On 1 January 2015, Lithuania is transitioning to the euro currency. Both Estonians and Latvians have gone through this historic period. Taking into account our neighbours’ examples, let’s find out what changes await ATM users in our county.
As reported by the Bank of Lithuania, the country currently has 1,263 ATMs. In 2015, on the very first day following Lithuania’s transition to the euro, ATMs will not dispense litas. Tomas Augucevičius, the Deputy Director of Penkių kontinentų bankinės technologijos (BS/2), the company that contributed to preparation of ATMs for transitioning to the euro in Estonia and Latvia, kindly agreed to share with us several things that ATM users should be aware of.
When will ATMs start dispensing euros?
On 1 January 2015, after the euro becomes the new currency of Lithuania, all funds in litas on Lithuania’s bank accounts will be converted to euros using the official exchange rate of the day. ATMs will immediately switch to the so-called ‘euro mode’ and will dispense only euros.
Some banks have been preparing for that switch for several months. The comprehensive ATM upgrade before the adoption of the euro would normally take approximately nine months. Cash making ATMs would require more time, because not only their software requires certain upgrades, but also additional technical components should be installed.
Until when ATMs will dispense and accept litas?
On December 31, most ATMs will be dispensing litas. Most of the major Lithuanian banks will allow depositing litas via cash accepting ATMs. Currently, there are 259 of them across the country. The banks will announce the exact dates and locations in the near future.
In Estonia and Latvia, where we actively participated in similar procedures, all ATMs under our supervision were prepared for transitioning several months before January 1st, and smooth dispensing of euro banknotes began just 30 minutes into the new year.
What euro banknotes will be available at ATMs?
In total, the Bank of Lithuania is planning to purchase 132 million euro banknotes and 370 million euro coins and cents. Based on recommendations of the European Commission, ATMs will be dispensing banknotes of lower denomination (5, 10, 20 and 50 euro), and banknotes of denominations higher than 50 euro will not be available for some time after January 1st. This should significantly help traders and service providers, who will not be able to accumulate sufficient amounts of cash to give change at the beginning of the next year.
Banknotes of higher denominations (100, 200 and 500 euro) will also be available at the beginning of 2015, but they will be issued only at the currency exchange offices. By way, the highest denomination banknote dispensed by ATMs in many eurozone countries is 50 euro banknote. Interestingly, Lithuania will become the fourth country in the eurozone, where ATMs will issue five euro banknotes. In other eurozone countries, the lowest banknote dispensed by ATMs is ten euro banknote.
Do you expect rows of those who want to withdraw euro at the beginning of the year? What can you tell us about that based on your Estonian and Latvian experience?
The experience of our neighbours shows that in the first days after the adopting of the euro trade and service enterprises’ demand for cash increased from three to five times. This is due to the obligation to give change to customers only in euros. However, owners of small commercial businesses did not earn much of circulating money within those several days, so they were mostly running back and forth to the bank departments or ATMs. On the other hand, residents that waited for the end of the year and did not make any savings also rushed to withdraw euros.
Thus, both Estonia and Latvia failed to avoid rows. However, it all settled down in a couple of weeks. But that does not mean that you should start converting money right away. If you do it now, you will have to pay, and at the beginning of the next year all currency will be replaced free of charge.
What advice would you give ATM users who wish to avoid all this euro adoption related hassle?
In the last days of December, I would advise people to use payment cards instead of cash and withdraw just as much cash as necessary from ATMs. In addition, I would suggest not to rush to withdraw euros. The Bank of Lithuania will exchange them for an unlimited period of time, so you will be able to do that later and free of charge. Talking of higher amounts of cash, I would recommend passing those to bank accounts to gain time, and after the start of litas to the euro exchange boom, such money will automatically ‘turn into’ the European currency.
By the way, I would like to urge citizens to be vigilant about the use of ATMs after the adoption of the euro. Do not rush and click a button in your normal section of the screen when selecting the desired function or amount of money. Please remember that adoption of new currency will result in possible changes in the graphical user interface.
I also want to remind you that all the relevant information about transitioning to the euro is available at the Bank of Lithuania website and website www.euras.lt specifically dedicated to this topic.