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Colombia’s real-time payment system reaches over 7 million transfers

Colombia’s real-time payment system reaches over 7 million transfers
Photo: Kraken/Shutterstock

Since September 2019, Colombians have created over 5 million mobile accounts and carried out more than 7 million real-time transfers through Transfiya, an instant payment system built by Bogotá-based fintech Minka with ACH Colombia, the country’s clearing house, responsible for bank-to-bank operations.

While the numbers represent fourfold growth compared with the same period last year, the system continues to fall far short of its potential.

Unlike Brazil’s PIX, which was born in 2020 from a Central Bank structure and regulation, Transfiya emerged from a private arrangement, which may be the first reason it didn’t take off as it could have don.

As the controller of PIX, Brazil’s Central Bank forced all the country’s major banking institutions to participate in a system with equal conditions of competitiveness alongside neobanks, payment institutions, and other types of fintech companies.

It is probably because of this intrinsic difference that Transfiya imposes limitations, despite working 24/7.

It allows up to 15 free daily transfers of up to COP 1.25 million (around USD 284) each to its around 1.5 million users. PIX, which has more than 109 million users who have made or received transfers, does not set any restrictions on the number of daily transfers; the cap for each transaction is defined by the bank and the user.

Transfiya can be used for transfers between individuals, and between individuals and small merchants. 

Other arrangements, at a more advanced stage in Brazil, are still being developed in Colombia: business-to-business payments (mostly payment requests), micropayments (between individuals and small businesses, such as mom-and-pop shops), and QR codes (which is how Colombians will be able to pay utility bills, like water).

Institutions don’t seem to want to give Transfiya time to bear more fruit. This year, Bancolombia started charging for transactions. In Brazil, PIX P2P transactions are free of charge, and some fintechs have also zeroed fees on some B2B transactions.