Online Transactions Affect Colombia's Digital Payment Services
Introduction to Colombia
An overview of Colombia's currency, population and ket statistics
Colombia's official currency is the Colombian peso (COP). The denominations of Colombian banknotes currently in circulation include 1,000 pesos, 2,000 pesos, 5,000 pesos, 10,000 pesos, 20,000 pesos, and 50,000 pesos. Coins are also used in the country, and the denominations currently in circulation include 50 pesos, 100 pesos, 200 pesos, 500 pesos, and 1,000 pesos.
Colombia in 2022 announced plans to introduce a central bank digital currency. Since then, the Central Bank of Colombia has been studying digital currency, but it remains to be seen whether a digital peso will be issued anytime soon.
Colombia had a population of 50,882,891 people as of the middle of 2020, according to the United Nations. The population increased to 51,211,717 as of February 9, 2021, with 80.4% residing in urban areas, primarily in Bogota, Cali, and Medellin. The median age of the population is 31.3 years. In terms of internet users, Colombia had around 30.9 million people online by the end of 2019, according to the PPRO WECE Report.
Spanish is the official language for all government and administrative affairs in Colombia. However, its linguistic landscape encompasses more than just Spanish. Various indigenous communities across the country communicate in several regional languages, including Wayuu, Nasa Yuwe, Embera, and Kogi. While these indigenous languages do not enjoy official status at the national level, they are acknowledged and protected by the country's constitution.
Colombia had a gross domestic product of $343,939 million in 2022, representing an increase of $25,427 million from 2021. The country's per capita GDP stood at $6,664 in 2022, which increased by $425 from a year earlier. The OECD forecasts a significant slowdown in GDP growth, projecting a decrease to 1.2% in 2023 from 8.1% in 2022, followed by a slight increase to 1.7% in 2024. According to the PPRO WECE Report, approximately 46% of Colombians have bank accounts, with an equal proportion holding credit cards.
Internet & Mobile Phone Trends
Data compiled by Statista shows that most Colombians between the ages of 15 and 45 lack internet connectivity, with less than half having access. Similarly, only a small fraction, approximately 9.6%, of individuals aged 55 and above are regular internet users. In January 2020, the number of internet users reached 35 million, indicating a growth of 2.9% or approximately 1 million individuals from a year earlier. Consequently, the internet penetration rate rose to 62%. The PPRO WECE Report further shows that smartphone penetration reached approximately 75% by the end of 2019.
According to the PPRO WECE Report, the e-commerce sector generated an average annual revenue per paying user of $351 in 2019. Additionally, Colombia was the 31st largest e-commerce market globally, generating a total revenue of $4 billion in that year. Most cross-border purchases made by Colombians comprised products from the United States, China, Mexico, and Brazil.
Summary of Fiscal Policy
Colombia is renowned for its prudent management of macroeconomics and fiscal affairs. The implementation of policies supported by the World Bank's programmatic development policy financing operations has been successful in achieving various objectives. These include reducing public recurrent expenditures from 3.1% to 2.8% of GDP, expanding the taxpayer base by around 750,000 individuals, and fostering competition and innovation among small and medium enterprises. The Colombian economy has made a remarkable recovery following the coronavirus pandemic, thanks to robust fiscal and monetary policy support that prevented a more severe decline in income. The presence of solid macroeconomic policy frameworks sets the stage for sustained growth in domestic demand. However, ensuring the long-term sustainability of fiscal accounts will necessitate further measures. A significant challenge to Colombia's economy stems from the diminishing state of its oil industry since 2020. Although the country's proven oil reserves remained steady at 1.82 billion barrels as of the end of 2020, providing an equivalent of 6.3 years' worth, exploration activity plummeted by 11% due to lower oil prices. This decline in the oil sector is reflected in the country's oil production, which recorded its lowest output in 10 years at 738,000 barrels per day in 2021, indicating a 5.5% decrease from a year earlier. As oil prices continue to soften, Colombia's economic outlook worsens. The lack of investment and dwindling proven reserves pose challenges to the country's economic growth.
How People Pay in Colombia
An overview of how people in Colombia choose to make payments.
Traditional Payment Methods
The primary traditional payment methods used in Colombia
A Visa credit/debit card is a financial payment card issued by banks or financial institutions. It allows users to make purchases, withdraw cash and can be used online and in person. Visa's processing network can handle over 65,000 transaction messages per second.
Mastercard is a worldwide payment network that links financial institutions, merchants, and individuals, facilitating seamless transactions. This renowned company provides a range of credit and debit cards issued through partner banks. Customers may enjoy supplementary benefits such as rewards programs, cashback offers, and insurance coverage depending on the specific bank.
