4 Major Trends in Global Payment Methods

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As consumers gravitate to an ever-expanding array of payment choices, payments ecosystem players need to be vigilant in observing these changes and adjusting their strategies around how the shares of different methods rise and fall. Ranging from traditional credit cards and bank transfers to cutting-edge digital wallets and cryptocurrencies, many of those methods have forever changed the way customers spend and pay in their local economies—and sometimes in their entire regions. The most disruptive cases in the last years include:

The use of Pix in Brazil, which now commands a 29% volume share in e-commerce in 2023, according to PCMI data

The use of UPI in India: in February 2023, this payment method accounted for over 75% of the overall retail digital payments volume, as reported by PwC

SINPE, born in Costa Rica: this payment platform is now evolving into a real-time payments (RTP) scheme across Central America. PCMI is closely monitoring its development, which will include remittances and payments in US dollars

M-PESA, a digital wallet now expanding to other African countries, most recently in Ethiopia; in its birthplace, Kenya, M-PESA has over 90% penetration

The landscape is evolving at an unprecedented pace. As of 2021, 26,000 fintech companies were operating internationally, reflecting a 144% growth compared to 2020, according to Zai (2022). Credit cards, still prominent, have started to lose their share of payments as other options emerge and consolidate.

In this article, we will present an updated overview of global payment methods and analyze the latest trends impacting most regions. Our aim is to offer a fresh understanding of consumers’ new preferences and the reasons behind them.

2024 Top Global Payment Methods

A recent report by FIS (2023) summarizes the most-used payment methods globally and forecasts their volume shares by 2026 (see the two graphs below).

FIS distinguishes between point-of-sale (POS) in-store payments and e-commerce payment methods. While the top 3 methods in terms of share are the same for both, there are some interesting divergences when it comes to other methods. At the POS, for example, there is still a preference for cash (16% share of payments) when compared to online transactions (2%).

Top Global E-Commerce Payment Methods. Share of transaction volume 2022 vs 2026 (f). Source: Worldpay from FIS, 2023.
Top Global POS Payment Methods. Share of transaction volume 2022 vs 2026 (f). Source: Worldpay from FIS, 2023.

Zooming in: Trends on Global Payment Methods

As we parse the data a bit further, it’s clear that certain trends are in play around the world when it comes to payment methods.

#1: The Global Dominance of Digital Wallets

In recent years, we’ve witnessed a worldwide decline in the market share of cash and cash-based transactions, soon followed by a decrease in the use of credit cards. This contrasts with the notable rise of non-card digital payments.

The surge of wallets comes after key transformations in the banking procedures around the world, as users can now create financial accounts within minutes and utilize them digitally. Subsequently, users now embrace electronic money transfers as “the new cash” due to widespread penetration. Other factors contributing to the rise of wallets and other alternative payments include the adoption of e-commerce, the integration of NFC technology—that enables cardless transactions through smartphones, the use of QR codes at the POS (especially in China), and ongoing developments in payment rails, interoperability, and open banking.

The following chart shows the striking decrease in the use of cash and the steady uptick in wallet usage at the POS, in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region:

The Share of Wallets in In-store Transactions in MEA, 2018-2026. Digital wallets vs cash. Source: Worldpay from FIS, 2023.

In North America, however, digital wallets have already displaced cards in e-commerce transactions:

Digital Wallets vs. Cards in E-commerce Transactions in North America. Share of volume 2018-2026. Source: Worldpay from FIS, 2023.

The Latin American region also follows this trend, although credit cards remain king. In 2022, non-card digital payment methods constituted 20% of the total payment volume, according to PCMI; those included wallets, bank transfers, QR codes and other methods.1

Share of Volume of Main Payment Methods in Latin America. Cards has 44% share of payments in LatAm, cash has 37% share and "other digital" has 20% share. Source: PCMI, 2022.

Finally, the Asia-Pacific region stands out as an exemplar of this trend. The chart below shows the impressive gains made by digital wallets in APAC. However, the rest of the region still trails China in this respect. According to Worldpay, in 2022 digital wallets already commanded a massive 81% share of e-commerce transactions in China—along with a 56% share of POS transactions.

Digital Wallets’ Share of Volume in APAC (excluding China), at e-commerce and POS purchases, 2018 to 2026. Source: Worldpay from FIS, 2023.

Top Digital Wallets Around the World

As we dig further from a market landscape standpoint, recent data indicates that globally, the most widely used digital wallet brands include Alipay, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and PayPal. Apart from Alipay, these global wallets represent vehicles for card-on-file and tokenized card transactions, a digital evolution of credit and debit card payments. This demonstrates that while the share of direct credit card payments is falling, cards still perform an essential function: payment rails underlying a seamless digital interface.

Of course, wallets are diverse, with several local or regional leaders emerging within certain markets, not relying on card rails. Examples of these include GCash in the Philippines, M-PESA in Kenya, and Mercado Pago in Latin America.

#2 The Rise of Real-Time Payments (RTP) Schemes

It’s no surprise that real-time payment (RTP) systems are gaining momentum as a prime mechanism for payments, either used through digital wallets or independently. Some use cases of RTP include PromptPay in Thailand, Bizum in Spain, PayShap in South Africa, and NPP in Australia. PCMI team first identified this trend in 2021 and has confirmed its accuracy. Almost 50 global instant payment schemes are currently in development worldwide. These initiatives are aimed at promoting financial inclusion and addressing inefficiencies. In some cases, they are also designed to improve cross-border money movement, especially in the global main corridors: US-Mexico, US-India, and UAE-India, being India the top recipient of remittances.

