Real-time payments ecosystem expands

June 29, 2022

Mexican young adult woman with black hair and mobile phone outdoor in summer in city
Jonathan Bennett, Chief Commercial Officer

Jonathan Bennett

Chief Commercial Officer

According to the latest FIS Payments Report[i], eCommerce posted a strong resurgence in 2021– and the travel sector in particular – began to recover from the early impacts of the pandemic, exceeding US$5.3 trillion in transaction value. The share of mobile commerce exceeded that of desktop e-commerce in 2021, with over half of the consumers using their mobile devices to transact.  By 2025, eCommerce will account for 12% of global consumer spending. While eCommerce growth is likely to slow in APAC as the markets mature, the sector will continue to grow dramatically in the Latin America and, the Middle East & Africa regions at an expected rate of nearly 20%.

E-commerce payment preferences continue to shift away from cash and credit cards towards digital wallets and buy now, pay later (BNPL). Contributing factors in credit cards’ declining share include the rise of alternative payment methods, volume shifting to credit- and debit-linked digital wallets, consumers opting for interest-free credit in the form of BNPL, and credit-centric verticals like travel still recovering from the pandemic impacts. Accounting for 21% in 2021, credit’s share of global e-com spend is projected to fall to 18.8% in 2025, though the absolute value will rise to over US$1.56 trillion. Debit is projected to fall less dramatically, from 13.2% of e-com transaction value in 2021 to 12.9% in 2025, with absolute value rising to over US$1.07 trillion.

Real-time payments

Real-time payments continue to grow globally with four more schemes – Russia, United Arab Emirates, Argentina, and Colombia – joining the instant payment club in 2020. Currently, 60 markets have a live, real-time payments infrastructure, with Canada, Peru, New Zealand, and Indonesia launching in 2022. Almost three-quarters of the world’s population (around 72%) have, or will soon have, access to instant payments. Many markets are also replacing or renovating their established real-time services, especially those that repurposed their corporate real-time gross settlement (RTGS) services to cater for instant payments, such as Brazil, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Africa and Mexico.

Asia-Pacific remains the most developed real-time payments market globally, with Thailand leading the way in volume and economic growth. US$118.3 billion in real-time payment transactions were made globally in 2021 – a YoY increase of 64.5 percent – set to rise to US$ 427.7 billion in 2026, according to GlobalData[ii]. Real-time payments are forecast to help generate additional GDP of US$173 billion by 2026, up from US$78.4 billion in 2021 – according to a Cebr economic impact study of thirty of the world’s largest economies[iii], including both industrialized and developing nations. Cebr study outlines wide-ranging policy recommendations to maximize the economic impact of real-time payments

India and the U.S. are introducing additional competing services that will sit alongside the established schemes. The need to innovate is central to real-time payments; the speed of clearing and settlement is only the first step. Real-time payments enable frictionless commerce where the entire payment process occurs seamlessly and immediately. But a modern, open payments system also provides opportunities to develop creative overlay services on top of the faster payment rails, built along with modern open banking standards through API-based services.

In Europe, twenty countries are signed up to the centralized instant SEPA credit transfer (SCT Inst) scheme offering multiple clearing and settlement, but of the non-SCT Inst countries live with real-time payments, now including Russia, the U.K. makes the most payments (almost 8 million per day). With 3 million and 2 million payments a day respectively, Switzerland and Sweden hold the second and third positions. Poland saw the most significant growth in usage with a 50% increase, but uptake remains sluggish, with only two transactions per day per million citizens.

Real-time payments continue to reshape the contours of emerging economies, especially those like India, which has a large informal sector. Real-time payment schemes empower communities and catalyze economic growth by enabling faster transfer of money and efficient settlements. With four times as many smartphones as bank accounts, real-time payments infrastructure like UPI has also helped solve for financial inclusion.


With advances in real-time payments and open banking, the adoption of mobile and digital payments will only accelerate faster. We have been witnessing a slow decline in the use of cash, even in markets considered to be cash-based. With four times as many smartphones as bank accounts, consumers will be more driven to use mobile wallets that now offer financial products such as buy now pay later services.





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