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Global Findex Database 2021 survey headline findings on the use of financial services

The goal of financial inclusion is for account owners to benefit from the use of accounts for digital payments, savings, and appropriate credit because such uses provide a range of positive benefits far beyond convenience. Account holders, and especially women, enjoy greater financial security and greater privacy. They have more control over how their money is spent, and often make bigger investments not only in nutritious food and in household resources that benefit them, but also in education, healthcare, and in income-generating businesses.

Given these benefits, there is more good news in the Global Findex 2021 survey, which shows growth in the use of accounts to make digital payments, as well as to save and borrow, and highlights the ways in which these financial services overlap in the broader financial ecosystem. The key findings are as follows:

Digital payments

  • The share of adults making or receiving digital payments in developing economies grew from 35 percent in 2014 to 57 percent in 2021—an increase that outpaces growth in account ownership over the same period.
  • Thirty-nine percent of adults in developing economies—or 57 percent of those with a financial institution (excluding mobile money) account—opened their first account specifically to receive a wage payment or money from the government.
  • Twenty percent of adults living in developing economies, excluding China, made a merchant payment using a card, mobile phone, or the internet—and about 40 percent of them did so for the first time after the start of the pandemic. About one-third of adults in developing economies who paid a utility bill directly from an account did so for the first time after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic—evidence of the role of the pandemic in accelerating digital adoption.


• Twenty-five percent of adults in developing economies saved using an account, and an even higher share, 39 percent, used an account to store money for cash management purposes.

  • More than half of the people in developing economies who saved any money did so in a formal account in 2021—the first year that formal methods were the most common method of saving.
  • Mobile money accounts are an important method of saving in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 15 percent of adults—and 39 percent of mobile money account holders—used one to save. Equal shares of adults in Sub-Saharan Africa used a mobile money account and an account at a bank or other financial institution.


  • About 50 percent of adults in developing economies borrowed money, although fewer than half used formal means such as taking out a loan from a financial institution, using a credit card, or borrowing through their mobile money account.
  • Credit cards were the dominant form of borrowing in high-income economies and in some developing economies such as Argentina, Brazil, China, the Russian Federation, Türkiye, and Ukraine.
  • Borrowing only from family and friends is as common in developing economies as borrowing formally, although in some developing economies it far outstripped formal mechanisms.

The financial ecosystem

  • In both high-income and developing economies the most common use for an account is to make or receive a payment, followed by saving and borrowing.
  • In developing economies, 36 percent of adults received a payment into an account. Of those, 83 percent also reported that they made a digital payment. Almost two-thirds of payment recipients used their account to store money, about 40 percent to save money, and about 40 percent to borrow money. This finding suggests that digital inflows can pave the way for wider use of financial services.

Opportunities to improve financial inclusion by leveraging specific services

These findings reveal new opportunities to drive financial inclusion by increasing account ownership among the unbanked and expanding the use of financial services among those who already have accounts, in particular by leveraging digital payments:

  • Hundreds of millions of unbanked adults receive payments in cash—such as wages, government transfers, or proceeds from the sale of agricultural goods. Shifting these payments to accounts could create an entry point for increasing account ownership among the unbanked.
  • About 620 million adults with an account pay their utility bills in cash. Promoting digital payments could expand the use of financial services among adults who already have an account and increase investment in pay-as-you-go sustainable electrification.
  • Digitalizing merchant payments could also help expand the use of accounts among adults who already have an account and help business owners build alternative credit information histories and promote formalization. In developing economies, 1.6 billion adults with an account made merchant payments in cash only.
  • Enabling actors such as governments, telecommunications providers, and financial services providers must create an environment in which safe, affordable, and convenient products and functionality are more appealing than cash.