments is gradually decreasing, but in Estonia there are about 10 percent of us who are die-hard fans of cash, to put it crudely."

The greatest benefit of cash, according to Roosve, is that it can be utilized in any situation.

The other payment methods and cash alternatives are technology-related. They require a technology infrastructure that is usually centralized. Server or server-like device. If this device fails, billing stops. Cash payments don't require a laptop, phone, or power bank. Light may be required, but candlelight can differentiate between €50 and €10 bills.

Brita Kuldkepp, head of Swedbank's branch network, said that cash will become less valuable over time, but it will never disappear.

"Over time, however, the need for currency will diminish. Businesses are encouraging the use of cards rather than cash to pay for services."

Tanel Tammet, an IT professor at Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), said that if cash disappeared, people's privacy would probably not be preserved.

"Credit card payments and bank transfers are logged and tracked. The bank statement shows who paid what and how. Anyone who sells you something knows your name. This is the opposite of anonymity. Things are really easy to track, but they are not public, so random people on the street cannot see them. However, all executives, such as banks and vendors, or law enforcement, can track this data.."

Tammet said that an anonymous digital currency is needed before cash can be eliminated.

"However, there is currently no such thing in de facto popular use. Banks and governments are wary of it. They want it to be traceable. The future is up in the air; personally, I don't think they're going to start eliminating cash, because that would create a lot of complications."

Roosve added that a bank card may be preferable for making payments. However, you should keep a reasonable amount of cash with you, your family members and at home.

"So that when there are technological disruptions, we do not have to call them crises, there is a way to get from point A to point B. There is a way to buy bread and milk and water. There is a way to gas up the car. A reasonable amount of cash could be kept at home for each person or household."

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Editor: Urmet Kook, Kristina Kersa

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