European trading firms formerly played a major role in the economy; however, many Europeans, fearful of eventual Muslim control, sold their holdings or gave them up in 1961–62. After independence, about one-half of the country's shops closed down, and in 1963, state agencies began taking over nearly all wholesaling and marketing operations. Since 1996, the Algerian government has prioritized the privatization of state-owned enterprises.
The principal cities of the north are the largest trade centers. While most trade is done on a cash or credit basis, some bartering still goes on among the rural dwellers and in the Muslim quarters of cities. In the mountain regions there are local market days or special local fairs for the exchange of products during different seasons. Travelers checks and credit cards are not widely accepted.
Normal business hours in winter are 8 AM to noon and 2:30 to 6 PM , Sunday–Wednesday, and 8 AM to noon on Thursday; afternoon hours in summer are 3 to 6:30. Banks are generally open in the winter months from 8:45 AM to 12 noon and 2:15 to 5 PM , Saturday–Wednesday; in summer, 8:15 AM to 12 noon and 3 to 5:30 PM .