VILNIUS - Credit unions who are members of Lithuanian Central Credit Union (LCKU) have begun to issue debit and credit cards. The launch of payment cards signals a new level of activity for the credit unions in closing the gap in services offered by banks, says LCKU chairman Sigitas Bubnys.
"Our payment cards will have the same functions as the cards offered by banks. The cards may be used for payment at stores, withdrawal of cash from ATMs, to book airline tickets, hotel rooms and to perform other operations," he added.
Lithuania's credit unions are said to be the first in the Baltic countries to offer payment cards.
Starting from Oct. 18, Maestro debit cards and MasterCard credit cards will be offered by 27 credit unions that are members of LCKU. The number of card issuers is expected to blossom to 45 by the end of the year.
According to projections, the credit unions will issue 3,000 payments cards, including 2,100 debits cards, by the end of 2007. In 2008 the number of cards issued is expected to expand to 9,000, including 7,000 debit cards.
The number of cards to be issued in 2009 is planned at 18,000, of which 14,000 will be debit, and by 2010, a further 23,000 cards are to go out, including 17,000 debit cards.
Payment card sales volume in 2008 is seen reaching 4.8 million euros, which includes 3.7 million euros in debit card turnover. In 2009 the turnover figure should grow to 16.9 million euros, including 13.1 million euros in debit card sales.
Meanwhile, the credit unions have already begun preparations for the implementation of an individual e-banking system, analogous to the e-banking system of domestic banks, which is expected to go online in 2008.
Of the 67 credit unions in operation in Lithuania today, 59 are members of LCKU.
Tracking the rapid growth in the credit industry in Lithuania, the 59 members of LCKU collectively earned 466,600 euros during the first half of 2007, a 35.2 percent jump over the same year earlier period. Assets topped 147.3 million euros for the period, up 48.3 percent over the previous year.
The credit unions' loan portfolio rose 55.5 percent, reaching 107.1 million euros, with deposits at the end of June totaling 113.9 million euros, a 49.1 percent increase over last year.
LCKU reported earnings of 178,855 euros on June 30, or 37.9 percent higher than the previous year's results of 129,680 euros.