“I receive PIX because many are without cash and want to help. That way more money arrives than in hand,” says Ferreira, an unemployed 48-year-old who begs motorists for alms.
This electronic and immediate payment method – the beneficiary sees the money appear in his account in a few seconds – was launched in November 2020 by the Central Bank of Brazil (BCB).
The popularity of the initiative even gave it a space in the campaign for the October elections: President Jair Bolsonaro claimed responsibility for it, although the technical work began during the government of Michel Temer (2016-2018).
The PIX was also the subject of false information, which indicated that if elected, the favorite candidate in the polls, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, would end the system, to benefit the banks, which do not charge commissions for the use of the PIX between individuals.
Operating 24×7, anyone with a bank account can “make” a PIX (payment or transfer) or receive it through the bank’s app.
The system works in a simple way: it is enough to place the “key” or password, which can be the person’s fiscal or taxpayer identification number, or the cell phone number, or even scan a QR code in a payment terminal, such as a supermarket checkout.
The PIX is used mostly by individuals.
PIX “keys” totaled 478 million as of July, for some 184 million Brazilians with bank accounts in a population of 213 million people, according to the BCB.
The number of transactions reached 4,200 million in the first quarter of the year, 22.9% of the total, against 3,700 and 3,500 million payments by credit card (19.27%) and debit card (19.8%), respectively .
The BCB also highlights the benefits of the system for merchants: “The rates charged for other electronic means (…) are very high, in addition to the term to collect”, up to 28 days for credit cards.
“With cash there is a greater risk of losing it or being robbed. The PIX is much safer,” points out José Jefferson, a street vendor of coconut water on a beach in Rio de Janeiro.
The immediacy of the system also positioned it as the second payment method in electronic commerce in Brazil, according to the consulting firm Gmattos.
The PIX is currently used for relatively small sums, whether for food purchases or a collaboration for a musician on the subway.
In the first quarter of the year, the volume transferred reached 2 billion reais (about 413,878 million dollars), according to data from the Central Bank.
According to Leandro Vilain, executive director of Innovation, Products and Banking Services of the Brazilian Federation of Banks (Febraban), “the PIX especially replaced transactions that were previously made in cash.”
Analysts point out that the massiveness of the system is explained by the existence of mandatory free accounts, of accounts to receive government aid by 20.2 million beneficiaries, and a base of more than one cell phone per person.
Mobile access to the bank account and transfers via PIX gave rise to numerous crimes.
Anna Novaes, a 52-year-old architect, was kidnapped last May in Sao Paulo for eight hours and forced at gunpoint to apply for loans from two banks, transferred via PIX to the accounts of her kidnappers.
In addition, his captors made online purchases with the same system for about 40,000 reais (8,000 dollars), Novaes told AFP, who obtained exceptional compensation from his banks.
In July there were 154,972 PIX frauds, more than double the number in January, although this represents only 0.0075% of transactions, according to the BCB.
Relieving the trauma of the kidnapping, Novaes took out insurance and did not resign himself: “I use the PIX as before, I don’t want to miss out on that facility.”