Cheaper, faster, safer, and more inclusive

Cheaper, faster, safer, and more inclusive than traditional methods such as credit cards or traditional bank transactions, instant-transfer systems (or real-time transfers) are gaining global traction —starting from emerging markets.

Considered by the World Bank to be catalysts for enhancing financial inclusion and propelling economic growth, these platforms act as foundational components for modernizing the financial ecosystem and advancing the digitalization of the economy. Operating round the clock, seven days a week, they facilitate instantaneous (or near-instantaneous) money movement between individuals, businesses, and governments.

This is undoubtedly the case of UPI in India and Pix in Brazil, two very similar platforms that caught the world’s attention for their comprehensive and fast adoption. According to an ACI Worldwide report, UPI accounted for 46% of real-time transactions worldwide in 2022, while Pix was responsible for 15%.

Lessons from the emerging world

Various underlying factors made emerging countries the leaders of instant transfer platforms. One prominent reason is the necessity to cater to populations lacking access to traditional financial services such as debit and credit cards. In these countries, a significant portion of the population remains unbanked or underbanked, prompting the need for innovative solutions to boost access. 

"This is why innovation in digital payments is coming from rising markets: because of the need," says André Allain, Vice-President of Growth at EBANX. "Once you have the need, you have to develop it."

Additionally, emerging countries, including Brazil and India, grapple with sizable informal economies. The introduction of free and instant transfer systems serves as a catalyst for payment solutions within these informal sectors, fostering economic growth by providing an avenue for formalizing transactions. The emphasis on such systems in these economies is crucial, considering the substantial portion of the population that previously relied on cash. 

"The future of payments in rising markets is instant," says Wiza Jalakasi, Director of Africa Market Development at EBANX. According to him, payments in emerging markets are mobile-first and increasingly not card-based. "It’s these alternative payment methods that are driving not only financial inclusion but digital commerce from Latin America to Africa to India." 

In this context, noteworthy contributions come from regulatory bodies like the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), the Reserve Bank of India, and the Brazil Central Bank. These entities were pivotal in establishing UPI and Pix, the world’s most widely used instant transfer systems. They advocated for these systems despite opposition from private banking interests and ensured that these platforms were designed to be straightforward, cost-effective, and accessible to the population.

Instant payments are not exclusive to rising markets, though: by 2026, ACI Worldwide predicts, real-time payments will account for one in every four electronic payments worldwide. 

They have swiftly become integral in several use cases, including person-to-person, in-store, and government transfers. Their pervasive influence is actively reshaping the economy, evidenced by a 63% increase in transactional volumes throughout 2022.

“The numbers speak for themselves. By 2027, real-time payments are expected to account for 27.8% of all electronic payments globally, up from 18% in 2022.”

ACI Worldwide Report 2023

Due to its typically straightforward user experience, widespread accessibility among customers, and the advantage of real-time confirmation, instant transfers are gaining traction in a different realm: digital commerce. Increasingly, digital commerce is transforming into an ecosystem where these platforms play a pivotal role in reaching broader audiences, enhancing customer experience, and boosting sales.

"Real-time payments are gaining e-commerce market share faster than any other payment method," says Lindsay Lehr, Managing Director from PCMI. Some of the main drivers for their fast adoption in digital commerce are instant settlement for the merchant, no chargeback risk, lower fees for both users and sellers, and easy mobile UX.

Pix: the entrance door to digital commerce in Brazil

Just three years since its implementation, Brazil's instant payment system Pix is part of the daily life of 143 million people — or the equivalent of four in every five Brazilian adults. This made Pix the real-time system with the fastest adoption rate in terms of transactions per capita since it was launched in November 2020. 

Pix is widely adopted by companies, with 13 million registered users, and is integral to businesses, as evidenced by the fact that 96% of Brazilian merchants accept Pix. According to the Central Bank of Brazil, P2B (person-to-business) transactions accounted for 36% of Pix transfers from January to November 2023, with nearly 10 billion transfers made.


of the Pix transactions made from Jan.23 to Nov.23 were from customers to merchants


Pix transactions per minute were made on Oct.23

In 2023, Brazil recorded an average of three billion Pix transactions per month, totaling USD 272 billion. Pix emerged as the predominant payment method in the country, surpassing credit card transactions by nearly double in the first semester of 2023.In the second quarter of the year, 36% of all payment transactions were made via Pix. 

“In comparison with electronic payment systems globally, including with advanced economies, Brazil has had the fastest adoption rate in terms of transactions per capita gained since implementation.”

IMF Country Report, Jun 23

Pix uptake is equally impressive in digital commerce: the instant transfer system accounts for 30% of Brazil’s online sales, according to Payments and Commerce Market Intelligence (PCMI) calculations. 

