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International Payments in 2022: The Old and the New

women making purchase with card online

After a couple of unprecedented years, the global payments landscape enters a decidedly new era in 2022.

Indeed, if 2021 was a year marked by an accelerated shift to digitization brought by the pandemic, then the year that’s coming is likely to be remembered as the time that these changes solidified and were normalized into our daily lives. Behind all of these trends is one overriding consideration: the customer experience.

“Payments have become an increasingly strategic area of focus for merchants as it’s something that’s driving differentiation within their business,” said Jordan McKee, Principal Analyst at 451 Research. “You’re really seeing the customer experience as king in payments today.” 

Overall, global card spending is projected to increase by 10.5% in 2022, with debit card activity continuing to gain ground over credit cards.1 Within that spending, the industry is expected to see both a return to familiar trends as well as a host of new payments opportunities—from omnichannel commerce and buy now, pay later programs to emerging technologies and infrastructure modernization.

While payments in 2022 are set to be a mix of familiar trends and brand-new phenomena, this year’s trends have the potential to drastically change the global financial landscape as we know it.

“With merchants, governments and consumers all still grappling with new realities and routines,” said Ryan Tuttle, who specializes in payments for Euromonitor International, “2022 represents a major opportunity to establish new payment practices that stick for consumers.” 

Payments infrastructure modernization

Spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, some merchants have been forced to confront the harsh reality that their payment processing systems were outdated and couldn’t keep up with e-commerce demand. This painful realization is set to continue into 2022.

“We expect key learnings from the pandemic will spark an enhanced focus on payments infrastructure modernization in 2022 as merchants look to accommodate operational shifts that have continued to accelerate over the past 18 months,” said McKee. 

Indeed, “two-thirds (67%) of merchants strongly agree that modern payment infrastructure will have a highly transformative impact on their business over the next three years,” according to a survey of U.S.-based merchants by 451 Research.2 In particular, 84% of Asia-based respondents view payments as highly strategic.3

Payment modernization will include the implementation and convergence of cloud-based wallets such as EMVCo Secure Remote Commerce and its Click to Pay feature. For some, accepting payments using their certified smartphone or tablet by enabling Tap on Mobile will increase acceptance with no additional hardware needed.

For issuers in particular, the introduction of Cards-as-a-Service (CaaS) is poised to alter the industry in new ways. “Cards-as-a-Service companies have democratized card issuance and empower almost any company or person to build and launch a card program,” said David Shipper, Strategic Advisor at Aite-Novarica Group.

For bank issuers, the impact could be significant, said Ron van Wezel, Strategic Advisor at Aite-Novarica Group. “Banks also feel the heat as a result of the combined trends of digital payments growth, commoditization of payment services, regulatory actions, and 

empowerment of consumers,” he said. In fact, Aite-Novarica estimated that revenue at risk for retail banks if they do not adapt and invest in payments modernization could amount to 10% to 15% of retail bank payments revenue, or from $100 billion to $150 billion globally.4

Omnichannel experiences continue to evolve

With the ongoing rise of cashless—if not fully contact-free—transactions, merchants continue to solidify omnichannel solutions in 2022 to best accommodate the changes in consumer shopping preferences and create better digital relationships with their shoppers. 

“We expect to see omnichannel grow beyond in-store, web, and mobile, and begin to include social commerce venues as well,” says Don Apgar, Director of the Merchant Services Practice at Mercator Advisory Group. Apgar said he expects to “see social commerce develop into a lucrative sales channel for all types of merchants, as shoppers flock to what is becoming the digital version of the ‘90s shopping mall.”

Within omnichannel transactions, non-store e-commerce is the fastest-growing segment of overall retail and is expected to grow by $81.8 billion to almost $600 billion in the U.S. in 2022, according to Mercator.5 Overall, 60% of businesses under $10 million in sales take orders via the web, with 42% having mobile ordering capabilities, according to a Mercator survey of U.S.-based merchants.5

“The payment acceptance space is in a period of massive disruption caused by the coalition of three secular trends: rapid adoption of contactless technology, the global migration of payments to the digital space and the availability of APIs that simplify implementation of new technologies and platforms,” said David Shipper. “The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the migration to digital and growth of contactless payments in the U. S. and some other markets, but these trends had already begun changing the space before 2020.” 

The rise of cryptocurrency  

As the rise of payment digitization occurs globally, some observers await the next step in the industry’s evolution—a worldwide adoption of a global cryptocurrency. Although not expected to dominate 2022, the year is expected to see important advances.

“In 2022, we anticipate cryptocurrency will be an unmistakable theme across the payments industry,” said McKee at 451 Research. “We expect to see payments companies with venture arms injecting more capital into the cryptocurrency ecosystem and incumbents padding their headcount with cryptocurrency talent. Any payments company that has not begun to take this market seriously by the end of the year is likely to be at a significant disadvantage.”

The further rollout of crypto worldwide is also expected to benefit consumers as well as businesses—when, or if, it actually becomes pervasive. According to a survey by Mercator, “The benefit of crypto is that if everyone adopts crypto then it establishes a global fiat payment network where everyone can use crypto regardless of the local fiat currency in use.”6

The rise and stay of buy now, pay later 

This new year is also expected to have more of the same from last year. There is little doubt, observers said, that buy now, pay later (BNPL) solutions have fundamentally changed the expectations and behavior of consumers, both online and in-person throughout the world.

“The past two years have seen double-digit growth in BNPL transaction volume as consumer and merchant adoption skyrocketed both leading into and during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said van Wezel of Aite-Novarica Group. “BNPL is not only a credit instrument, but also a way for merchants to reduce friction in the checkout process and enhance the customer experience.”

In particular, the popularity of BNPL among younger demographics in such markets as Australia, Europe, and the U.S. is expected to continue fueling its demand. “Younger consumers are turning toward credit alternatives, which positions BNPL as an attractive payment option. Consider that 51% of Gen Z and 42% of Millennial respondents have used BNPL at least once in the past six months,” according to a survey by 451 Research of U.S. online consumers.7 Indeed, 76% of merchants surveyed in the U.S. said they accept the BNPL payment method compared with 60% in the UK.

This rapid growth in the BNPL space also has the traditional banking sector feeling the heat, prompting financial institutions to start offering their own BNPL services.

“We see a growing intersection between BNPL and banking, where BNPL is becoming part of a broader suite of financial services,” said 451 Research’s Jordan McKee.


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1 “2022 Outlook: Merchant Services,” Mercator Advisory Group, November 2021.

2 “Trends in Customer Experience & Commerce,” 451 Research, December 2021.

3 “Global Merchant & Consumer Payments Survey: Key Findings,” 451 Research, January 2022.

4 “Payments Modernization in Retail Banking,” Aite-Novarica Group, December 2020.

5 “2022 Outlook: Merchant Services,” Mercator Advisory Group, November 2021.

6 “2022 Outlook: Emerging Technologies,” Mercator Advisory Group, November 2021.

7 “2022 Trends in Customer Experience & Commerce,” 451 Research, December 2021. 


The information provided herein is sponsored by Discover® Global Network. It is intended for informational purposes, and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice.