RIGA - Last year Latvia saw the steepest growth in the number of newly-issued bank cards among the Baltic states.
Liga Krapane, a representative of First Data Latvia bank card processing center, said the number of new bank cards last year rose 17.7 percent in Latvia, 8.9 percent in Estonia and 16.2 percent in Lithuania.
Estonia remains the leader in the number of payment cards issued per capita. According to First Data Latvia information, at the end of 2005 there were 1.06 bank cards per capita in Estonia (up from 0.97 a year ago), 0.7 in Latvia (up from 0.57) and 0.82 in Lithuania (up from 0.7).
"Such an increase suggests that the present growth rate will remain stable over the next year in Latvia, and that Lithuania can come close to a situation when there is one payment card per capita on average," the representative said.
The Baltic states are still significantly lagging behind Scandinavia in terms of the number of transactions made by payment cards, Krapane said.
In Sweden, 908 million transactions on average are made by bank cards annually, while in Norway the figure is 806 million, in Finland 661 million and in Denmark 604 million.
In Estonia, the number of transactions made by payment cards per year on average is 137 million, in Lithuania 98 million and in Latvia 80 million.
"The wide gap in the statistics shows that people in the Baltics, and especially in Latvia, still do not have enough information about payment cards, their essence, security and advantages in comparison with cash," said Krapane.
"At the same time these figures suggest that cash still prevails in transactions in our country, as a large proportion of employees receive their salaries in cash," she explained.