American Express cards encompass a range of payment cards provided by the multinational financial services corporation, American Express Company. The Amex card portfolio includes diverse options like credit cards, charge cards, and prepaid cards. Renowned for their broad acceptance among merchants, these cards grant cardholders access to various advantages, including perks, rewards programs, travel benefits, and dedicated customer service assistance.
While Colombia's e-commerce market thrives, a significant portion of the population in rural areas relies on cash payments, which make up 21% of all online purchases. One convenient cash payment option is Davivienda, allowing shoppers to pay at ATMs, post offices, or physical stores.
Pagos Seguros en línea (PSE)
PSE is widely recognised as the leading payment solution in Colombia. This service is made possible through the collaboration of ACH Colombia, a national bank consortium. PSE lets customers conveniently finalise their transactions directly from the merchant's checkout by conducting secure online bank transfers. With its inherent security measures and minimal risk of fraud or chargebacks, this payment method has been gaining significant popularity among users.
Alternative payment methods (APM's)
The top APMs used in Colombia
Apple Pay, a mobile payment service from Apple Inc, allows users to make in-person, online, and in-app payments. It replaces chip and PIN transactions at contactless terminals.
PayPal is a frequently used digital payment system that allows clients to use their PayPal accounts, debit/credit cards, or bank accounts. Customers use PayPal for secure online shopping and to send/receive money.
Addi provides a convenient BNPL solution with a user-friendly interface. Customers can easily purchase from their preferred retailers and pay in instalments. Its services cater to e-commerce, mobile, and in-person transactions in Colombia and Brazil, and the company has ambitious goals to extend its reach throughout Latin America soon.
Pagueleita is a financial services provider that offers customers a virtual credit card that comes with the advantage of zero interest. The company's main objective is to streamline financial processes by delivering prompt, equitable, transparent, and accountable payment solutions. Pagueleita works with BNPL and tap-on-phone technologies to allow small independent businesses and direct-selling distributors to accept BNPL payments from their customers through mobile phone transactions.
How to Accept Payments in Colombia
A guide to accepting payments in Colombia.
How to Accept Online Payments in Colombia
Before accepting online payments, you must determine which methods you prefer. Then you can choose a payment gateway provider, a service that authorises and processes online payments with their specific system. Although there are plenty of payment gateway options in Colombia, the general process for online payments typically involves an acquirer, issuer, retailer, and cardholder in the following steps: 1. The cardholder initiates a payment by presenting their payment card to the retailer to purchase goods or services. 2. The retailer sends the payment details to the acquirer, who processes the payment request and sends it to the payment scheme (such as Mastercard or Visa). 3. The payment scheme sends the payment request to the issuer (such as a bank or licensed issuer) who issued the card to the cardholder. 4. The issuer checks if the cardholder has enough funds to complete the transaction and approves or declines the payment request. If the payment is approved, the issuer sends an authorisation code to the payment scheme. 5. The payment scheme sends the authorisation code to the acquirer, which then sends it to the retailer, completing the transaction.
How Long Does an International Payment from Colombia Take?
The payment processing time may vary depending on the method and the recipient's bank. For instance, online money transfers through platforms like PayPal can quickly and conveniently send money to multiple destinations.
Bank debit/credit cards: International payments with bank debit or credit cards may take a few minutes to a few hours, depending on bank processing times.
Online money transfers: Platforms like PayPal can process international payments within minutes to hours, depending on the service and destination country.
Wire transfers: Traditional bank-to-bank transfers via SWIFT or wire may take one to five business days or longer, depending on the destination country, intermediary banks, and transaction requirements.
Merchant fees for online payments in Colombia can vary depending on the payment method and the merchant services provider used. Here are some examples of typical merchant fees for online payments in Colombia:
Credit and debit cards: Merchant fees for accepting online credit and debit card payments can range according to the transaction amount. It also varies depending on the type of card used and the merchant services provider.
Bank transfers: Bank transfer fees can vary depending on the bank used, with some banks charging a flat fee per transaction and others charging a percentage of the transaction amount.
Other fees surrounding online payments in Colombia include charges incurred by merchants, payment processors, and financial institutions involved in the payment processing chain. Below are some common fees:
Interchange fees: Interchange fees are charges paid by merchants' banks to cardholders' banks to cover the costs of processing card transactions. These fees are usually based on a percentage of the transaction value and can vary depending on the type of card used and the merchant's industry.
