Skip to content

Brazil’s Central Bank Built a Mobile Payment System With 110 Million Users

One year ago the Pix platform didn’t exist. Now half the population uses it, showing just how quickly adoption of digital payments can spread.

A user pays a bill with Pix.

A user pays a bill with Pix.

Photographer: Karime Xavier/Folhapress

On a Sunday afternoon at a busy intersection in central Brasília, a woman asks passing motorists for money. Her cardboard sign, written in marker in Portuguese, reads: “Need help. Hungry. I accept Pix.”

Pix, a system which allows fast money transfers over smartphones, has become ubiquitous in the 11 months since it was launched by Brazil’s central bank. All that’s needed to send cash to someone is a simple key they’ve set up, such as an email address or phone number. Similar to the privately owned Zelle in the U.S., Pix works through multiple apps from banks and other digital wallet services. It’s already been used at least once by 110 million Brazilians and about $89 billion has moved through the network. Brazil now registers more instant transfers than the U.S.