Payments Through Mobile Phones Is the Most Widely Chosen Option for Instant Transfers

The use of mobile phones for making payments is increasing month by month, and today they are the most widespread platform among users of financial services when making money transfers. The trend has been increasing steadily since 2021, and goes hand in hand with the exponential growth seen in the number of payments by transfer.

In October, 162.8 million transfers were made, up 7.1% against September and more than twice compared to October 2021 (79.7 million). The data arise from the Monthly Report on Retail Payments prepared by the BCRA, which shows that payments made through mobile banking represented 60% of the total number of transactions. In August, such payments accounted for 57% and, by the end of 2021, they barely exceeded 53%. Although the digital transformation process that the financial system was undergoing helped to consolidate this trend, the role of the BCRA—through different measures adopted by the Board—was the key to simplify transactions made through mobile banking and thus speed up its growth.

For example, one of these measures was 3.0 Transfers, launched by the end of 2020. It is an innovative system that incorporated the interoperability of QR codes, so that users of financial services can make payments by transfer from their mobile phones using any QR code, and any e-wallet or bank application that offers that service.

This new, open and universal ecosystem also boosts competition among the different players in the system, thus resulting in better conditions for users and stores. Indeed, the objective of this measure was to promote the creation of an open and universal digital payments ecosystem, and to achieve greater inclusion of those sectors that still do not use financial services, one of the priorities in the BCRA's agenda.

In February 2022, the Board also adopted another measure to strongly develop the use of mobile phones to make payments. It established new technical requirements for payment service providers (PSPs) and financial institutions that offer e-wallet services, aimed at reinforcing measures to mitigate fraud in e-wallet transactions. In fact, a technical security process was added to the already implemented client authentication and authorization of payment instructions to supplement and reinforce the security measures previously adopted by the BCRA.

The Registry of Interoperable Digital Wallets was also created in February, so that financial institutions and PSPs providing e-wallet services may register there and obtain the relevant certification. This registry has been available at the BCRA website since July and provides users with information on the wallets that can be used to make payments by transfer by reading any QR code.

All these measures have contributed to the increase in the number of users who choose mobile banking when making a payment, and explain why 6 out of 10 transfers are made from a mobile phone today. In addition, measures such as QR code interoperability largely explain that 54% of instant transfers (88 million) were made from or to an e-wallet in October, since they involved the use of a single virtual code (clave virtual uniforme, CVU).

The importance of mobile banking in terms of number of transactions, however, is not yet reflected in the amounts transferred, as 79% of transfers in terms of amounts are large-value transfers between companies. This type of transactions accounted for 10.5 million transfers amounting to more than ARS16 trillion in October, which represents only 6% of the total number of transactions.

However, although instant transfers represent 18% of the total in terms of amounts (including mobile banking, online banking and ATMs), they are gradually gaining share. In one year, for example, there was a 122% increase in amounts from ARS1.69 million to ARS3.76 million in October 2021.

As the use of mobile phones for instant transfers increased, the use of debit cards has virtually stagnated for virtually one year.

According to the latest data from the BCRA, 166.45 million debit card transactions were made in September this year, 0.78% less than the 167.75 million in August and 9.35% below the 183.6 million recorded in July. The chart in October's Monthly Report on Retail Payments is more than eloquent: since December 2021 until now, this figure has remained in a range between 160 and 180 million transactions per month.

December 11, 2022

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