By 2027, RTP will account for 28% of all electronic payments globally, according to ACI Worldwide.2

Top Five Global Real-Time Payment Markets: their RTP transactions volume in 2022 and their YoY growth. India goes first, followed by Brazil, China, Thailand and South Korea. The top RTP schemes in the world are Pix (Brazil) and UPI (India). Source: ACI Worldwide, 2023.

India’s UPI and Brazil’s Pix stand out as RTP disruptors in the world, with a 46% and 15% share of global transactions, respectively, according to data from ACI Worldwide. Brazil emerges as the fastest-growing RTP market, experiencing an impressive year-on-year growth of 229% in 2021-22. Taking a broader perspective, Latin America, beyond Brazil, shows the best regional RTP adoption, with CAGR of 29% for RTP’s share of digital payments between 2022 and 2027, growth that’s driven by further contributions from Chile, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, and Colombia, among other markets.

RTP Are Experiencing Growth Across Regions Worldwide. The graph shows the RTP volume (in billions) and the RTP share of digital payments in the regions: MEA and South Asia, APAC, LatAm, Europe and North America, for the year 2022 and forecast to 2027, along with the CAGR of payments with RTP. Source: ACI Worldwide, 2023.

#3 People Are Still Using Credit—but Without Swiping

After a brutal pandemic and a global commerce slowdown, consumers worldwide still value the access to credit through credit cards. According to Worldpay, credit cards accounted for 20% of e-commerce volume in 2022 and a 26% at the POS. What’s interesting to note, according to Worldpay surveys, is that a significant 22% of consumers are using their credit cards to fund their digital wallets. This can potentially misrepresent the real power of credit cards as a payment method, given that the wallet ends up being the tracked method in the purchase instead of the credit card. In fact, despite credit cards losing transaction share in the future, the volume of credit card transactions is actually expected to grow in the coming years, as shown in the graphic below.

Global credit card e-commerce volume and share of total, 2021-2026. Source: Worldpay from FIS, 2023.

However, consumers no longer look toward credit cards as the only credit tool for payments. In fact, as financial inclusion spreads in emerging markets, new consumers are embracing alternative sources of financing. The recent surge of Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) is one prominent option being embraced by consumers, offered by companies such as Affirm, Afterpay, Addi and Klarna. Additionally, there is a rise of instant credit provided by fintechs (easily approved online) and financing mechanisms offered by retailers.

BNPL Popularity Across the World. A map of the whole world, showing the estimate BNPL downloads per 100,000 people in each market/country. Source: Bank for International Settlements.

#4 Debit Cards Will Remain Relevant in Many Markets

Alongside credit cards, debit cards remain a top payment method. This is especially the case in terms of usage at the POS—also when it comes to the number of transactions, rather than volume. Debit cards are valued for their ease of use—requiring just a PIN or even just a quick tap, in the case of contactless transactions. It is worth noticing that the use of cards, both credit and debit, is still the preferred mechanism for recurring payments. More recently, card payments have found a place within mobile wallets, as consumers can now securely store their card information or utilize a digital prepaid card that functions similarly.

According to a report by J.D. Power (cited by TB&P), debit cards are the most widely used payment method at the POS in United States, with 78% of consumers indicating they use them.

The use of debit cards for physical transactions is also prominent in the UK. According to data from UK Finance3, 1 out of 2 payments in 2022 were made with a debit card. This accounts for 23 billion debit card transactions, with approximately 14 billion being contactless. For context, 95% of adults in the UK have a debit card (compared to the global average of 51% and 85 % in Europe4), and contactless technology has permeated daily life, including spheres such as public transportation. Across Europe, debit cards continue to stand out as the top payment method at the POS, commanding a 42% share of volume in 2022, as per Worldpay data. However, projections indicate a decline to 39% by 2026.

Top Payment Methods Used at POS in Europe. Share of transaction volume 2022 vs. 2026 (f). Debit card is leading with 42% share in 2022 and 39% forecasted share in 2026. Source: Worldpay from FIS, 2023.

Get more insights about payment methods around the world:

Next Steps

If you’re looking to delve deeper into the intricacies of top global payment methods, regional trends, and market complexities, feel free to connect with us.

We can help your company with a market landscape study or a deeper exploration of the factors that drive payment method shifts in different markets around the globe—and what we can expect next.

Overall, whether your company is entering a given market for the first time or is already established, we offer detailed insights into your competitors, their strategies, and potential improvements in your current approach. Click here to explore our services.


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Sources:

  1. PCMI, 2022. From invisible to visible: Cash, digital payments, and crypto in Latin America 2022 ↩︎
  2. ACI Worldwide, 2023. 2023 Prime Time for Real-Time Report ↩︎
  3. UK Finance, 2023. UK Payment Markets Summary 2023 ↩︎
  4. UK Finance, 2023. Future of Payments Review ↩︎
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Payments and Commerce Market Intelligence (PCMI) is a strategy consultancy specializing in the global payments industry.

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