In 2023, Pix was set to move USD 81 billion in online sales, a value 60% higher than registered in the previous year. To illustrate the influence of Pix and its impressive reach, this amount nearly equals the entire Brazilian digital commerce market in 2018 (USD 85.5 billion).

And it will keep growing. By 2026, the projections show, Pix transactions will achieve nearly USD 200 billion —reaching an impressive 40% of the country’s market—, with an annual growth rate of 31%. By then, the real-time system will become the most used payment method in Brazilian digital commerce, tied with credit cards.

It’s so substantial that Pix by itself is responsible for 15% of Latin America’s digital commerce, being the second most used payment method in the region. In just three years, this share will grow to 20%. 

USD 81 billion

is the amount of Pix sales in Brazil’s digital commerce in 2023, a value 60% higher than in 2022

In Brazil, EBANX's internal data reveals that Pix has become the primary payment choice for drawing in new clients. Over the last 3 years, eight out of 10 customers making their initial online purchase with a merchant opted to use Pix for payment.  This analysis considers a total of 221 million transactions made by around 30 million consumers – or 20% of all Pix users in the country.

8 out of 10

customers used Pix to make their 1st online purchase with an EBANX merchant 

The data additionally highlights Pix's encroachment into the territory once dominated by Boleto Bancário, a traditional and widely used cash voucher.  For instance, in 2020, 38% of new customers opted for the cash-based method for their initial online purchases. However, this figure significantly declined three years later to less than 1%.

"The numbers speak for themselves. Merchants who adopted Pix have tremendous results, with a growing user base and lower customer churn," says Allain, from EBANX. "More than this, they are now reaching areas in the country besides the big urban centers that they would not reach without Pix."

UPI takes on India’s digital commerce

One of the most impactful symbols of digital and financial inclusion globally is UPI, India's instant transfer system, embraced by over 300 million users (explore more about UPI here). This real-time payment system facilitates transactions amounting to one-third of the GDP of the world's sixth-largest economy.

UPI carries the mantle as India's foremost payment method, exerting substantial influence in accessing Indian consumers. As the world's leading instant transfer system, it dominates over 40% of global real-time transactions and sets a benchmark for many countries creating their payment systems.

Designed to be inherently app-agnostic, UPI encourages competition. Its expansive user base fuels a spirited competition among various digital wallets, third-party apps, and bank apps striving for its seamless integration. Nearly 300 million merchants accept it as a payment method, and its integration with other methods, such as RuPay credit cards, has the potential to increase its importance, use and reach.

“The system’s efficiency, combined with the fact that it is free for consumers and with its role in driving digital inclusion in India, helped to turn UPI into a game-changer in the country’s payment market.”

Tonet Santana

Senior Consultant at PCMI, in an article about instant payments

UPI is accepted in Singapore and the UAE. This is part of NPCI's efforts to make it international, and there are plans to make it available in 10 more countries.

The significance of UPI in Indian digital commerce is underscored by its widespread popularity and extensive accessibility. Leading marketplaces in India, such as Amazon and Flipkart, have already embraced UPI.

The instant transfer platform holds 41% of digital commerce sales in India, being the most used online payment method in the country, according to PCMI data. In a market worth USD 184 billion in 2023, this means a share of nearly USD 75 billion — with the perspective of reaching USD 113 billion in 2026, within the expansion of Indian digital commerce.

“UPI is the backbone of e-commerce development in India,” says Mahesh Swaminathan, senior consultant at PCMI and an expert in India's payment market. According to him, real-time payment overtook cash usage in online purchases, with cash on delivery share decreasing to only 11% in 2023. Historically, cash represented around 25% of digital sales in India.

UPI's swift transaction confirmation takes mere seconds, proving highly advantageous for both merchants and customers. As is happening with Pix, UPI boasts very high approval rates, further solidifying its appeal.

Keeping it simple and accessible to boost adoption

Both Pix and UPI share a key similarity —they are cost-free for customers, a factor that significantly encourages adoption. Clients encounter no fees for person-to-person (P2P) transactions, fostering wider acceptance. Moreover, Pix and UPI users are not charged for online or in-store purchases. 

In Brazil, while merchants incur a nominal fee for receiving payments through these systems, it remains substantially lower than fees associated with credit, debit cards, or boleto. This enables merchants to offer discounts for Pix payments, delivering mutual benefits to clients and bolstering sales.

In India, the fee is waived as part of the RBI's program to foster greater adoption. There are no immediate of regulations changing this policy in the near future.

“Zero cost to consumers has already proven to be decisive in the degree of adoption and expansion of other real-time payment systems around the world,” says Andreas Farge, director at PCMI.

