Brazil’s payment world

05 . 11 . 2018

In the world of payments, each country has its own particularities, and Brazil is no exception.

To sell your products and services online, you need to understand Brazilian shopping habits and the main payment methods in Latin America’s largest country. Not properly understanding how payments work in Brazil can result in a major lost opportunity: tens of millions of e-shoppers beyond your reach.

In the Netherlands, 74% of transactions are carried out using direct debit systems. In Russia, out of every ten people, four pay with cash and only two use credit cards. In Japan, although cards enjoy good penetration, 17% of people use the exclusive payment systems offered by the konbinis, as are called the hundreds of thousands of small convenience stores that are very popular in the country.

Not all countries are dominated by credits cards like the United States. With the favorable global environment for online sales, you have to study on a case-by-case basis the world’s major economies and their payment methods.

Brazilian payment methods

Brazil and its 208 million people cannot be ignored by international websites, since the country accounts for 40% of e-commerce transactions in Latin America. In this country of continental dimensions, there are particularities both in transactions involving cards and in other more unusual methods.

A company that fails to understand the system and does not have a partner specialized in local payment methods ends up foregoing millions of customers. Learn about Brazil’s main payment methods and particularities.

#1 Credit cards: local or international?

Credit cards are customers’ favorite method, with more than 70% of online transactions made using this option. Most use Visa cards (42%), followed by MasterCard (32%) and American Express (3%). However, this does not mean that this 70% can purchase goods and services from a foreign website. Two out of every three credit cards issued in Brazil are exclusively for local transactions.

This means that most cardholders can pay only using the local currency, the Brazilian real. For example, if they want to subscribe to a service offered by a cross-border site or make a payment in a foreign currency, they will be disappointed. Only credit cards enabled for international transactions can make online cross-border purchases. In Brazil, most cards do not have this option enabled.

Consequently, if your company does not use a cross-border payment solution capable of accepting Brazilian real, it only will be capable of selling to, at most, a third of cardholders.

#2 Payment in installments

There is a habit deeply intermeshed with Brazilian culture: payment in installments. Advertising campaigns for retailers often use a popular catchphrase: “everything in up to 10 monthly installments.” Brazilians purchase everything in installments: apartments, cars, trips, clothing, books and anything that money allows.

And therein lies a problem for foreign companies that do not adapt their payment methods to the Brazilian market. For instance, purchases made on foreign sites cannot be paid in installments. For such reason, even if customers hold an international card, they tend to opt for sites that offer installment payments.

Approximately 80% of Brazilians have a habit of buying in installments, according to the credit bureau SPC Brasil. So, when selling to customers in Brazil, you need to eliminate this friction and count on a local gateway that allows for payments in installments. Otherwise, you will be at a disadvantage.

#3 Bank payment slip (Boleto)

Bank payment slips are certainly the peculiarity of Brazil’s payment methods that stands out the most from other countries. They are basically a remittance form that is used to present a bill that should be paid by a certain due date. Using a barcode, customers can pay bank payment slips not only over the Internet, but also in person at thousands of bank branches or lottery stores.

Bank payment slips are part of Brazilian culture, because they can be paid using debit cards or even cash. This solves the problem of the more than half of Brazilians (economically active population) who do not have bank accounts. These are people who often earn their income in the informal economy and who receive and spend their money in cash, without ever using a bank. If you have a bank payment slip system integrated with your check-out, these consumers can shop online even without a credit or debit card.

Your company should offer the option paying using bank slips because they are part of Brazil’s shopping culture. Moreover, even people with credit cards often opt to pay using bank payment slips for some transactions.

4# Shopping in foreign currency

Purchases made in foreign currencies or on international travel are common for many Brazilians, but that is not the reality of most. And even when international credit cardholder make a purchase, concern over the actual exchange rate that will be charged on the due date of the card invoice looms.

Combined with the risk of exchange rate fluctuations, Brazilians are wary about the country’s financial transactions tax (IOF), which, for online purchases in foreign currencies, corresponds to a rate of 6.38%.

It comes much more naturally to Brazilians to shop in local currency and thus avoid foreign exchange fluctuations, spreads charged by card issuers and the tax on foreign-currency purchases. More precisely, for transactions in Brazilian real, the IOF rate falls to 0.38%.

Takeaways

The payment methods available in Brazil reflect the particularities of Brazilians and their economy. While it is true that millions of consumers do have credit cards, it is also true that the majority of cards cannot afford a cross-border payment and half of the country's population does not have a bank account.

The websites of international e-commerce and technology companies that offer products via SaaS are able to adapt to this market, provided that they are supported by a payment partner specialized in all the peculiarities and that also offers a foreign exchange solution. Without this support, the number of potential customers who can make the purchase is restricted to consumers who have an international credit card and are willing to forego the option of paying in installments and to pay a higher tax rate.

To reach the more than 100 million Brazilians on the Internet, your best option is to connect with all the methods and to offer payment in local currency.