Payments Report 2024

The digitalisation of payments is a global trend

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Our Nordic neighbours offer more instant payment options

Published: 14 March 2024

Instant payments are a type of payment that can be made around the clock and reaches the payee’s account within a few seconds. For other digital payments, such as card purchases, money is reserved in the payer’s account but the actual transfer is usually carried out later. Since 2012, in Sweden we have been able to make instant payments between different bank accounts via the Swish mobile app. Internationally, Swedish banks were early adopters of this type of payment service and it quickly gained a large number of users. Since its launch, the service has evolved from just sending payments between private persons to both e-commerce and in-store shopping.

Apart from Swish, there are currently no other services that make it possible to send Swedish kronor immediately between accounts in different banks. In our neighbouring countries of Denmark and Norway, however, instant payments can be made via, for example, mobile or online banking. This option is also available in the United Kingdom and euro countries, depending on your bank. One advantage of banks offering such instant account transfers is that it opens the door for other payment service providers to develop new services for instant payments via, for example, open banking. This is good for competition in the payments market.

Instant payments are more common in Denmark and Norway. In these countries, instant payments account for an estimated 50 per cent of the total volume of account-to-account transfers, compared with 30 per cent in Sweden. In the Single Euro Payments Area, known as SEPA , the share is lower. To accelerate the move towards more instant payments, the European Council and the European Parliament have agreed on legislation that will oblige banks offering regular account-to-account payments in euro to also offer instant payments in euro at the same price. This will also apply to banks in Sweden that offer account-to-account payments in euro, but not to payments in Swedish krona.

In Sweden, from November 2024, the Riksbank will require that banks participating in the Riksbank’s RIX payment system that already offer instant payments via Swish can also accept instant payments made by other means. This makes it possible to develop more instant payment services. However, no bank is obliged to offer its customers the ability to send instant payments in Swedish krona, whether via Swish or by any other means.

Payment service providers find their own solutions for instant payments

There are also payment solutions that allow the payee to have money sent to their account almost instantly without any actual payment being made between banks. For example, some payment service providers offer such solutions by having accounts in several different banks and even in different countries. When the customer then makes a payment via their payment service, the money is transferred from the payer’s bank account to one of the payment service provider’s trust accounts at the same bank. The payment service provider then initiates a transfer of the corresponding amount to the payee’s account. If the payee has a different bank from the payer, the transfer is made from the payment service provider’s account in the same bank.

For the end user, it usually does not matter how the underlying technology for different payment methods works. But there are advantages to having payments made directly between the payer’s and payee’s accounts at different banks. This reduces risks for the banks. There are also efficiency aspects which we discuss in Section Are payments in Sweden efficient?.