Beware: the euro is coming

Kroons and eruos in a tillThere's only four days until our sovereign currency is outlawed and officially replaced by the euro. Already 80% of cash payments are in euros and no matter what we use to pay, we get 97% of change in euros. No it's not a nightmare apocalyptic view of a humiliated Britain. It's Estonia. And it's true.
Estonia joins the euro zone on Friday this week. The peak of the currency changeover has already passed with the number of ATM withdrawals and cash exchanges slowing down. ATMs all switched to euros within the first 48 hours of 2011.

Currencies in parallel

Banks, post offices and retailers have been handling two currencies in parallel this year. Prices will continue to be show in both currencies for six months – as they have since July last year. But the kroon ceases to be legal tender from Saturday.

By yesterday 60% of Estonians had made a full transition to the euro in cash; they were both carrying and paying exclusively in euro. Yesterday, the value of euro cash in circulation overtook that of kroon cash in circulation. One in five visited a bank/post office or ATM yesterday to get euros.

Euro police

There are special euro police to stop consumers being diddled. The Estonian Consumer Protection Board is carrying out daily inspections to monitor that businesses respect the changeover rules and that prices are properly converted at the official conversion rate of 15.6466 kroons to the euro.

The Estonian government says it has been rounding up in favour of the consumers, setting "an example to the private sector".

Estonia chose to adopt the euro using the "Big Bang" approach on 1 January. There is only a two-week overlap period when both currencies can be used. All banks will continue to change kroons into euros for six months. After that only specialist banks will exchange the old money for free for the rest of the year.

Coming to a country near you

So that is what it would be like for the UK too: six months warning, two weeks of overlap and six months to find all the coins down the back of the sofa.

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