Apr 9, 2019

The U.S. is out of step with the rest of the world on mobile payments

Adapted from CivicScience; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Despite well-documented pushes by Apple, Samsung and others into the mobile payments space, more Americans still write checks than use mobile payments.

The big picture: The U.S. is growing increasingly out of step with the rest of the world. By 2022, mobile payments from companies like Alipay, WeChat Pay and others are projected to account for nearly 50% of global e-commerce sales.

Where it stands: Mobile payment transactions in China rose to nearly $13 trillion in just the period from January to October last year, according to official figures from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology cited by the South China Morning Post.

  • Nearly 75% of supermarkets and convenience stores in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand now accept mobile payments, a recent Nielsen survey shows.
  • Among online shoppers in countries like Italy, Spain and France, PayPal is growing faster than Mastercard and Visa among online shoppers.

The U.S. saw less than 1% of China's total, at $49.3 billion in estimated total mobile payment transactions, according to data from eMarketer.

Why it's happening: Debit and credit cards continue to dominate Americans' wallets. John Dick, CEO of CivicScience, says it really comes down to trust.

  • "Americans have long-standing faith in the banking system and much less so in Big Tech. When we've surveyed people on this topic before, U.S. consumers trust their banks more than digital solutions by over 6-to-1. And that gap has widened since 2017." 
  • "While carrying paper money around is an inconvenience, people feel safer with a bank-provided card than Silicon Valley-provided app." 

The bottom line: There's a clear opportunity here. Apple appears to be trying to close the trust gap through its new Apple Card with Goldman Sachs.

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