Portugal does not have a domestic payments scheme. The Portuguese interbank clearing system SICOI enabled SCT Inst transfers in Portugal in September 2018. Initially available for domestic transactions, Portuguese banks started offering cross-border transfers from October 2020. The real-time payments market in the country is still in its nascent stage, with real-time payments accounting for just a 0.2% share of total payments transaction volume in 2021.
However, with the preference for electronic payments on the rise, the further prospects of real-time payments look promising, with their volume anticipated to record a CAGR of 54.7% from 2021-2026.
Real-Time Payment Types
Year of Real-Time
To date, Portugal’s strategy for implementing real-time payments has been built around creating a multi-purpose domestic infrastructure, SIBS, on which banks can build and promote their own digital overlay services, and create persuasive use cases. Based on SCT Inst, SIBS Instant Payments was launched in 2018 to facilitate real-time payments between national banks. By 2020, 95% of accounts were available on SIBS.
In 2020, the national Forum para os Sistemas de Pagamentos proposed a two-year strategy to accelerate the adoption of electronic payment solutions. Among the four “key action points” are educating consumers and retailers of the benefits of real-time payments and boosting real-time transactions to a point where they become “the new normal.”
Achieving both will be helped by the onboarding of real-time payments for eCommerce by MBWay, the universal digital wallet launched in 2016 as a P2P payments vehicle. This development provides Portugal with the foundation to follow a similar path to driving further growth in real-time payments adoption as that taken by Bizum in neighboring Spain.
MBWay is in a position to replicate Bizum’s hugely successful model of leveraging its immense brand recognition and market penetration to systematically identify and service popular use cases. Indeed, it is perfectly possible for this ubiquitous digital wallet to go further and become a “sticky” lifestyle “super app” in the mold of an Alipay or WeChat.
All of this means Portugal’s incumbent banks and financial institutions must accelerate the development of their own digital overlay services on top of MBWay to fend off incoming new entrants. They have an advantage in the shape of existing granular knowledge of the way customers already use real-time payments. As such, their modernization roadmaps must do more than account for handling mere operational challenges, such as increased transaction volumes. They must also chart a path to making better use of AI to manage and mine data for insights into customer behavior.
Real-Time Total Participants
Population Banking Level
Number of debit, credit and
charge cards per adult
Index to global average
F5 Yr CAGR
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
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