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Canadian prepaid payments now a CA$8.5 billion industry

The Canadian Prepaid Providers Organization (CPPO), the collective voice of the open-loop prepaid payments industry in Canada, has released an updated industry forecast in collaboration with Aite-Novarica Group to finalise its analysis of 2021.

The completed research, Canadian Open-Loop Prepaid Card Market: 2021 Results and Forecast Update, confirms earlier growth estimates through 2021.

It also demonstrates the significant potential of the Canadian open-loop prepaid market, with total loads on all Canadian open-loop prepaid card accounts growing from an estimated CA$7.2 billion in 2020 to about CA$8.5 billion ($5.74 to $6.78 billion) in 2021, an 18% increase and up 76% since 2019.

According to the update, the Canadian open-loop prepaid card market will continue to grow at a consistent pace and is expected to exceed CA$17 billion ($13.56 billion) in annual loads by 2025.

This growth will be driven by a multitude of factors, including the broader transition away from cash and towards digital platforms—a trend heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic—as well as the usage of prepaid card rails to drive new payment innovations such as buy now, pay later (BNPL) initiatives and instant issuance commercial cards, and the continued appeal of consumer General Purpose Reloadable (GPR) adopted by challenger banks and neo banks.

The average load per Canadian open-loop prepaid card account will grow steadily from CA$156 per card account in 2020 to CA$213 by 2025.

“The rapid growth of the Canadian open-loop prepaid market has cemented the case for prepaid being the innovation platform of choice to bring new digital payments and banking solutions into market, using existing payment rails,” said Jennifer Tramontana, Co-Founder and Executive Director, CPPO.

“With its flexibility for innovation, we anticipate even more growth in prepaid as Canada adopts an open banking framework that will drive new consumer-friendly features and mature use cases in B2B and government.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic and prepaid providers’ quick pivot to digital use cases and e-commerce were key drivers for growth, it is expected that many of these trends will continue post-pandemic to meet the expectations of the digital-savvy Canadian consumer.

Certain digital-first programs, such as consumer-funded GPR programs leveraged by Canadian digital challenger banks, continue to gain traction among Canadian consumers looking for chequing account alternatives or for a better, cost-effective way to bank.

Coupled with next generation features and functionality such as earned wage access (EWA), quick and efficient digital account opening (DAO), accessible fee and rate offers, and creative, forward-thinking money management capabilities, Canadian digital challenger banks are becoming more competitive with incumbent financial institutions.

Corporate-funded programs

Corporate-funded prepaid programs are also expected to grow steadily post-pandemic. The use cases that have gained prominence within the market employ a wide range of value propositions while laying the foundation for further innovative offerings.

In B2C and B2B instances, this includes using prepaid for payroll, employee benefits and incentives, insurance claims, accounts payable and on-demand delivery.

“The market growth highlights that prepaid technology is the foundation for digital financial services partnerships that enable emerging FinTechs and established financial institutions to bring innovative products and services to market,” said Francisco Javier Alvarez-Evangelista, Advisor, Aite-Novarica Group.

“From supplier payments to insurance payments, prepaid’s role in disrupting real-time B2B payouts is one example of this today.”

To access a summary of the findings,  visit

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