As we continue our series of articles about Alternative Payment Methods (APMs), we'll take a comprehensive look at the trends, types, and major players shaping the APM scene in South America.
The region has long been a promising market for a number of businesses, however, its vibrant landscape of online payments has been tricky to enter for many global players. Latin American countries have been notoriously hard to penetrate due to the fact that, for the most part, they remain cash-based economies, with a high percentage of unbanked population and, as a result, low adoption rates of credit cards. For example, as 2020 approached, the World Bank Global Index Report highlighted that almost half of LATAM’s population was still unbanked. This, naturally, has led to the growth of cash-based alternative payment methods. You can read our previous article that explored what drives consumers to rely on cash in 2023 here.
Yet, the times have been changing, and the progress, even if it’s slow and occasionally hampered by economic and political instability, has led to new trends in the South American landscape of Alternative Payment Methods, consistent with what can be seen in other developing countries (you may check our article about Asia’s alternative payment methods and trends here).
South America is experiencing a surge in mobile wallet adoption. Services like Mercado Pago in Argentina and PicPay in Brazil are becoming increasingly popular, enabling users to make payments, split bills, and even invest, all from their smartphones.
Trend 2: Contactless Payments
With the ongoing global emphasis on hygiene (something we have to thank the COVID-19 pandemic for!), contactless payments have gained immense traction. Contactless card payments and mobile wallets are rapidly becoming the norm, providing a safer and more convenient alternative to traditional payment methods.
Trend 3: Cryptocurrency Integration
Some South American countries are embracing cryptocurrencies as a form of payment. In countries like Venezuela, where hyperinflation has devalued the local currency, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are used for everyday transactions, offering a stable alternative.
Top APMs in South America
- Boleto Bancário: A widely used cash-based payment method in Brazil, where customers can print a payment voucher and pay at various physical locations.
- PicPay: A leading mobile payment platform in Brazil that allows users to make payments, transfer money, and pay bills, all within the app. PicPay has gained significant market share, with millions of users relying on its user-friendly interface and versatile payment options.
- PIX: Developed by the Central Bank of Brazil, Pix allows customers to use their banking or digital wallet apps on their smartphones to complete checkouts by either scanning a QR code or pasting a unique Pix code when completing a transaction both online and in physical stores.
- Mercado Pago: Integrated with the popular e-commerce platform MercadoLibre, Mercado Pago offers a range of services, including online payments, QR code payments, and credit solutions. With its extensive range of services, it’s widely adopted across South American countries (well beyond Argentina), and boasts millions of active users.
- Ualá: Ualá is a fintech company offering a prepaid Mastercard linked to a mobile app, allowing users to manage their money, make payments, and track expenses.
- WebPay: Operated by Transbank, WebPay is a secure online payment gateway widely used by merchants and consumers for e-commerce transactions.
- RedCompra: A debit and credit card network in Chile, enabling card-based payments for various goods and services.