Pix and UPI have been so successful that they are now  extending their reach to international domains. UPI transactions are now operational in Singapore and the United Arab Emirates, while Pix is gaining acceptance in stores across Argentina, Chile, and Portugal, targeting Brazilian tourists. This marks the beginning of their global expansion, with more on the horizon.

“Zero cost to consumers has already proven to be decisive in the degree of adoption and expansion of other real-time payment systems around the world.”

Andreas Farge

Director at PCMI and Mexico specialist

Instant transfers expand across emerging markets

The proliferation of instant transfer systems stands as a valuable asset, broadening the spectrum of payment choices and extending digital commerce accessibility to a wider population. However, to facilitate this expansion, it's imperative to ensure that platforms are developed to be cost-effective and accessible, catering to individuals who might not be accustomed to financial transactions.

In addition to Pix, Latin America boasts another successful example of instant transfer usage in digital commerce. In Colombia, the Payment System for Electronic Transactions (PSE) serves as a bank transfer system specifically designed to facilitate online sales.

It is a seamlessly integrated button within a merchant's checkout process, initiating transactions without requiring users to switch between apps or websites. Transactions are promptly confirmed and come at no cost.

During the first quarter of 2023, PSE witnessed over 215.9 million transactions, marking a 25% increase compared to the same period in the previous year. According to PCMI, it accounts for 25% of Colombia’s online sales, totaling USD 10 billion. It is projected to reach nearly USD 35 billion by 2026, with an estimated compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30%.

Recently, Bancolombia introduced a similar feature limited to its clients. The initiative is significant as it caters to 6.7 million Colombians, with 4.4 million of them not holding any other financial products like debit or credit cards.

According to PCMI estimations, account-based transactions, including Pix, account for 21% of Latin America’s digital commerce.

In Mexico, SPEI, while often used by the population, has gained little space in digital sales.

The system registered more than 3 billion transactions in 2023. Despite its considerable potential, its usage in digital commerce remains relatively modest. Based on PCMI estimations, SPEI holds a mere 3% share of Mexican online sales, equivalent to USD 2.2 billion, in a market valued at USD 75 billion in 2023.

But there is ample room for expansion and growth ahead, with the recent launch of DiMo, a system with a more user-friendly experience. In its early days, the platform has been adopted by major Mexican banks, and adoption expectations are high.

Other examples across Latin America

Latin America has other successful examples of instant transfers. That’s the case of Sinpe in Costa Rica, Transfer365 in El Salvador, and Transferencias 3.0 in Argentina. At the same time, Peru developed a system for digital wallet interoperability that, in the future, may include financial institutions.

Other Latin American countries, such as Uruguay and Chile, have also announced efforts to build an instant transfer system, driven by Pix's success.

In Africa, instant transfers dominate the digital commerce market of South Africa (22% of sales, the equivalent of USD 1.5 billion) and Nigeria (also 22%, totaling USD 4.8 billion)

In various other African nations, such as Kenya, instant account-based transfers are facilitated through mobile money services. There, M-PESA transactions account for 45% of online sales (nearly USD 1 billion).

South Africa recently introduced PayShap, a real-time payment system operating with nine banks 

Currently, 20 African countries employ instant transfer systems, with 31% of them relying specifically on mobile money for transactions. Low adoption of credit cards in the region, accounting for merely 3% of adults, has highlighted the vital role of account-based transfers in improving financial inclusion.

“By the year 2011, there were more mobile money accounts than bank account holders in Kenya. In only a short space of time, this payment method was able to evolve from being non-existent at all to being the leading one in the continent today”, said Wiza Jalakasi, EBANX Director of Africa Market Development, during EBANX's Payments Summit

The SIIPs 2023 Report underscores a significant surge in both the volume and value of these transfers from 2018 to 2022. Over this period, there was a remarkable 47% increase in the average annual volume and a substantial 39% growth in transaction values across African countries. 


was the growth in transaction value through instant transfer systems in Africa from 2018 to 2022

Moreover, the continent is witnessing the development of 17 new domestic and three regional systems, underscoring the growing significance of digital payments in Africa. 

Instant payments have made buying online easier, and this is especially true for Africa and other rising markets. For consumers who didn't own a card (which is the majority of the population in these economies), they were enablers for their first online purchase. This has opened a host of opportunities for online merchants and elevated the online customer experience.

In the future, instant payments will continue to be a crucial tool for digital consumers in rising markets. Soon, they will become the next generation's preferred payment method and continue bringing new consumer segments to online commerce.


of instant transfer customers in Africa make or receive digital payments at least once a week, according to SIIP report

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