Published: 30.03.2023

"Payment Radar": the ratio between non-cash and cash payments is 67% to 33% in Latvia

The most recent (spring 2023) "Payment Radar" of Latvijas Banka suggests that the ratio between non-cash and cash payments in Latvia was 67% to 33% in February 2023.

The "Payment Radar" contains the latest information on money usage habits of Latvia's households, businesses and the public at large. This information has been obtained from the results of the population survey conducted by a market and social research agency SIA Latvijas Fakti.

The "Payment Radar" is published semi-annually and is available on Latvijas Banka's website (https://www.bank.lv/en/operational-areas/payment-systems/payment-radar). Development of the proportion and interaction between non-cash and cash payments (as at February 2023) is the central measurement of the overview supplemented by more detailed numerical information and experts' commentaries.

Ratio between non-cash and cash payments

In February 2023 compared to August 2022, the use of cash somewhat increased. Half a year ago, this ratio was 71% to 29% (a year ago, in February 2022, the ratio between non-cash and cash payments stood at 74% to 26%). In February 2023, the average number of payments made by one inhabitant per week had reached a historical peak when this measurement was taken – 14.3 (12.6 in August 2022 and 12.8 in February 2022).

Use of modern payment technologies is growing

According to the "Payment Radar" data, the use of modern technologies is slowly but consistently achieving a stable position in the field of payments. In February 2023, 33% of respondents used instant payments on a daily basis (31% in August 2022, 30% in February 2022), 16% of those surveyed had made payments via smartphones (14% in August 2022, 13% in February 2022), but 63% of respondents – with a contactless card (66% in August 2022, 61% in February 2022).

"As usual, younger people are more likely to use innovative payment methods. It is worth pointing out that four years ago, only 4% of the Latvian population used a smartphone as a payment instrument. The hypothesis that bank customers trust and are willing to use new technological solutions is once again confirmed," comments Aigars Freimanis, Director of SIA Latvijas Fakti.

Public satisfaction with the availability of cash and its viewpoint concerning 1 and 2 cent coins

Traditionally, the "Payment Radar" measures several indicators describing the use of cash. The population's satisfaction with the opportunity to withdraw cash from their bank accounts remains unchanged – 84% (like it was in August and February 2022), but 9% of the population were dissatisfied with the above opportunity in February 2023 (8% in August 2022, 10% in February 2022).

The share of people supporting the withdrawal of small denomination coins – those of 1 and 2 cent – has decreased. In February 2023, 41% of respondents took the view that the above coins should be withdrawn from circulation (49% in August 2022, 51% in February 2022), but 50% were against their withdrawal from circulation (43% in August 2022 and February 2022). Typically, those with higher income, university education and Latvians are more inclined towards supporting the withdrawal of small denomination coins from circulation.

Euro – a secure currency with low numbers of counterfeits; encouraging counterfeiting statistics in Latvia

Statistics on the security of money for 2022 have been compiled. In 2022, 889 counterfeit banknotes and coins were detected in circulation in Latvia, including 433 and 456 counterfeit banknotes and coins respectively. The number of counterfeit banknotes decreased by approximately 13% within a year (497 counterfeit banknotes were detected in 2021), but the number of counterfeit coins climbed 2.2 times (206 counterfeit coins were detected in 2021). Taking account of the decrease in the number of detected counterfeit banknotes, the financial losses caused by counterfeits have edged down by approximately 2% (they constituted 26.8 thousand euro in 2022 and 27.3 thousand euro in 2021).

Digital euro – next steps to be taken this autumn

The "Payment Radar" of spring 2023 suggests that public awareness of the potential introduction of the digital euro in the future has substantially increased reaching 49% (35% of respondents had heard about it in August 2022 and 39% in February 2022).

In the commentary section of the "Payment Radar", Reinis Vecbaštiks, State-of-the-Art Payment Expert of Latvijas Banka informs the readers that the investigation phase of the digital euro project is currently ongoing. At this stage, the European Central Bank, in cooperation with euro area central banks and market participants and in consultation with the general public, decides on the functionality or design of the digital euro. The investigation phase will end in October 2023, when the decision-making bodies of the European Union (EU) will decide whether (or not) to launch the experimental phase of the digital euro.

Risks pertaining to crypto-assets; public awareness is increasing

As a result of several shocks experienced in the crypto-asset field, the public takes less interest in these risky assets and their use. The recognisability of crypto-assets (e.g. Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, etc.) edged down to 85% in February this year, which represented 1 percentage point and 4 percentage point reduction compared to August 2022 and February 2022 respectively.

