Latvia’s post offices have key role as nation converts to euro currency

Latvia’s post offices have key role as nation converts to euro currency

Latvia’s post offices are offering customers the chance to exchange their lats for euros free of charge. The Baltic Republic has just become the 18th country to join Europe’s single currency, after 10 years of preparations following the country’s accession to the European Union.

Where people have no access to banking services or ATMs, they will be able to change their old currency for the new currency at 302 post offices around the country, about half of the Latvian postal retail network.

Latvian Post said it was providing the service free of charge as part of its social responsibility as national postal service.

Lats will be exchanged at the post offices at the official exchange rate as published by the government, 0.702804 euros to the lat. The free exchange will be available from the start of this month until the end of March.

Customers looking to change more than 3,000 lats (EUR 4,300) in a transaction will have to notify the post office in advance, filling out an application form and providing proof of identity three days before the currency will be exchanged.

“Safe and easy”

Latvian Post is offering special bank accounts as part of its Lats exchange system, available free of charge when opened in the first two weeks of this month, after which fees will apply including a 0.1% fee on cash withdrawals.

As well as providing a “safe and easy” transition to the euro, the special bank accounts can be used to pay rent and utility bills, and receive pensions or benefits.

Latvian Post said its customers will be able to pay for its postal services in either euros or lats in the first two weeks of 2014, although change will be provided in euros only.

The Latvian government says 630.8m lats (EUR 904.3m) were still in circulation at the end of 2013, about half the amount at the beginning of the year. Banks and cash machines switched to the new currency at midnight on 1 January.

Commercial banks will stop accepting lats from 1 July 2014, while Latvian post offices will stop accepting lats after the end of March 2014.

Sanita Bajāre, State Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, said: “The New Year’s night and Latvia’s accession to euro area has probably been the most carefully planned event in the history of Latvia. Preparations for this moment started almost 10 years ago, right after the EU membership referendum and accession to the Union. We have successfully reached the objective of ensuring that the changeover is simple, safe and convenient for the Latvian population.”

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