An Overview of Payment Methods Across the Globe

Online payments and fast shipping services have made the business world closer than ever before, especially in eCommerce. You can run an e-store from Spain and have recurring customers from all other continents and countries.

However, there are regional specifics regarding different payment methods across the globe.

This article explains the widespread international payment options and the most relevant national, domestic alternatives.

Bank Cards (Debit and Credit)

Bank cards are payment cards issued by authorized banks and other financial organizations, regulated and monitored by relevant card networks. Mastercard, American Express, Discover, and Mastercard are the four most relevant card networks.

A debit card is a bank card linked to a specific bank account. The card and the account belong to the same person. The same person can possess several debit credit cards, connected with the same bank account. When you make a payment with your debit card, the funds are momentarily drawn from your bank account.

A credit card, on the other hand, relies on the particular assets the bank actually lent to you. Banks impose (pretty high) interest rates on the funds spent on credit cards. Hence, make sure to pay back the specified amount of money by the set date and avoid paying high amounts of money.

TPP Intel: The common security features on every payment card are the particular 16-digit card number, card owner’s name, expiration date, and the 3-digit card verification value (CVV). Entering all this data during the payment process reduces the risk of unauthorized use. Various cutting-edge also tech features additionally increase payer’s online safety. In our article, The ABCs of Credit Card Tokenization, find out more about digital tokens in card payments.


Global Bank Card Usage

According to a report issued by Statista in 2022, more than 74% of the residents of Canada, Israel, and Iceland own at least one credit card. The USA, Hong Kong, Japan, and Switzerland are also high on the list of credit card users, within the range of 66%-74% credit card payers.

This payment method is prevalent in North America and Europe. The populations of Africa, South America, and Asia also use credit and debit cards but to a much lower extent.

The Australians are also card lovers – particularly fond of debit card payments.

There’s no sufficient data for bank card use in Antarctica, as polar bears don’t buy things.

A rule of thumb for every eCommerce business – especially for the owners of high-risk merchant accounts – is to accept the bank cards approved by the major global card networks.


Digital Wallets

Concept online payment mobile technology. Hand of men using smartphone. Touch the pay button of mobile banking application to make health insurance.

Digital wallets are software-based payment methods, situated and operated in an online environment.

PayPal is the most widely used and known example of a digital wallet. It’s commonly used for making commercial electronic payments or transferring money between friends – even you should look up alternatives for the latter, given the commission rates.

To use a digital wallet, you first need to register with the wallet provider and submit all the relevant personal data they might require. Then, you log into your account, go through the verification process, and start sending and/or receiving assets.

Digital wallets are the preferred method for online payments in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, with a market share of almost 70% for e-commerce transactions in 2022 in this area. For comparison’s sake, this payment method accounted for as little as 20% of online payments carried out in the Middle East and Latin America. With powerful local digital wallets, such as AliPay and PhonePe in China and India, respectively, we can expect further growth of digital wallets in the following years.

Mobile Wallets vs. Digital Wallets

A mobile wallet is a subcategory within digital wallets, connected to a specific mobile operating system. If you have an iPhone or any other Apple product, you’re highly likely to use Apple Pay. Users of Android-operated smartphones have Google Pay at their disposal. Samsung Company runs Samsung Pay – the popular mobile wallet for the users of these mobile phones.

A mobile wallet is literally the digital counterpart of the actual physical wallet you carry in your back pocket. You simply enter the required data for every tangible bank card you have into the chosen mobile wallet and use it for making contactless payments instead of taking out the real payment cards.

It’s possible to add other digital wallets to your mobile wallet and hence have all the payment methods you use in the same place. Of course, losing the device with the installed mobile wallet is a huge security hazard, so be careful and inform the relevant card institutions if this occurs.

Prepaid Cards

Prepaid cards are a specific type of payment cards that aren’t linked to a specific bank account. Consumers load it with a certain amount of money instead and use it until they have enough funds. Once the assets are spent, the process is repeated.

This makes them similar to gift cards, in the sense that you have a limited amount of money at your disposal. Such cards are typically used for company gift cards, or when parents want to give their teenagers a sense of economic independence.

Their use on a global scale is similar to that of debits and credit cards.

Different Generations, Different Payment Habits

Only a decade ago, traditional payment methods – cash and bank cards – were prevalent in most generations on most continents.

The advancement of digital payment services and the tech infrastructure behind them in the last few years have increased the trust in innovative payment methods. Also, the COVID-19 pandemic, with its restricted movement and contact regulations, has added to these changes.

Hence, a recent study published by Forbes shows that now 53% of Americans regularly use digital wallets more often than traditional methods for online payments.

The generational distribution speaks in favor of Generation Z – those born between 1997 and 2012, i.e., digital natives – with 86% and 91% claiming they’re happily adopting digital wallets as their primary method for travel and shopping, respectively.

The crucial piece of information here is that as much as 78% of Gen Zers would stop buying from a merchant that didn’t accept digital payments. Also, 51% of the interviewed members of all generations would follow suit.

Finally, more than 50% of both Millennials and Gen Xers expressed their preference towards digital wallets over traditional payment methods.

Cash, followed by bank cards, and then digital wallets, is still the prevalent payment method among US-based baby boomers and the members of the Silent Generation.

