The number of Visa cards issued by Latvian banks has reached 500,000, according to Malgorzata O'Shaughnessy, vice president of Visa's Central Europe and African region.
Latvian banks issued 461,600 cards by the end of last year, double the total for 2001.
O'Shaughnessy said that the number of cards issued had risen, as had card-related infrastructure, with over 7,600 retail outlets accepting payment cards in Latvia and 845 automated-teller machines capable of transactions.
According to Visa's calculations, the number of transactions in Latvia at retail outlets in 2002 was the highest in the Baltic and Central European region at 46 percent of the total Visa transactions in Latvia. In Lithuania the figure was 43 percent and in Estonia 36 percent. Central European countries averaged 23 percent of transactions.
Latvia is also among the leaders in Central Europe in terms of retail outlets accepting Visa Electron cards, with 98 percent of all outlets reportedly accepting them as payment. Estonia boasts the same figure. Ninety-four percent of businesses in Lithuania accept then and the average in Central Europe is 76 percent.
O'Shaughnessy said that people from 18 countries spent $52.2 million in Latvia using Visa cards last year.
She expects European Union membership to bring more competition for Latvian banks.