Payment gateway fees: Payment gateway providers charge a fee for processing transactions on their platform, which may be a percentage of the transaction value or a flat fee per transaction. Cross-border fees: If a merchant accepts payments from customers outside the country, they may be subject to additional fees for cross-border transactions, including currency conversion fees and international processing fees.
Merchant discount rate: A processing fee that merchants are charged for transactions made using credit or debit cards. This fee generally falls within 1% to 3% of the total transaction amount.
Security Challenges of Online Payments in Colombia
Online payments in Colombia face security challenges, including phishing attacks, malware and data breaches, weak authentication measures, lack of consumer awareness, and social engineering techniques. These issues involve deceptive tactics, unauthorised access to sensitive information, compromised transactions, user account vulnerabilities, and manipulation of individuals. Colombian financial institutions can take various measures to address security issues related to online payments. They can enhance security by implementing advanced encryption, firewalls, and SSL certificates to protect customer data and transactions. Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security through methods like biometric authentication or SMS verification codes. To combat fraud, institutions should deploy advanced fraud detection systems that identify suspicious activities, phishing attempts, and malware infections in real time. Educating customers about security risks and best practices can also help reduce user errors.
Key Sectors & Industries in Colombia
An overview of the Colombian market.
According to the US International Trade Administration and other various sources, the top 10 industries in Colombia are:
Colombia has an installed electric power generation capacity of 17,720 megawatts, with hydropower accounting for 69%, gas and coal-fired power plants contributing 30%, and the remaining 1% coming from wind and solar. While Colombia's energy matrix is considered clean, it is highly dependent on climatic conditions due to its reliance on hydroelectric power.
Food and Beverages
The food and beverage sector is one of Colombia's largest, employing more than 20% of the country's workforce. The gross value added by this sector grew at a rate of 1.1% between 2015 and 2020, mainly due to rising incomes and increasing domestic demand.
Colombia's gambling industry generated total revenue of $175 million in 2022, which was an 18% increase from a year earlier. The country's bingo halls and casinos were the biggest contributors in 2022, with total revenue of over $70 million, mainly due to a rise in electronic gaming machines. Online betting was next with $56.1 million.
According to the Colombian Mining Association, the country's mining industry generated a record 6.13 trillion pesos in royalties in 2022. The coal, petroleum, and gold industries are among Colombia's largest. Various factors have affected the electricity and mining sectors over the years. These changes include the establishment of new authorities, the implementation of new laws, and the development of new technologies.
Colombia's construction industry was valued at around $41.3 billion in 2022, and it is expected to grow by 4% between 2024 and 2027. The country's construction industry is expected to benefit from the government's efforts to accelerate the construction of fourth-generation road infrastructure and its fifth-generation concessions programme.
Colombia has a proven track record of fiscal and macroeconomic management. It is anchored by an inflation-targeting framework, an improved exchange rate, and a rule-based system for managing its budget. These factors contribute to the country's stability and help reduce poverty.
Colombia's agricultural market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 7% between 2023 and 2028. It is one of the country's most important industries and is known for its expertise in producing various products in response to international market trends. In 2020, the Agriculture Ministry established a framework offering various policy programmes that help farmers improve their agricultural operations. These include providing financial incentives for the purchase of agricultural equipment and seeds, as well as subsidies for transportation costs.
Investments in Colombia's oil and gas sector increased by over 50% to $3.1 billion in 2021. Almost half of this went to exploration while the rest was allocated for production. The country's oil and gas association noted that investment in the sector grew even further in 2022, reaching about $4 billion.
Colombia's e-commerce market is projected to generate $10,064.5 million in revenue in 2023. The market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 9.6% until 2027. The increasing number of people using smartphones and the rise of online payment services are some of the factors driving growth in this sector.
The medical device market in Colombia is the third-largest in the region after Mexico and Brazil. It is very competitive and relies on imports for most of its production. Low-tech consumables are also mainly used in the country. According to Fitch Solutions, the market is expected to grow at a rate of 6.5% over the next few years.
Mineral fuels, which include crude oil, made up 45.1% of Colombia's total exports in 2022, amounting to $18.3 billion. Other top-selling products included coffee, tea, spices, gems and precious metals, plastic articles, live trees, and cut flowers.
Meanwhile, Colombia's top imports were electrical equipment and machinery, which amounted to 10.5% of the country's total imports. Other high-value imports included vehicles, machinery, and pharmaceuticals.
Regulation in Colombia
The regulatory environment of Colombia
Summary of the Regulatory Environment in Colombia
To maintain fairness and operational smoothness in business ventures in Colombia, entrepreneurs are required to comply with a range of laws and regulations, which include:
Company law: This includes regulations governing companies' establishment, operations, and dissolution.
