Asia leads the way in alternative payments and they now also dominate in Europe, but the card remains king in North America

Alternative payment options now account for the majority of e-commerce spend worldwide with Asia leading the way with adoption. Europe is also seeing more purchases with alternative payment methods and Africa has an encouraging level of adoption, but North America, the Middle East trail a way behind, while Latin America has a less than 20% adoption rate.

Global fintech innovation is happening at a rapid pace and there are now more than 300 different ways to pay for travel across the world. It’s against this backdrop that Amadeus and payment provider PPRO commissioned ‘The Travel Payments Guide’, a new report charting the rise of alternative payment methods. The report is designed to help travel merchants understand which methods are most popular in their key international markets, and support them in defining their payment acceptance strategy.

According to the analysis, travellers are now choosing alternative ways to pay for travel, such as e-Wallets and bank transfers, more often than cards and cash combined, with a 51% share on a global scale. This growth is occurring across the world with e-Wallets now twice as popular as cards in China, accounting for 49% of the country’s USD155 billion digital travel spend. In the US, e-Wallets may replace cards as the most popular way to pay by 2025, having gained an additional 4% share of the market in the last 12 months.

‘The Travel Payments Guide’ analysed e-commerce and digital travel spend across 40 of the world’s largest markets using a range of data sources including central banks, national e-Commerce associations, IATA, PYMNTS.com and globally recognised publicly available databases.

Data from the report shows that Asia leads the way in alternative payments, accounting for 58% of the region’s spend, closely followed by Europe where alternative payments represent 53% of spend. In North America, that level is 38% with cards remaining the most popular way to pay, representing 58% of all e-Commerce spend, however that share has fallen from 62% just 12 months earlier.

This data highlights the speed of change in e-commerce. “This data highlights how quickly the payments landscape is changing and the increasing complexity facing travel merchants,” says Bart Tompkins, managing director, payments at Amadeus.

“Some of the largest markets in the world are seeing alternative, local payments take more than 7% market share in a single year so travel merchants really do need to move quickly now,” reinforces James Booth, vice president and head of new business development at PPRO.

The idea of a cash-less economy has been well-discussed through the years, but technology developments now mean that traditional cards could soon also be obsolete. But, despite less travellers now paying with cards directly, many still do rely on the card networks in the background. So, cards will continue to be essential payments infrastructure for our industry.