Money and Services

Mobile Wallets will be used by 5.2 billion people by 2026: why they matter for financial inclusion

mobile wallets can contribute to financial inclusion

In just four years, more than 60% of the world’s population will use digital wallets.

According to a new study from Juniper Research, the total number of digital wallet users will exceed 5.2 billion globally in 2026, up from 3.4 billion in 2022; a strong growth of over 53%.

The research predicts that superapps will drive digital wallet use in developing countries that are currently considered cash heavy.

Digital Wallets and Financial Inclusion

How can digital wallets boost financial inclusion? Mobile wallets work like a bank account in several ways. It enables a customer to make payments, store funds, and transfer money to other user’s financial accounts.

Some apps also enables its customers to write checks. According to research in East Africa, around 85% of women received their income via mobile wallets and mobile money.

This percentage accounted on average of 33% of their total income. Whereas, not many men received payments in this way. Even if the ones who did only received just got 4% of their income.

PayPal & Alipay Top Competitor Leaderboard

Speaking about numbers, experts have reported the value of digital wallets transactions will exceed $12 trillion in 2026, from $7.5 trillion in 2022.

To capitalize on this substantial growth, analysts predict leading digital payment vendors will diversify their payment products to include new solutions, such as buy-now-pay-later and cryptocurrencies.

More specifically, reports enlighten how the increasing merchant acceptance of digital wallets methods at e-commerce checkouts has been a driving engine behind rocketing further digital wallets use.

In this framework, APIs that connect financial institutions to local retailers, will be key to the international growth of digital wallets usage for large, cross-border e-commerce merchants where platforms such as PayPal, Alipay, WeChat Pay, Apple Pay and Google Wallet will be the top competitor leaderboard.

Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam: Those Countries will Lead The Trend

According to data, the Asia Pacific area will prime for rapid growth over the next four years.

More specifically, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam will boost this trend. Juniper Research predicts that the adoption of digital wallets will be near 75% of the population in each of these countries by 2026.

Data are also confirmed by a new Google-led study. Despite initial concerns of a post-covid downturn, the digital payment market continues its growth trajectory in Asia, expected to hit US$2 trillion by transaction value in 2030 as more fintech and digital banks emerge.

The region’s opportunity lies, in part, in the potential access to the vast numbers of consumers who are not reached - and tied - by traditional payment options. Are we facing a financial revolution where payment options leveling the playing field for consumers who may struggle to access traditional financial institutions? Maybe.

40 e-wallet operators in Indonesia

In Southeast Asia as a whole, more than 70% of the population are underbanked or unbanked.

Amongst this group, mobile transactions are increasing, and accordingly, e-wallet penetration amongst the region’s unbanked is set to surge to 58% by 2025.

Alongside the growth in e-wallet users is the growth of e-wallet providers; an example can be seen what’s happened in Indonesia where there are over 40 e-wallet operators licensed by the central bank. In addition to the challenge of having to navigate an increasingly complex digital payment maze, merchants face the challenge of growing consumer preference for convenience.

Consumers are increasingly looking for faster, cheaper, and local payment options. Merchants who fail to offer that face the risk of losing customers to competitors, or not being able to expand into new markets.

The power of the QR Code

Back to Juniper Research, the report identified QR code payments as the most popular digital wallet transaction type in 2026; reaching 380 billion transactions globally, and accounting for over 40% of all transactions by volume. Juniper Research predicted that the global spend using QR code payments will reach over $3 trillion by 2025; rising from $2.4 trillion in 2022.

This growth of 25% will be driven by the increasing focus on improving the level of financial inclusion in developing regions and providing alternatives to established payment methods in developed regions.

On November 15, central banks from five ASEAN member states inked a memorandum of understanding on regional cross-border payments between countries, in a move that will bring multiplier effects to migrant workers and businesses within the region. The cooperation will allow the use of QR codes to facilitate transactions amongst five ASEAN countries, an innovation previously only available between Indonesia and Thailand.

The “Indian” path: National Schemes to Boost QR Growth

Alipay has been nominated as the leader in QR code payments, having built upon its early‑mover advantage to create a portfolio of strong features, including loyalty schemes, online payments, and a food delivery service in the QR space.

However, experts suggested that competitors emulate Alipay’s strategy to create a valuable ecosystem that revolves around QR code payments capabilities, such as loyalty schemes. And it is already happening worldwide.

The prospects for adoption and growth of QR code-based digital payments are stronger in markets with national schemes in place, due to incentives that promote ease of use for consumers; with increased interoperability being a major enabling factor.

This is the example of India. In the country, the transaction value of QR code payments will increase from $62 billion in 2022, to $125 billion in 2026, driven by its national QR code standard and reduced cash usage.

From E-Commerce to Transportation Industry

QR codes will continue to rise in the future. This technology, has persisted well beyond expectations that they would provide a bridge to more technically sophisticated payment methods and then slowly fade into insignificance.

Jumping into the bandwagon of providing newer ways to pay, the transportation industry is also introducing more QR-related payment options to a wider public as people can see how early adopters use phones to pay with a swipe for rides on trains, buses, and minivans.

The smart city paytech, O-CITY, enabled tap and pay in public transport with its open-loop digital ticketing platform shaking the industry in highly populated countries that are transforming fast, such as Kenya, the Philippines, to Moldova.

British Airways, since the surge in QR payments, they no longer offer a buffet food service in their lounges. Instead, passengers scan a QR code from wherever they are seated, and food arrives right where they are seated.

Digital wallets, QR codes and other digital payments are now part of daily life almost everywhere. As we have seen, they have emerged as an effective way to drive financial inclusion across the globe.

The convenience, speed, and security offered by it attracts many unbanked people who usually don’t have trust in mainstream banking.

However, experts think this is just a start and in coming years, we might see new innovations and developments in the market of mobile wallets which will further make banking simpler, fast, secure, and easily accessible to the masses.