It’s time for alternative payments in Latin America’s digital commerce

The digital commerce boom in Latin America over the last three years has significantly shifted the payments landscape in the region, pushing the so-called Alternative Payment Methods (everything but cards) and accelerating the process of financial inclusion through digital in a region where credit card penetration is still low. Data released by Beyond Borders, an annual study recently launched by Brazilian payments fintech EBANX, shows that the share of alternative payment methods is expected to reach 39% of the region’s digital commerce total volume, an eight percentage point leap in just two years. 

While APMs are ramping up, the share of credit cards has been shrinking, from 55% in 2020 to 51% in 2022. Vouchers, meanwhile, which allow payment in cash (like the boleto in Brazil), seem to be reaching a plateau in LatAm’s digital commerce after years of intense digitization. In 2018, they accounted for 16% of online purchases across the region, and now account for just 8% of total volume, according to the study.

The growth of alternative payment methods (APMs) can be attributed to an interesting number of factors. Although the Latin American population who have an account has increased from 39% to 73% in the last decade, according to the World Bank‘s Global Findex report, only 28% have a credit card. It is in this gap that alternative payment methods have found room to grow. “The digital-consumption acceleration in rising economies doesn’t lie with credit card’s growth as we see in more mature markets,”  said Juliana Etcheverry, Director of Strategic Payments Partnerships at EBANX. 

Alternative payment methods have also gotten an extra boost with the digital commerce boom since 2020, much due to the pandemic (but not only). With a digital economy on the rise, money and payment methods have gone the same way, becoming digital as well. Added to this is the fact that global digital commerce is increasingly cross-border, which requires more diverse payment solutions beyond a credit card. 

This more diverse payment landscape is also related to a change in the consumption behavior of Latin Americans, who now have more payment options and can choose how they want to pay for their purchases – and here, convenience, price, usability, and the user experience offered by APMs are differentials, the study says. “The choice to use alternative payments is a cultural one. The feeling that they can pay any way they want is very important for Latin Americans,” said Erika Daguani, VP of Product at EBANX. 

Source: Beyond Borders study, with data from AMI (Americas Market Intelligence)* includes Pix and other instant payment methods 

Latin Americans go for instant 

Among the alternative payment methods on the rise in Latin American digital commerce, account-based transfers, such as Pix in Brazil or PSE in Colombia, and digital wallets are outstanding. 

According to the Beyond Borders report, account-based transfers have nearly doubled in volume (CAGR of 86%) each year in Latin America‘s digital commerce since 2018 and are expected to reach about $70 billion in 2022, with the most significant shares in Colombia (30% share of the country’s e-commerce), Brazil (24%), Guatemala (11%), Bolivia and Chile (both 10%). By 2025, this type of APM in Latin America should reach $121 billion in volume after growing at a 33% CAGR. 

Digital wallets, meanwhile, are expected to expand by about 20% per year through 2025 in the region’s digital commerce, driven mainly by increased demand from Latin American consumers for digital services, the vertical in which they register their largest share. According to Beyond Borders, payments made via e-wallets in Latin American e-commerce are expected to surpass $70 billion by 2025, representing about 10% of all e-commerce transactions in the region. Argentina and El Salvador emerge as the countries where they are most used, representing 23% of their respective digital markets. Next, come Bolivia (14%), Peru (13%), Uruguay (12%), Brazil (11%), and Mexico (8%).

Source: Beyond Borders study with data from AMI (Americas Market Intelligence)

Global trend, BNPL is still in its early stages in Latin America

Beyond Borders also shows that although they have grown 300% year-over-year in Latin America by 2022, Buy Now Pay Later solutions are still in their early stages when compared to traditional installments in the region. 

According to the study, this is because paying in installments is not new to Latin Americans, quite the contrary, it is a very common payment option in the region since the 1980s known as crediário. “BNPL is trying to leverage something that Latin Americans have been doing for a long time,” explained Daguani. 

Source: Beyond Borders study, with data from AMI (Americas Market Intelligence) and Abecs 

Still, experts consulted by the study believe that BNPL has growth potential in the region thanks to some product innovations – for example, while the crediário was offered directly in brick-and-mortar stores, BNPL can be used in both digital and physical commerce and is offered by fintechs or e-commerce players, allowing consumers to pay for purchases via short-term loans that most often have no interest fees for shoppers. In addition, BNPL targets those consumers who do not have a credit card or do not have enough credit limit to pay for their purchases in installments.

The more mature digital commerce in Latin America, the more mature payments

According to the Beyond Borders study, in 2022, almost 75% of Latin Americans have bought online and all digital commerce verticals in the region showed growth above the global averages. In this context, cross-border digital commerce stands out, with an expected growth of almost 45% by 2022, nearly 10 percentage points higher than domestic digital commerce (36%), according to Americas Market Intelligence (AMI). This trend should continue to be true over the next several years, with international online sales in LatAm accelerating at an average of about 34% per year through 2025, above the overall digital commerce growth of 25%.

The cross-border digital commerce boom is widening a number of opportunities for business and payments in verticals such as SaaS/Cloud, Social, Streaming, and Gaming – markets where cross-border transactions are frequent and range from high ticket payments to micropayments. 

Sources: Beyond Borders study, with data from Statista, Insider Intelligence, Newzoo and IDC/Statista, with EBANX calculations * Annual growth in 2022 

In the SaaS/Cloud vertical, the B2B market is booming with an estimated annual growth of 30% by 2026, according to EBANX’s calculations based on IDC and Statista data. With an average value of $45,000 today for a B2B SaaS contract purchase in the region, these high-ticket items are about 80% of the total SaaS/Cloud online payments volume in LatAm and should further drive the emerging of new solutions and business models for mega-payments. 

Meanwhile, the growth of digital services markets, such as Streaming and Gaming, and the rise of the so-called Creator’s Economy, has created a billion-dollar business opportunity in Latin America, according to Beyond Borders: the volume of payments made to influencers, streamers, and gamers in Latin America is expected to grow 60% per year and reach $61 billion by 2025, forecasts the report. Most of these payments, especially for nano-influencers and social-media rewards, are low in value (a.k.a. micropayments). 


Beyond Borders 2022-2023 is an annual study carried out by EBANX that brings together the most up-to-date, in-depth, and insightful data and content on the payments landscape in Latin America on the most promising digital sectors, such as retail, SaaS, creator’s economy, travel & OTA, streaming, and gaming. This year’s edition also features, for the first time, a special chapter on payments in Africa, the region that has been hailed as the world’s next digital frontier. 

Download the complete Beyond Borders study

This post was last modified on December 13, 2022 5:50 pm

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