FRANKFURT, Germany – The massive task of replacing 12 European currencies with euro notes and coins is nearly complete, with about 95 percent of all cash transactions taking place in the new currency, the European Central Bank said Friday.
The bank said the changeover was "close to being completed for consumers" 2 weeks after the Jan. 1 launch of the new cash.
"Face-to-face cash transactions in euro have been developing faster than expected," the Frankfurt-based ECB said in a statement.
European governments and the ECB want the transition completed as quickly as possible to shorten the period in which retailers have to handle large amounts of two currencies.
Before the changeover started, the bank estimated most transactions would take place in euros by Jan. 15, but that milestone was reached by Jan. 7.
The national currencies remain good up to Feb. 28, depending on the country, although they can be exchanged at branches of central banks for years afterward. The first nation to phase out its currency completely will be the Netherlands on Jan. 27.
The euro accounted for about 58 percent of cash officially in circulation, or 204.9 billion euros ($180.3 billion), on Thursday, the bank said.
The old notes are to be shredded and mostly burned or dumped in landfills. The old coins are sold as scrap metal.