Global payment technology has evolved in leaps and bounds over the decades. It was 1950 before the first modern credit card was introduced in the U.S. Just 70 years later, people around the world can use mobile wallets to pay for goods and services right on their cell phones. The COVID-19 pandemic has made virtual payment options more popular than ever. Here at Remitly, in fact, many of our customers now send money to their loved ones via mobile money providers.

Check out this list of some top mobile wallets in different regions. Have you heard of all of them? 

Mobile Money in Africa 

Africa has the world’s largest mobile money market and the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated its growth. At the same time, to stimulate the economy, many African governments have reduced barriers to encourage more people to sign up for mobile wallets. 

Many people living in Africa don’t have access to traditional banking services. In fact, around 57 percent of individuals calling the continent home had no form of bank account in 2018. Mobile money technology has enabled the unbanked to access financial services more readily. To have a mobile money account, all one needs is a mobile phone—no bank account required.

While the popularity of the following companies varies by country, each of them helps to provide financial services that many citizens would not otherwise have. 

1. MTN Mobile Money

With 46 million users throughout the world, MTN stands out among other mobile wallets in Africa for name recognition and adoption. It offers services in Rwanda, South Africa, the Republic of Congo and at least 22 other countries in Africa and the Middle East.  

2. Orange Money 

After its initial rollout in 2008, Orange Money from Orange Group quickly became one of the most popular mobile wallets in Africa. With about 45 million users, it’s only slightly less widely used than MTN. It’s also available in 18 countries on the continent, so it’s one of MTN’s biggest competitors in many places. 

3. M-Pesa 

Launched in 2007 by Vodafone Group and Safaricom, M-Pesa has active agent operations across the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, and Tanzania. 

While it’s only available in seven countries in Africa, M-Pesa still reaches a massive amount of the continent’s citizens. Most of its customers are concentrated in Kenya, but it boasts over 41.5 million active users in total. A major driver of their popularity is their customer service. As their user base increased, they grew their agent network at the same pace.

Mobile Wallets in Asia

Asia is the epicenter for this technology’s adoption. For instance, digital wallets account for 48 percent of payment volume and over 70% of e-commerce spending in China. 

Nearly one-third of e-commerce spending in Asia also comes directly from these mobile wallets. While some popular options in the world are available throughout the region, the following offerings remain the most widely used. 

4. Alipay

While there are many mobile wallet options in China, Alipay is the undisputed king. In 2020, it made up 55 percent of the Chinese mobile payments market, and there are 1.3 billion users of the service. Users love this offering because it also provides services in the areas of wealth management, investing, and micro-loans. 

5. WeChat 

While Alipay may be the most popular option in China, WeChat is not far behind. Research from the second half of 2019 showed that it made up 39 percent of the mobile wallet market in the country and boasts 1.17 billion users

As one of the most popular communication methods in the country, its virtual payment offering immediately had a massive user base. 

6. GCash

While China may have many well-known virtual wallet brands, other Asian nations have their own mobile money providers. In the Philippines, for instance, GCash has 33 million users and is so far the most popular mobile wallet in the island nation in terms of total users. 

Mobile Money in Latin America

Just as in Africa, many people in Latin America don’t use traditional banking services, though this varies by country. Regardless, as in other developing nations, mobile money and mobile banking options are gaining traction in the region.

One reason? Mobile internet access has increased in Latin America. In fact, a recent report by the Global System for Mobile Communication reveals that 4G coverage in Latin America went up to 85% in 2019, while Mexico alone has experienced a nearly 20% increase in mobile internet penetration in the last five years.

Digital and cloud payments are also expected to drive investment from fintech and banks in Latin America in the coming years. The following mobile wallets have already established themselves to take advantage of this revolution.

7. DaviPlata

DaviPlata is a mobile wallet offered by one of the biggest banks in Colombia, Banco Davivienda. With DaviPlata, Colombians can pay for many goods and services they’d otherwise use cash for. They can also withdraw cash from their DaviPlata wallet at Banco Davivienda ATM machines.

With DaviPlata, Banco Davivienda is working to give Colombians access to financial services without needing to have a bank account. Users can transfer money across wallets, get their balance on their phone, and make payments digitally. 

DaviPlata is becoming well-known thanks to its contract with the Colombian government to distribute payments to Familias en Accion recipients. This social safety net program reaches more than 900,000 Colombians. 

8. Tigo Money 

Many citizens of Paraguay, Bolivia, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador depend on Tigo Money for many of their financial needs. The mobile wallet boasts over 3.7 million users in these countries. 

Tigo Money is just one version of the Tigo product, which is known as Tigo Pesa in Tanzania and Tigo Cash in other parts of Africa. 

Mobile Wallets in North America

The virtual payment options in North America are among the most widely available in the world. You can also use these digital tools in countries around the globe, but typically, you cannot use them to send money from one country to another. 

Even though the adoption of these services in the United States is not as widespread as their availability, they’re becoming more common, especially in retail settings.

9. Google Pay

Android users have a built-in virtual payment system with Google Pay. Users can make contactless payments in dozens of countries from Austria to Singapore to the United States; you can see the full list here. However, sending money to friends and family with Google Pay is limited to the U.S. and India at the time of this writing. 

10. Apple Pay

Users of iOS devices—including the Apple Watch and iPad—can pay with their phones in more than 60 countries.

11. Samsung Pay

Owners of Samsung devices can also use the phone’s mobile wallet app to make payments. It’s accepted in at least 24 countries

What Is Mobile Money, Anyway? 

Many terms are used in reference to mobile money technology: virtual wallet, digital wallet, mobile wallet, mobile banking, mobile payments—and the list goes on. 

Let’s take a look at two of these common terms. Mobile wallets enable you to pay with your credit or debit card without having to actually carry the cards around. Instead, you pay from an app on your phone. For example, when you use a mobile wallet to pay at a store, you might tap your phone over a reader at the checkout station. The merchant charges you directly from the card you provide in the mobile wallet. 

The more general term mobile money refers to the ability to make payments, transfer money between accounts, deposit money, or withdraw funds by using a mobile device. 

Not all mobile money accounts require a traditional bank account, which makes them popular in developing countries where more people are likely to be “unbanked.” Armed with only a phone, mobile money users can store funds in a secure account connected to their mobile phone number. They can take cash to a mobile money agent to have it added to their phone’s account. 

Meanwhile, others can transfer money to mobile money accounts via their bank, a credit or debit card, a remittance provider, or their own mobile money account.

International Money Transfers to Mobile Wallets

Thinking of sending money abroad to a mobile money account? Try Remitly

We make international money transfers faster, easier, more transparent, and more affordable. Our reliable and easy-to-use mobile app is trusted by over 3 million people around the world. 

Check out our guide to international mobile money transfers, visit the homepage, or download our app to learn more. 

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