Is This Brazil’s New “Apple Wallet”?

July 5, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

It would be easy to think there’s not much of a market for mobile payments in Latin America, but that’s just not the case. In fact, one application in particular is drawing comparisons to Apple Wallet, thanks to its growing primacy in the field: RecargaPay, a Brazilian app that’s pulling in plenty of users.

Latin America has a fairly brisk trade in mobile going on, though even this is connected to cash. Over 80 percent of Latin America pays for mobile prepaid credit with cash, meaning often that there are long lines to convert cash to digital and pay for digital services. With over 55 million consumers in Brazil alone not having a bank account of any sort, it’s clear there’s an opportunity to reach this market with a better, easier way to work with it.

RecargaPay may well address this market well. Users can not only make cash deposits and load prepaid cards from the app, but also pay utility bills, mobile phone bills, or even pay fares on public transportation.

RecargaPay runs its service at no charge—reports suggest particularly heavy users are assessed a $3 monthly fee to raise a set of limits built into the system—and does so in compliance with several applicable regulations. Plans to expand the system are in the works, and mainly slated to target the unbanked population of Latin America. There are plans to expand globally, particularly to address Brazilians living in the United States that send money home to Brazil.

Targeting the unbanked is seldom a bad plan; they have money, it’s just that they use it differently than the banked do. Opening up bank-style services and operations to the unbanked seems like a fairly natural fit. Providing these users with mobile payments options could render the bank wholly unnecessary, though if banks got involved with these options, they might well be able to open up new markets in the formerly unbanked.

Regardless of the ultimate target, it’s clear that there’s opportunity afoot here. With RecargaPay already being compared to Apple Wallet, it might well be a leader in this market going forward. It’s got an early-mover, if not first-mover, advantage to it, and it’s got one monster market to work with.