Only 4% of respondents had purchased a crypto-asset (9% in August 2022 and 8% in February 2022). 11% of those who own crypto-assets have used them to pay for goods and services (17% half a year ago and 12% a year ago). In February 2023, 70% of respondents had heard about the collapse of certain crypto-asset exchanges and the detention of their founders.

In the expert commentary section of the "Payment Radar", Reinis Vecbaštiks and Emīls Dārziņš, state-of-the-art payment experts of Latvijas Banka, express the hope that public awareness of risks associated with investment in crypto-assets is increasing. Work in this area will continue to improve the protection of private investors and their assets. EU institutions plan to approve a proposal for a regulation on markets in crypto-assets (Regulation on Markets in Crypto-Assets or MiCA). This regulation would establish joint rules for crypto-asset market participants across the EU. The regulation would apply to both crypto issuers and service providers, including crypto-asset exchanges.

Commentary section

The "Payment Radar" contains several commentaries on topics relevant to society concerning cash circulation. Traditionally, the recent trends observed in the development of the use of cashless means of payment and cash have been commented by Aigars Freimanis, Director of SIA Latvijas Fakti. The topical issues concerning coin processing and its automation are discussed by Ģirts Jansons, Deputy Head of the Cash Department of Latvijas Banka, the situation in the field of counterfeits is described by Aleksandrs Antiņš, Head of the Cash Technology Division of the Cash Department of Latvijas Banka. Reinis Vecbaštiks, State-of-the-Art Payment Expert of Latvijas Banka, focuses on topical issues in the field of investigation and introduction of the digital euro, Emīls Dārziņš, Head of the Payment Systems Policy Division of the Payment Systems Department of Latvijas Banka, informs the readers about worrying developments in the area of crypto-assets.

 

Aigars Freimanis, Director, SIA Latvijas Fakti

Despite the high rate of inflation, the financial behaviour of the Latvian population has not changed significantly. On average, every adult in Latvia makes 14.3 payments per week, either in cash or non-cash form. For many years now, non-cash payments, i.e. payments made with all types of payment cards and online, have dominated. Cash payments remain stable, with 33% of payments made using cash. This figure rises or falls slightly depending on the time of measuring, but any fluctuations are within the statistical margin of error.

The survey results reveal that the number of payments made using a smartphone continues to increase over time. In February, 16% of respondents admitted to having made a payment using a smartphone. As usual, younger people are more likely to use innovative payment methods. It is worth pointing out that four years ago, only 4% of the Latvian population used a smartphone as a payment instrument. The hypothesis that bank customers trust and are willing to use new technological solutions is once again confirmed. It is likely that banks' information campaigns could significantly encourage their use.

 

Ģirts Jansons, Deputy Head of the Cash Department, Latvijas Banka

Residents and small businesses often ask what to do with their saved euro coins. Latvijas Banka Cashier's Offices offer to exchange spare coins free of charge. We know from experience that it tends to build up not only in people's wallets and piggy banks, but also in much larger containers over a longer period of time.

For almost three months now, Latvijas Banka Cashier's Offices have been moved to a new location (Bezdelīgu iela 3). Along with the relocation of the Cashier's Offices, the change service which is popular among customers has been improved. Previously, if the amount of change submitted exceeded 100 coins, it was transferred to the cash processing centre, and the relevant amount was credited to the customer's bank account. It could even take several working days.

As of 1 January 2023, customers using coin deposit machines receive the value of deposited coins in their account within seconds (on the condition that their chosen commercial bank offers instant payments). Has society appreciated the new opportunities for faster and more convenient coin exchange? What are the first conclusions after these changes?

According to current data, 642 spare change deposit transactions were made using deposit machines in January of this year and 636 transactions were made in February, with an average of 30 transactions per day. In January 2023, 193 thousand euros were deposited into customer accounts using the machines; in February, this amount increased to 215 thousand euros.

The first months have also highlighted the challenges of using coin deposit machines:

  • In some cases, people have not checked to see if there are any "stray foreign objects" between the coins before pouring the contents of the piggy bank into the coin deposit machine. As a result, in addition to coins, unusual items such as mobile phone SIM cards, fish scales and paper clips are also paid in, and one piggy bank owner is bracing himself for an awkward conversation at home because a wedding ring was "paid in" by mistake.
  • Because children are among the most enthusiastic collectors, the coins have occasionally come into contact with sweets, jam, syrup, and so on, and the machine does not identify them or recognises such dirty or sticky coins as damaged.
  • In some cases, people pour the contents of their piggy bank into the machine and then leave without checking if the machine has detected any unidentified coins. Damaged euro and cent coins, as well as lat and santim coins can be exchanged right at the Cashier's Offices. Therefore, always make sure that all the coins are counted!