Preferred Online Payment Methods by Continent

The data about preferred online and offline payment methods by continent significantly differ. As ThePayPortal enhances electronic payments for merchants worldwide, we’ll focus on the data regarding such transactions.

North America

Americans generally like convenience – after all, it was them who invented the convenience store – so, it’s clear they first embraced credit cards and lately digital wallets for their online payments.

Mobile payment apps and wallets are gaining traction, especially with younger generations, as stated above.

South America

Merchants planning to extend their operations and offers to South America should know that international credit cards are still the preferred payment option from The Panama Canal to the Tierra del Fuego. 

That being said, bear in mind that domestic bank cards play a vital role in some countries here, as well. For instance, Hipercard and Elo are popular domestic cards in Brazil, but mobile wallets have also seen fast recent adoption by Brazilians. The Argentinians also widely use their local card schemes, which might not be eligible for making international payments.

Bear these facts in mind and do your homework to accept all the relevant payment methods before opening your business to new markets.

Asia and Pacific

We’ve already stated that the APAC region is more inclined towards digital wallets. With the domination of super apps – comprehensive mobile apps that offer features for various services in the same place (payments included) – their payment habits differ from the rest of Asia.

Still, the Middle East remains more faithful to traditional payment methods for online payments.


Even though cash is still important in Africa, there has been a huge surge in electronic payments on this continent since 2020. An analysis of the African e-payment market, released by McKinsey and Company, has shown that this market will have grown by 152% in the period 2020-2025.

With Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana, and South Africa forerunning this paradigm shift and other countries jumping on the bandwagon, we’re only to see the rise of online payments in Africa.

One more thing: as mobile and digital wallets are getting adopted from Gibraltar to Cape Horn as we speak, electronic transactions will keep spreading fast across this continent.


The institutions of the European Union are here to bring as many regulations and directives as possible to protect their citizens from fraud.

While such an approach takes away some of the payment convenience, it’s undeniably effective in providing secure and timely payments.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, digital wallets have become increasingly popular, running a right race with bank cards as the preferred online payment method in the last few years.

Interestingly enough, domestic card schemes remain relevant in the EU member states. For instance, Girocard is the most relevant national bank card system in Germany. Even though Visa and Mastercard are also widespread, the Germans have this alternative domestic option at their disposal. Similar domestic card schemes appear in several EU countries.

TPP Intel: The European Commission has been trying to both democratize and improve the common payment market in the last few years. The SEPA Payments initiative was adopted to establish a secure and timely framework for electronic payments carried out within the EU. The Payment Services Directive 2 was brought to help consumers gain more control over their bank accounts and make banks allow relevant third parties access to account owners (with their consent). Read more about the latter in our blog post PSD 2 – The EU’s Response to Online Payment Requests.

Innovative Online Payment Methods

Bank cards are perceived as traditional electronic payment methods. Digital and mobile wallets are modern, tech-based options, but they’ve been with us for almost two decades now, and people have gotten accustomed to them.

However, some other innovative payment methods are emerging on the horizon.

For starters, we have cryptocurrencies, which have been with us for over a decade but have seen widespread commercial adoption only in the last few years. Based on blockchain technology, they offer a decentralized, secure payment alternative. The potential drawbacks? This lack of regulation is a negative side for some consumers, plus, the exchange rates for fiat money might not always pay off.

Peer-to-peer (P2P) payment apps have gained popularity lately, as they allow friends and family members to send money to one another at low commission fees.

Paying with QR codes is another innovative and practical method for mobile wallet users. The buyer scans the QR code on the product and receives a notification on their mobile wallet. Then they choose what card or digital wallet they want to use to pay for the product.

Finally, more and more merchants offer flexible payment manners, such as buy now, pay later (BNPL) or buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS). The former lets customers split the product price into several installments, paid either via cards or digital wallets. The latter allows buyers to make an electronic payment and pick up the purchased product in person.

All these innovations give customers more payment freedom, working for both merchants’ and consumers’ benefits.

What’s Eating Online Payers?

Online payments have revolutionized the global payment market in the last two decades. What began with the adoption of the SWIFT agreement in 1973, paving the way for electronic, cross-border payments, evolved into a global network of interconnected digital payment systems.

The unprecedented growth of eCommerce in the last decade has only contributed to the expansion of web-based payment solutions and options.

From the consumer’s point of view, it all comes down to the following three aspects:

  • Payment convenience and user-friendliness.
  • Security and anti-fraud measures (friendly fraud included).
  • Timely money transfers.

Their selection of preferred payment methods depends on those three factors.

From a merchant’s perspective, it’s important to accept the payment methods relevant for the target region. To be more precise, an e-store aiming at the German market should accept Girocard to avoid a high churn rate, but shouldn’t care much about Brazilian domestic card schemes, and vice versa.

Moreover, a newly founded eCommerce merchant who wants to ensure steady cash flow should consider offering some advanced buyer-centric options, such as the BNPL.


If you’re a customer searching for the best option for your buying needs, this guide is here to help you understand where the global payment market is headed.

Merchants now know more about the current trends among buyers, so that they can adapt differently to various markets.

ThePayPortal is always at your disposal for (high-risk) merchant account services, payment risk mitigation, and fraud protection. Contact us if you need any assistance with your online payments, and fill out the application form below: