The Bank of Finland is responsible for issuing bank notes and coins in Finland. The aim of the Bank of Finland and other cash supply entities is to ensure that non-counterfeit cash in good condition is available all over Finland in line with demand. The Bank of Finland endeavours to ensure that cash is permanently available as a competitive payment method.

COVID-19 pandemic contributed to decline in use of cash

The use of cash as a payment method has been on the wane over the last few years, and the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the decline in 2021. As the pandemic has dragged on, there is also a greater probability that the change will become permanent for the most part. Despite this trend, however, cash still remains an important payment method for many people and organisations in Finland.

According to a consumer survey conducted by the Bank of Finland (in Finnish), cash was still the primary payment method for almost half a million Finns in October 2021 (Chart 18).

The results of the survey suggest that use of cash has declined in particular among those consumers who usually use cash or a card by and large just as often. The relative numbers of such consumers would seem to have remained the same during the pandemic, a few percentage points either way.

Large regional differences in the availability of cash in Finland

Cash in Finland is mostly distributed via cash dispensers (ATMs) or bank branches. The number of branches offering cash services has fallen sharply over the years, however, and they have shorter business hours.

Furthermore, the number of ATMs levelled off or even fell slightly in 2021 (Chart 19). Nevertheless, the results of the consumer survey show that people tended in the main to remain satisfied with the general availability of cash.

The Bank of Finland looked into the availability of cash (in Finnish) based on the geographical location of ATMs and the population generally in 2021.

The study suggested that Finns on average have reasonable access to ATMs, although there are considerable differences from one area to another. Almost one in two municipalities have just one ATM, if they have one at all.

The situation could deteriorate quickly. In many other countries steps have already been taken to ensure that cash is available.

2021 saw an increase in the issue of banknotes and coins

There was a further increase in the issue of bank notes and coins in Finland in 2021 (Chart 20), even though the use of cash declined.

The same trend has been discernible throughout the euro area, and the European Central Bank (ECB) has investigated the matter. In Finland, the phenomenon has been more evident during the pandemic.

One explanation for the trend in Finland is that people have been holding on to cash and keeping it in their wallet (in Finnish).

Holding on to cash is generally a sign of uncertain times, when people prepare themselves for unexpected expenses or otherwise want to be sure they are able to pay what they owe in times of crisis.

The downward trend in euro banknote orders from the Bank of Finland and returns to the Bank seems to be levelling off (Chart 21).

The considerable decline in previous years was due to Bank of Finland branch closures, though most recently it is the pandemic that has been the main reason for the downward trend.

There will need to be a reliable supply of cash in the future too 

The use of cash has also been avoided (in Finnish) in transactions during the COVID-19 pandemic for reasons of hygiene.

Consumers were generally asked to pay for their goods at cash desks in shops using contactless debit or credit cards, with customers not making physical contact with the payment terminal, as with transactions requiring verification.

According to a study (in Finnish) by the ECB, however, the virus is not likely to be spread by cash.

For some, cash is still an important way to pay for goods and services, and for some it is the only option. The availability and acceptance of cash are something that must also be guaranteed in the future.

As long as consumers and companies need and want to use cash, it must be possible to do so at a reasonable cost.

We are safeguarding access to cash and cash availability and will continue to do so in the future.

Counterfeit euro cash in Finland in 2021

In 2021 in Finland and in the euro area there were fewer counterfeit euro banknotes in circulation than ever before.

A total of 523 counterfeit banknotes were discovered. The number of counterfeit coins found was 977 (Chart 22). The EUR 20 banknote was the denomination with the highest number of counterfeits, amounting to one third of the counterfeit banknotes in circulation.

The Bank of Finland organised seminars on banknotes for cash professionals in the years prior to the pandemic. In 2021 an online course (in Finnish and Swedish) was created to run alongside these. The subject is how to tell if a banknote is genuine.

The course is intended to make it easier to identify the factors that show that a banknote is not counterfeit (in Finnish), regardless of time and place. The online course is available to the general public as well as professionals.

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The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the transition in the payments landscape in 2021