Real-Time Payments Provide Huge Opportunity for Economic Growth
Mexico recorded 1.6 billion real-time transactions in 2021, which resulted in an estimated cost savings of $1.0 billion for businesses and consumers. This in turn helped to unlock $1.9 billion of additional economic output, representing 0.15% of the country’s GDP.
With real-time transactions set to rise to 2.6 billion in 2026, net savings for consumers and businesses are forecasted to climb to $1.3 billion. That would help to generate an additional $2.8 billion of economic output, equivalent to 0.19% of the country’s forecasted GDP.
Mexico is one of the countries for which real-time payments provide the biggest economic growth opportunities. According to the Cebr, the theoretical impact of all payments being real-time could add 5% to formal GDP by 2026. However, these are theoretically modeled benefits; they do not suggest that there is no place for non-instant electronic payments or paper-based payments in the future.
Mexico was an early adopter of real-time payments, with its Sistema de Pagos Electrónicos Interbancarios (SPEI) system in place from 2004. Despite the head start, adoption of real-time payments grew at a slower pace due to the country’s high unbanked population and lack of awareness of electronic payments. However, the growth of real-time payments gained some traction in recent years, with the launch of Cobro Digital (CoDi) in September 2019, which extended the use of real-time payments to low-value, day-to-day payments through QR codes and NFC technology. With rising adoption of mobile wallets, increasing preference for electronic payments amid COVID-19 and growing consumer awareness, real-time payments volume is set to record a 10.9% CAGR from 2021-2026.
Real-Time Payment Types
Year of Real-Time
Central bank Banco de México’s SPEI system has long provided real-time payments infrastructure in Mexico, and CoDi (Cobro Digital) was launched as an overlay on SPEI rails in 2019 to facilitate new digital modes including payments based on QR codes, bar codes and NFC. But banked citizens are low in number and so just 4% of the country’s total population has adopted the scheme. 86% of transactions remain paper based.
Base-level readiness is there, though, as is scope for value-add services that would draw more people to real-time payments. But while there’s also a broad willingness from banks and fintechs to enable QR-based payments, banks don’t yet see a business case in the scheme as a whole. This is because in Banco de México trying to convert the unbanked, it has stipulated that banks and acquirers can’t charge a fee. This lack of revenue for acquirers has become a barrier to adoption and resulted in the wider banking industry refusing to participate and invest further.
Banco de México appears disinterested in modifying the current scheme, but there is hope other organizations will produce their own IP infrastructure that would create the competition needed to drive modernization and innovation. This would also alleviate concerns surrounding distrust in the government that leads to some citizens and organizations being hesitant to use the existing scheme.
However, the market can’t be characterized as being particularly open and any new scheme would likely need to be aligned to Banco de México rules to be allowed to operate. The central bank might also impose too many requirements for said infrastructure to become a reality. It is a complex political and regulatory situation. Today, then, a basic real-time payments solution exists in Mexico, along with a lot of potential. No one has yet stepped up to differentiate and offer value-add services and functionality. But move first and the opportunity could be big, and some important payment card processing providers are evaluating this market’s opportunities to become direct participants.
Mobile Wallet Trends
% of adults who have a mobile wallet and have
used it in the past year (2021)
Real-Time Total Participants
Population Banking Level
Number of debit, credit and
charge cards per adult
Index to global average
F5 Yr CAGR
Payments Fraud Rate
Population who reported being a
victim of fraud in the last 4 years
Top 3 Payment Fraud Types
|% of fraud victims||Trend|
Card details stolen online
Car details stolen/skimmed in person
Bank account hacked
Share of Volumes by Payments Instrument
- Paper-based payments
- Electronic payments
- Real-time payments
Real-Time Payments Volume and Its Share in Overall Non-Paper-Based Transactions, 2015-26f
Mexico is Latin America’s second-largest economy behind Brazil. In 2021, it ranked as the 15th largest global economy (Cebr World Economic League Table, 2022).
While 3.1% of payments were real-time in 2021 — a volume share greater than Germany’s or the United States’ — 85.8% of transactions took place via paper-based instruments that year.
In 2021, net benefits of real-time payments for consumers and businesses hit $1 billion and are expected to rise to $1.3 billion in 2026. The high percentage of paper-based transactions means that significant benefits were or are expected to be generated through the impact of real-time in reducing the payments float, since paper-based instruments typically have the longest clearing times. In 2021 and 2026 respectively, 109% and 99% of the net benefits for consumers and businesses are or will be derived by reducing the payments float.
The negative impact of real-time for businesses and consumers through greater payment system costs is due to the current very high share of paper-based payments. This generates significant enough economies of scale that ultimately leads to lower estimated unit costs per transaction for paper-based instruments than electronic alternatives in Mexico. However, net cost savings will turn positive and grow over time once the technology matures and realtime transaction volumes increase. However, it is estimated that based on forecasted adoption rates, this will occur some time beyond 2026.
Consumer and business level benefits contributed to wider annual macroeconomic gains of $1.9 billion or 0.15% of formal GDP in 2021. This impact is equal to the output facilitated by 83,161 workers.
In 2026 these benefits are expected to rise to $2.8 billion or 0.19% of formal GDP, equaling the output of 114,096 workers.
For Businesses and Consumers
Net savings stimulated by real-time payments
Projected net savings stimulated by real-time payments
of economic output
of GDP facilitated by real-time payments
Projected of economic output
of GDP facilitated by real-time payments
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