MercadoLibre’s fintech arm sees credit-card reader boom in Mexico

By Thomson Reuters Jun 17, 2024 | 5:09 AM

By Kylie Madry

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Latin American e-commerce giant MercadoLibre’s fintech arm, Mercado Pago, has seen adoption of its slim mobile credit-card readers more than double in the past year, gaining on competing options from banks and Clip, an executive said.

In Mexico, cash is still king – and as Latin America’s No. 2 economy, it still lags far behind Brazil in terms of digitalization, Brigitte Brousset, Mercado Pago’s head of financing for merchants in Mexico, told Reuters.

Brazil had been in a similar situation, but credit card adoption was quick and central bank-backed system Pix is now threatening to take over digital payments.

In Mexico, “we’re still behind other countries,” Brousset said on Friday, “but market penetration has been speeding up.”

Five years ago, around a million credit-card readers provided by traditional banks and another million from third parties such as Mercado Pago and Clip, a Mexican digital payments platform, were used by sellers and stores in the country, according to the company.

Now, the number of bank-provided credit-card readers, which are bulkier than the Mercado Pago devices and print paper receipts, has stagnated while third parties have rolled out more than 4 million, the firm said.

Percentage growth in Mercado Pago readers in Mexico is in the “low triple digits” over the past year, Brousset said, “which is really quite fast.” She declined to share comparisons with other countries where the firm operates.

Obtaining a traditional reader from a bank can require a drawn-out visit to a branch where sellers hold an account, Brousset said. She touted the ease of ordering one online from Mercado Pago, where readers are priced as low as 149 Mexican pesos ($8.07).

Beyond its credit-card readers, Mercado Pago in Mexico also offers loans, credit and debit cards and transfers from abroad.

The firm signed off on more than 1 million small-business loans in the country last year and is looking to top 2 million in 2024, Brousset said.

Mercado Pago is set to apply for a banking license in the country in the next few months, which would allow it to provide services like savings and checking accounts, certificates of deposit (CDs), commercial loans and mortgages.

Brousset said it was too early to discuss how the license would affect options for merchants.

($1 = 18.4540 Mexican pesos)

(Reporting by Kylie Madry; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)