The experience of the first months also allows us to make a couple of recommendations that will make this process easier:

  • Before coming to Latvijas Banka, register at home at https://siknauda.bank.lv/ and fill in all the fields. Although your commercial bank account and details can be registered on the spot at Latvijas Banka on a customer-accessible computer, this is intended for those who forget and it increases the time required for depositing coins.
  • At home, check the contents of the piggy bank for foreign coins, foreign objects or other signs that may interfere with the operation of the coin deposit machine.
  • Bring your ID card or passport with you when you visit Latvijas Banka Cashier's Offices; if the machine does not recognise a coin, it can be checked and exchanged on the spot at the Cashier's Offices. For customer identification, a personal identification document is required.

We remind you that Latvijas Banka Cashier's Offices provide the following services:

  • exchange of lat banknotes and coins to euro banknotes and coins (at the official conversion rate, free of charge);
  • replacement of damaged euro and lat banknotes and coins (if they fulfil the replacement conditions);
  • authentication of suspicious banknotes and coins;
  • exchange of euro banknotes or coins for euro banknotes or coins of other denominations (including "piggy banks", their exchange conditions);
  • picking up collector coins and other numismatic products purchased on the website e-monetas.lv as well as 2 euro commemorative coin rolls (the dates and business hours for their pickup are announced at the time the purchases are made);
  • The provision of Credit Register data by prior appointment in cases where a customer is unable to receive the relevant data remotely electronically (https://manidati.kreg.lv/?lang=EN or to the official e-address) or by mail. Please call 67022497 to make an appointment for receiving Credit Register data in person.

Working hours of Latvijas Banka Cashier's Offices and coin deposit machines:

  • Monday-Thursday from 8.30 to 16.30;
  • Friday from 8.30 to 15.30;
  • on the days before holidays, the working day is an hour shorter respectively (please follow the information published on the website www.bank.lv).

Please feel free to visit Latvijas Banka Cashier's Offices on foot, by bicycle (there is a bicycle parking area) or public transport (public transport stops: "Valsts arhīvs", "Kalnciema iela", "Slokas iela", "Baložu iela"). The parking area situated at the building of Cashier's Offices is available for parking vehicles while using services provided by Latvijas Banka. It is mainly intended for people arriving in Riga from other parts of Latvia as well as for persons with reduced mobility. The premises of Latvijas Banka Cashier's Offices are adapted and properly equipped to meet the needs of people with reduced mobility.

 

 

Aleksandrs Antiņš, Head of the Cash Technology Division of the Cash Department, Latvijas Banka

The euro continues to be a safe and reliable global currency. In 2022, 13 counterfeit euro banknotes per 1 million banknotes in circulation were detected (compared to 17 counterfeit banknotes per 1 million in 2020, 12 counterfeit banknotes per 1 million in 2021, and 48 counterfeit banknotes per 1 million banknotes in circulation in 2014, when Latvia joined the euro area).

Even in Latvia, we are used to it and take it for granted: not only is the number of counterfeits negligible, but we are also among the safest countries in the euro area. In 2022, 889 counterfeit currency units were detected in circulation, including 433 counterfeit banknotes and 456 counterfeit coins. The number of counterfeit banknotes fell by around 13% during the year (497 counterfeit banknotes detected in 2021), while the number of counterfeit coins increased 2.2 times (206 counterfeit coins detected in 2021).

Given the decrease in the number of counterfeit banknotes detected, the financial loss caused by counterfeiting has decreased by around 2% (26.8 thousand euro in 2022 and 27.3 thousand euro in 2021). In 2020, 931 counterfeit euro currency units (706 banknotes and 225 coins) were detected, while the financial losses caused by counterfeiting amounted to 30.8 thousand euro.

Counterfeit 2 euro coins are the most common in Latvia (37% of the total), followed by counterfeit 50 euro banknotes (29%) and 20 euro banknotes (16%). In terms of the quality of counterfeits, low-quality "products" predominate.

In the euro area as a whole, 376 000 counterfeit banknotes were detected in 2022 (347 000 in 2021). In the euro area as a whole, the most frequently counterfeited banknotes were the 20 euro and 50 euro denominations (altogether around 2/3 of the counterfeit banknotes).

The euro is a secure currency, with security and design features that are well known to the public. Traditionally, in Latvia we have been very responsible regarding the security of our money, and it has been customary for shops to continue to use currency authentication devices since the introduction of the euro. At the same time, there is no reason to be complacent, especially as counterfeiters most often target the most vulnerable – children and the elderly. Each individual case of a counterfeit banknote or coin in the wallet, however, represents a real financial loss to the victim of such crime.

