The Promising Future of Cross-Border Payments

January 10, 2024

International trade is not new. It’s been evolving for hundreds of years. However, nowadays, the world is becoming more connected, and technologies have had to adapt to the needs of modern merchants and their clientele.

Advances in regulations and improvements in technology have made way to safer, faster and cheaper cross-border transactions. This has led to an increase in the demand for cross-border payments.

In 2023, cross-border payments reached $156 trillion according to studies by Payments Cards and mobile. Of these, 95% can be attributed to business-to-business (B2B) payments, however, consumer payments have grown twice as fast.

It’s taken a while to get there: in the past, cross-border transactions used to be less safe, more costly and certainly not as speedy as what we see today: transactions could take up to 5 days to clear, making it a stressful, expensive process. Nowadays, these transactions have become faster and safer, and some regulations promise an improvement moving forward.

In Europe, for example, in the EU, banks are required to enable the instant settlement of cross-border transactions in euros. This mandate was introduced in October 2022, and will be implemented over a period of 36 months.  Nowadays, only 13% of cross-border payments in euros are instantly settled, but this number is expected to be 100% by Q1, 2026.

Likewise, the global Financial Stability Board (FSB) has set a target for 75% of all international payments to be settled within an hour by 2027 – and global payments network SWIFT has just published findings announcing that almost 90% of transactions processed over its network reach recipient banks and are settled within an hour.

Cross-border payments are, of course, not perfect by any means. In some markets across the globe, the performance of regulators leave much to be desired, and there are some markets that suffer from a lack of transparency about transaction routing, or the fact that some (less popular) currencies take a longer time to settle.  

However, it is still a developing process, and cross-border transactions are certainly seeing an improvement when it comes to swiftness, even if the price remains high when compared with domestic transactions. We are looking forward to seeing the world become even more interconnected, and more affordable, in the future.

Want to learn more? Check out Payments Cards and Mobile’s full write-up here.

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