Payments by transfer are consolidating their position as the most popular option among financial service users in line with the exponential growth of electronic means of payment. On the basis of the latest available data, there were 198.8 million payments by transfer in March, outweighing debit card transactions (193 million) for the first time.
The data confirms that the trend has been consolidating since 2021. In other words, it flags financial service users' preference for electronic means of payment. According to the latest Monthly Report on Retail Payments released by the BCRA, payments by transfer increased 19% in number in one month—more than 153% against 78.4 million transactions carried out in March 2022—and five-fold in the past two years.
An in-depth analysis of payments by transfer made in March showed that 84.3% of them were made between accounts belonging to the same payment service provider that offers payment accounts (PSPCP, in Spanish), while 15.7% were interoperable payments. The trend is similar in terms of amounts: they totaled ARS787.1 billion, out of which 78% were intra-PSPCP, and the remaining 22% stood for interoperable payments.
The digital transformation that the financial system has been undergoing helped to reinforce this trend. In addition, the measures adopted by the Board were key to consolidate the use of payments by transfer among financial service users.
The 3.0 Transfers program launched in November 2020 is one of the main measures that boosted this payment method. This innovative system enables financial service users to make payments by transfer using any QR code from their mobile phones, from an e-wallet or bank app.
This new, open and universal ecosystem also encourages competition among different players in the system, thus resulting in better conditions for users and stores. Indeed, it seeks to promote the creation of an open and universal digital payments ecosystem, and to achieve greater inclusion of the sectors that do not use financial services yet, one of the priorities in the BCRA's agenda.
In addition to promoting greater banking access, payments by transfer are more accessible, more efficient and safer. Stores pay lower charges ranging from 6 to 8 per thousand (plus VAT), and lower financial costs due to immediacy. Thus, QR code payments expand the menu of payment options and reduce the use of cash at stores, resulting in lower costs and greater security.
In line with the objective of developing electronic payment methods, the BCRA adopted, on May 18, 2023, a new measure to take the interoperability of QR codes beyond payments by transfer so that the payment experience be more user-friendly. The Board has established, as from September 1, 2023, that stores displaying a QR code to collect their credit card sales must accept payments made through any interoperable e-wallet, regardless of the QR code provider.
In February 2022, the Board adopted a resolution to mitigate fraud in e-wallet transactions, thus boosting electronic means of payment. This measure established new technical requirements for payment service providers and financial institutions that offer e-wallet services. 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 number of payments by transfer intra-PSPCP (referring to transactions made between clients of the same PSPCP with funds available in payment accounts) amounted to 167.5 million in March, out of which 137.5 million (82,1%) were made online (203% y.o.y.). The remaining 17.9% were QR code payments, reaching 29.9 million transactions.
In addition, there were 30.3 million interoperable payments by transfer in March (with a share of 15.7% in total payments by transfer), out of which 40.2% of these payments were made through debit cards at point-of-sale (POS) terminals, reaching 12.2 million transactions. Although this means of payment represents the largest portion of interoperable payments by transfer, it grew only 17.5% y.o.y. in terms of amounts.
In turn, 31.1% of interoperable payments by transfer were made through QR codes, soaring above 9.4 million (309.6% y.o.y.). According to the Monthly Report on Retail Payments for April, 81.2% of these payments were made from sight accounts, and the remaining 18.8% from payment accounts. On the side of merchants, 62.5% of them deposited the funds in sight accounts, and 37.5%, in payment accounts.
In turn, 15.9% of interoperable payments by transfer were made online through a payment button (4.8 million payments) and 12.7% of interoperable payments by transfer using a token or random password (3.9 million payments).
June 10, 2023