Although the overall volumes of counterfeit money are small, preparations for the development of the third series of euro banknotes have already started in the euro area. This will be a multi-year process in which the population of the euro area Member States, including Latvia, will be actively involved and consulted. Stay tuned!

 

Reinis Vecbaštiks, State-of-the-art Payment Expert, Latvijas Banka

The interest and awareness of the Latvian population about the digital euro is growing. According to a survey conducted by Latvijas Fakti in February 2023, nearly half (49%) of the population has already heard about the potential introduction of the digital euro in the future. This is a 14 percentage point increase from August 2022.

According to sociological data, young people are more knowledgeable about the digital euro (58% of those aged 15 to 24, compared to 38% of those aged 65 to 74). People who live in Riga (61%), have a university education (60%) and have higher income (64%) are more familiar with the digital euro. This demonstrates that the digital euro is of great interest to the most economically active and technologically savvy individuals.

What stage is the digital euro currently at? The Eurosystem (the European Central Bank (ECB) and the national central banks of the euro area, including Latvijas Banka), launched the digital euro investigation phase in October 2021. During this stage, the ECB, in cooperation with euro area central banks, market participants and in consultation with the general public, decides on the functionality or design of the digital euro. The investigation phase will end in October 2023, when the decision-making bodies of the European Union will decide whether (or not) to launch the experimental phase of the digital euro.

Given the size of the digital euro project, careful studying and testing are required before the final decision is made to issue the digital euro throughout the euro area.

What could the digital euro look like? The Eurosystem is considering various options, but from the perspective of the end user, the use of the digital euro would not differ materially from the traditional electronic payment solutions. Anyone could open a digital euro account or wallet with their preferred payment service provider. The Eurosystem is still exploring different solutions to make the final offer user-friendly, secure and open to various social groups.

Commercial banks are expected to play a significant role in the introduction of the digital euro. From the perspective of the user, the role of private payment service providers in the digital euro ecosystem would be similar to that of existing payment solutions. Neither the ECB nor the euro area national central banks want to compete with the private sector and become directly involved in the provision of payment services. People would not be required to open an account with the central bank. The digital euro account would be opened by the person's (or company's) preferred payment service provider. This role, as well as the functions that commercial banks currently provide to their customers, would be preserved in the digital euro ecosystem.

The digital euro is not a money revolution, but rather its evolution. With the digital euro project, the Eurosystem seeks to create an open payment infrastructure that commercial banks and other payment service providers can use to develop innovative solutions for their customers. During the investigation phase, the Eurosystem is collaborating closely with market participants to identify areas where the issue of the digital euro and infrastructure development could benefit payment service providers.

We have received inquiries as to whether the digital euro will replace cash, which many people prefer for various reasons.  It should be emphasised that the goal of the central bank digital currencies (CBDC) is to combine the benefits of central bank money (banknotes and coins) with the ability to use electronic payment instruments. If the digital euro is to be introduced, it will not replace the existing two types of money – non-cash means of payment and cash – but will instead supplement them with a third type of money. Therefore, people who value the benefits of cash will still be able to use it regardless of whether or not the digital euro is introduced.

What is the progress made by other countries towards the CBDC introduction? Currently, 114 countries representing more than 95% of the global economy are investigating the possibility of introducing the CBDC. The reasons and objectives for the introduction of CBDC may vary across countries. They are based on challenges faced by these countries in the area of electronic payments.

It can be observed that the factors like a sharp decline in the use of cash as well as an increase in the supply of private payment solutions, which can pose risks of monopolisation (stablecoins, current assets created by businesses), have contributed to CBDC investigation in the world’s most advanced economies. Meanwhile, developing countries appear to be more inclined to introduce the CBDC for the purpose of addressing the challenges of financial inclusion and reducing the costs related to the availability of electronic payments.

The CBDC "design" (or the functionality of its use) developed by the respective country also defines the objective of CBDC introduction. Therefore, the shape of this money may differ from country to country depending on the challenges to be tackled by the introduction of CBDC.

 

Emīls Dārziņš, Reinis Vecbaštiks, State-of-the-art Payment Experts, Latvijas Banka

The effects of the collapse of the infamous FTX crypto-asset exchange are still being felt in the crypto-asset market. In 2022, FTX was valued at more than 32 billion US dollars and was one of the largest exchanges in the crypto-asset space, with enormous growth potential. The popularity of FTX increased rapidly in 2021, driven not only by the public image of its owner, Sam Bankman-Fried and the company's marketing campaigns, but also by the general rise of the crypto-asset market. That way FTX became an influential player in the crypto-asset market in a very short period of time, gaining significant support from public figures (famous athletes, actors, etc.). This image enabled the exchange to attract significant investment, a substantial client base and its trust.

