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e-Wallets in emerging markets

Author: Vargoso Published: 05.10.19

The emerging markets are constantly innovating in the field of online payments. Developments in the eCommerce industry present a lot of opportunities for the emergence of various solutions, and the local payment providers are expanding access to credit, savings, and other financial tools for consumers. Let's take a look at the online payments market in such developing economies as China and Latin America.

e-Wallets in emerging markets


The majority of payments in China are now made with smartphones. Even the smallest merchants on the street do not want cash. You can pay literally for everything with your phone and a QR code. 

And more than 90% of these payments run through Alipay and WeChat Pay, the platforms backed by China’s two largest corporations — Alibaba Group and Tencent Holdings Ltd.

Alipay was developed as an extension of services to facilitate shopping on Alibaba and AliExpress. But it has since evolved into full-blown digital "ecosystem," where consumers can pay for anything: grocery and train tickets, tax and utility bills. It’s easy and convenient to make person-to-person payments — everyone has a QR code of his or her own, and all transfers are free.

WeChat Pay is an outgrowth of WeChat, the nation’s must-have messenger and social media app with more than 1 billion users. It has similar functionality with Alipay; consumers can navigate their daily life: pay bills and order food, schedule doctor appointments, and transfer money.

With Alipay and WeChat Pay, users don’t need to login to a bank or payments app when transacting. All you have to do is to press the “Pay” button, and a QR code appears for scanning. QR code is unique to every individual and linked to a personal mobile wallet.

All retailers, from small merchants to Starbucks and McDonald's, have self-scanning devices near the cash register to read QR codes. The process takes seconds and those customers who still use cash only slow things down.

Another common payment system in the region is UnionPay. The system operates in 170 countries, but more than 90% of users live in China. UnionPay was initially developed as a unified financial corridor between Chinese banks, and one of its features is the availability of plastic cards. More than 3 billion cards have been issued already and there are more than 1 million ATMs now accepting UnionPay cards. 

With UnionPay, you can pay for goods and services almost everywhere in Asia, and more and more merchants start accepting it all over the world. UnionPay has a developed loyalty program offering cashback. Concierge service is another exciting feature: a personal manager is assigned to your account, providing help and advice on how to use the payment system. In case of lost or stolen card, there is the option of emergency cash withdrawal — you can withdraw up to $5,000 at any partner bank in the shortest period.

Online gambling is strictly prohibited in China, but many betting and casino operators registered in the Philippines seem to provide their services for mainland China residents anyway. And the largest part of deposits and withdrawals are made with those mentioned above, prevalent methods such as Alipay, WeChat Pay, and UnionPay. The payment process is usually set as P2P transactions, allowing customers to send or receive money from gambling merchants without breaking the law.


Latin America is one of the top regions in the world in economic growth. But established online payment systems like PayPal, Stripe, Venmo, and others do not operate in South America or do not integrate with local banking systems. Or sometimes, they function via local services that charge up to 10% fees.

Each country in the region has its popular payment options. Let’s start our overview from Brazil, as it’s the most significant online market in Latin America.


Boleto Bancário is a leading online payment system in Brazil. The payment process is similar to that of wire transfer or cash payment methods. Customers are provided with a payment slip that can be paid offline at any bank branch or authorized processors: stores and pharmacies, post offices, and lottery agencies. It can also be paid online, via mobile banking or in more than 48,000 ATMs in Brazil.

There’s no need to have a bank account for using Boleto Bancário — customers can confirm their account via messenger (for example, WhatsApp).

Brazilian merchants usually prefer Boleto Bancário as it's a secure payment method providing low fraud and no chargeback risk.

Another popular solution in Brazil is PagSeguro, widely used for eCommerce. Consumers can securely store their bank details on a digital wallet, which allows making any online transactions.

Rapipago provides billing, payment, and transaction processing services in Argentina. Merchants print a voucher or a payment coupon, which can be paid offline at one of the 6,000+ Rapipago payment locations. It is the largest processor of electronic transactions in the country, supporting payments between thousands of companies and their consumers.

PagoEfectivo is the most popular online payment method in Peru. Users can pay for their purchases without the need of a bank card. During the checkout, the customer receives a code which can be paid online or in cash in any of the 40,000 locations throughout the country. PagoEfectivo bar-coded cash vouchers allow transferring funds to a lot of gambling merchants.

Servipag is a leading payment system in Chile. It was created by two of the country's largest financial institutions, BCI and Banco de Chile. The main purpose of Servipag is to support national bank transfers and to provide consumers with a safe and convenient method to make financial transactions. It offers more than 20 online payment options, and users also can print a voucher which can be paid in cash.

Via Baloto is the leading provider for online cash payments in Colombia. The payment process is similar to Boleto Bancário — consumers need to present a reference number during the checkout and pay by cash. The payment network reaches around 95% of the Colombian population and has more than 14,000 terminals located in more than 1,100 municipalities.

The demand for simplified online payments is constantly growing in Latin America, and there are many startups similar to PayPal or Venmo in the region. But they usually operate in only one country, which doesn't help their growth. Probably, we will see more regional consolidation in the nearest future, and some online payment solutions will become widespread across the whole continent.

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