Changes in bank payment times

From the start of February the commercial banks will settle payments between themselves using a pan-European retail system. At the end of the working day on 31 January in consequence, Eesti Pank will close its retail payments system ESTA, where around one fifth of the payments made in Estonia are settled.

As interbank payments within Estonia will now move through the pan-European retail payments system STEP2, the working hours of that system will have an impact. The current ten settlement cycles will be reduced to five cycles, meaning that rather than the current hour or hour and a half, it will take around 3-5 hours for money to be transferred. The conditions for each bank depend on whether the bank is connected to the system directly or through another bank.

Bank clients will be need to be aware that if money has to reach its destination in another bank on the same working day, the payment will need to be initiated in Swedbank, SEB or Danske Bank by 16.30 at the latest, and in Nordea by 15.30 at the latest. For some banks the final deadline for making payments could be 15.00. Further information and answers to questions can also be obtained from the banks. If a payment is started later, it will reach the payee on the next working day, at around 10.00. Payments currently reach their destination on the same working day if they are made before 17.00.

Payments within banks will be made in the same way as they have been up to now. Payments within one bank will be made around the clock, even at weekends and holidays.


Eesti Pank has settled interbank retail payments within the country since 1992 and the current retail payment system started operations in 2005. The speed and frequency of the payments has been the same since October 2006, with payments being made ten times a day between 08.00 and 18.00. During its eight years and four months of operation, the ESTA retail payments system has settled over 200 million interbank payments with a total value of 232 billion euros, equivalent to 95,000 payments worth 110 million euros each day.

Eesti Pank started preparing in 2012 for the change to SEPA so that the settlement systems for interbank retail payments could be brought into line with the new requirements. The results of the tendering process allowed Eesti Pank to offer the commercial banks improved payment conditions and lower prices, which were down one third on current prices at two euro cents per payment, and to develop a SEPA direct debit service. The prices of the retail payments systems operating in Europe were still cheaper though, and the parent banks of many of the banks operating in Estonia were already connected to the pan-European STEP2 settlement system, so the banks did not choose the solution offered by Eesti Pank. Only a few European central banks, such as the German, Italian and Austrian central banks, provide an interbank retail settlement service.

The pan-European STEP2 retail payments system

The STEP2 system is managed by EBA Clearing, a private company which was founded in 1998 and is now owned by 63 European and international banks. EBA Clearing is responsible for the reliability of the system and for keeping it working without interruption. The responsibility for oversight falls to the European Central Bank, which makes sure the system is working efficiently and that risks have been minimised.

Eesti Pank will continue to operate the Estonian part of TARGET2, the pan-European system for express interbank payments. The express system can be used for very large payments that reach their destination within around thirty minutes.

Source: Bank of Estonia

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