However, within a matter of days in November 2022, FTX became one of many examples demonstrating the instability of the crypto-asset market and the need for regulation to protect public interest. Information on the FTX management issues came to light, including the fact that Bankman-Fried used capital of the clients to cover the losses of his own risk investment fund "Alameda Research". Bankman-Fried provided the liquidity base of the FTX and "Alameda Research" with his own FTT token, essentially supporting these companies with risky and volatile assets. This publication sparked legitimate concern among FTX investors, who immediately began selling their FTT tokens, lowering their value, and requested the withdrawal of their funds. Shortly after, the FTX declared bankruptcy and suspended their customers from accessing their funds.

The nature of crypto-assets is that the user must transfer ownership of the crypto-assets to the exchange in order for transactions to take place on the exchange. This highlights the most significant risk for users, losing access to crypto wallet when an exchange goes bankrupt or shuts down, as has happened with FTX. There is good reason for people who are passionate about crypto-assets frequently using the phrase – not your keys, not your coins; by "keys" they are referring to access to a crypto-asset account.

Legal proceedings are currently underway against the former owner of FTX, Bankman-Fried, who is accused of fraudulent activities such as illegal transactions with client funds invested in the exchange, money laundering and illegal financing of political parties.

FTX is currently in bankruptcy proceedings overseen by US officials and so far it was possible to recover 5 billion US dollars worth of investments. Investors are estimated to have lost more than 8 billion US dollars in the FTX bankruptcy process. Due to the lack of corporate governance and internal accounting of FTX, identifying the individuals who invested in the exchange, as well as the amounts invested, is difficult. It is still unclear how much and when investors, as well as exchange clients, will be able to recover their funds.

Several venture capital funds that had invested in this exchange suffered significant losses as a result of the freezing of FTX assets and the lengthy bankruptcy process. In total, the collapse of FTX led to the bankruptcy of around 130 companies, including exchanges such as "Galois Capital" and "West Realm Shires Services". The collapse of FTX had a significant impact on the crypto-asset market as a whole, the prices and public trust in this sector.

Various fraudsters who rushed to take advantage of the situation did not lose their time in the midst of these market upheavals. By posing as official representatives of FTX and promising to return the lost funds, the fraudsters were able to defraud FTX clients who had already lost funds due to the collapse of exchange. Fraudsters used techniques such as website spoofing, impersonating official US public bodies, obtaining private data from customers, which they then used to gain access to people's digital wallets.

The collapse of FTX and the resulting losses have confirmed the critical need for regulation that protects public interests in this area. FTX is an example of the complications that arise when a major industry operates internationally with little or no regulation. Analysts have already pointed out that Bankman-Fried purposefully chose the Bahamas as the home country for FTX due to the country's permissive crypto regulation.

On 24 September 2020, the European Union (EU), observing the rapid increase in the popularity of crypto-assets, came up with a proposal for a regulation on markets in crypto-assets (Regulation on Markets in Crypto-Assets or MiCA). This regulation would establish joint rules for crypto-asset market participants across the EU. The regulation would apply to both crypto issuers and service providers, including crypto-asset exchanges.

It should be noted that the MiCA will require any legal entity, whether in or outside the EU, to obtain permission from the competent EU authorities before providing crypto-asset services in the EU. As a result, a crypto-asset exchange registered in the Bahamas will be unable to provide services such as crypto-asset exchange or crypto-asset order execution in the EU without the authorisation of MiCA. The regulation has been approved by the European Council and is awaiting a vote in the European Parliament, expected in April 2023.

The problems with crypto-asset exchanges have also caused a shift in the habits of Latvian residents. It is worth noting that the "Latvijas Fakti" survey, conducted on behalf of the Latvijas Banka in February 2023, shows that the number of residents who have purchased crypto assets has decreased by more than twice in half a year (in August 2022, 9% of respondents had purchased crypto assets, but in February 2023 – 4%; a year earlier, it was 8% of respondents). Furthermore, 70% of respondents had heard about the collapse of crypto-asset exchanges and the problems of their founders. This gives reason to believe that public awareness of the risks of investing in crypto-assets is increasing. Work in this area will continue to improve the protection of private investors and their assets.

The sociological survey data and detailed information.

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