On 1 January 2015, Lithuania adopted the euro as its official currency andthe changeover is running smoothly and according to plan. The previous national currency – the litas – will be phased out during a transitional two-week dual circulation period when both currencies have legal tender status in Lithuania. By Saturday, 3 January, 89% of customers were getting their change in euro. No major problems were observed in banks or in the retail sector.
According to a recent Commission survey, a large proportion of Lithuanians already had euro cash before the changeover: 44% had euro banknotes and 46% had euro coins – typically from trips abroad but many also from an exchange in a bank or post office in Lithuania or coins from euro starter kits. The widespread holdings of euro cash in advance of €-day contribute to a smoother cash changeover.
The conversion of ATMs (cash dispensers) went smoothly and virtually all ATMs have been distributing euro banknotes as from the first hour of 1 January. Furthermore, some 40 commercial bank branches and the cash offices of the Lithuanian Central Bank, Bank of Lithuania, in Vilnius and Kaunas were open for cash services on Thursday, 1 January. Payment cards and point of sale terminals for card payments were likewise successfully converted to euro in time for the opening of shops on Friday, 2 January. 161 bank branches and 188 post offices were open for cash services on Saturday, 3 January.
According to the most recent Commission survey, on 3 January, 59% of cash payments in shops were still made in Lithuanian litas only (down from 84% on 2 January), in order to use the old currency in shops rather than having to go to a bank to exchange them. However, 36% of those polled already paid in euro only, which is a very high figure compared to previous changeovers.
Commercial banks had received euro banknotes and coins in advance from the Bank of Lithuania and had in turn supplied euro cash to shops and other businesses, so that they can handle payments and return change in euro as from the first changeover day. The successful advance supply of cash enabled a very high number of retailers to provide change in euro only. On the third day of the changeover, 89% of customers were getting their change in euro. This is important in order to withdraw the old Lithuanian litas from circulation as quickly as possible.
After the first two days with their new currency, 25% of citizens polled said they already had only or mostly euro banknotes in their wallet.
Thanks to careful preparations, the start of the changeover has been successful. No major problems have been encountered so far and banks and retailers were generally doing well in the first days of the changeover.
For more information see:
Lithuania’s national changeover web site: http://euras.lt/en
For more information on the euro see: http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/euro/index_en.htm