Employment law: This includes regulations governing employment contracts, working conditions, and employee rights.
Product liability law: This includes regulations governing the legal liabilities and responsibilities of manufacturers, sellers, distributors, and other parties involved in the production and sale of goods.
Intellectual property law: This includes regulations governing copyrights, patents, and trademarks.
Competition law: This includes regulations governing competition and antitrust matters to promote fair competition.
Consumer protection law: This includes regulations governing the rights of consumers, product safety, and advertising standards.
Data protection law: This includes regulations concerning the collection, use, and storage of personal data.
Several government agencies oversee various aspects of the law related to businesses and consumer rights in Colombia. For example, Colombia's Ministry of Labour is responsible for regulating employment and company laws. It draws its authority from the country's Code of Substantive Labour, last updated in 2021. Meanwhile, the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce, which acts as the country's primary regulator of product liability, oversees the granting and administration of intellectual property rights.
How Card Payments are Regulated in Colombia
Colombia's Financial Regulation Unit (URF) oversees card payments. It also recently issued a new regulation that aims to encourage the use of digital payments by establishing a framework for the low-value payment system.
Do I Need a Licence?
In Colombia, you need a licence to establish a business. For example, foreigners planning to establish businesses in Colombia must secure business owner visas.
Besides a valid passport, other documents, such as a letter from the company's legal representative and a certificate showing that the new company's value exceeds the minimum wage in Colombia, are also required to obtain a business owner visa.
Payment Solutions in Colombia
An overview of how to accept payments from customers in Colombia
Payment Gateways and Providers in Colombia
Due to the rapid emergence and evolution of new payment methods, companies must ensure that their customers have a seamless and efficient payment experience. To address this need, payment technology company APEXX has developed a solution that enables Colombian merchants to accept payments from multiple providers.
Recognising the importance of catering to the diverse payment methods that customers prefer, businesses need a streamlined and efficient processing solution. With the help of its Payment Orchestration Layer (POL) platform, APEXX provides a central hub that connects various payment methods and banks.
The ability to manage multiple payment methods through a single platform is a key advantage of the POL solution from APEXX. It also offers a variety of features designed to help businesses improve their efficiency.
Intelligent routing is one of the most prominent features of the APEXX POL solution. It uses a methodology that considers various factors, such as cost, risk, and currency, to choose the appropriate payment method for each transaction. This eliminates the possibility of failures and helps companies reduce their transaction fees.
Integrating APEXX POL with existing payment systems is effortless. The platform offers pre-built plugins and various APIs that enable integration with various payment platforms, including e-commerce sites and POS systems. This flexibility enables companies to seamlessly integrate the system, eliminating issues and disruptions.
As a leading payment provider, APEXX helps companies in Colombia and other countries improve their efficiency and manage their payment processing. Through its flexible payment orchestration framework, it enables them to effectively process multiple payment methods and improve their customer satisfaction.
Cheapest Payment Solutions in Colombia
To reduce fees in their payment stacks, merchants in Colombia can implement the following strategies:
Negotiate fees: Merchants should negotiate with their payment providers for better rates, which can include transaction fees, interchange fees, and monthly fees.
Choose a suitable payment provider: Merchants should research and compare different payment providers to select the one that offers competitive rates and low fees.
Use alternative payment methods: Merchants can reduce fees by using alternative payment methods such as e-wallets or bank transfers instead of traditional card payments.
Prevent chargebacks: To avoid chargebacks and additional fees, merchants can offer clear product descriptions, prompt customer complaint resolution, and refunds when necessary.
Implement fraud prevention measures: Merchants should adopt fraud prevention measures to prevent fraudulent transactions, which can lead to chargebacks and additional fees.
Monitor payment processing fees: Merchants should keep a close eye on their payment processing fees and use payment analytics tools to track their expenses and identify areas where they can reduce costs.
Merchants can also consider using payment aggregators such as APEXX, which allow them to accept multiple payment methods through a single platform, reducing the need for multiple payment providers and lowering costs.
BNPL in Colombia
BNPLs are point-of-sale financing solutions that allow customers to pay for services or goods in instalments at a later time, typically with interest-free options.
In Colombia, the BNPL payments industry was expected to grow by 141.2% to a total value of $618.2 million in 2022. This growth has been attributed to the increasing number of e-commerce outlets that emerged during the coronavirus outbreak.
Merchants in Colombia can use APEXX to integrate different payment systems or providers to provide BNPL options to their customers and effectively manage their payment systems.