Digital Banking in Brazil

digital banking in brazil

Digital banks are often referred to as neobanks, virtual banks, mobile banks, fintech companies, and challenger banks. They are entirely online and have no physical branches.

We have analyzed, reviewed, and used dozens of banks in Brazil, Latin America, and worldwide in the last few years. That’s why we can bring you this overview of the Brazilian digital banking market.

Recent times have seen a dramatic increase in start-up activity in Brazil’s financial sector, with many fintech start-ups growing into fully-serving banks. 

This follows the trend that continues to grow in the rest of the world, with many new banks forming in Europe and the US that offer entirely digital services.

Banks earned around R$30-35 billion in Brazil alone from charging customers account fees in 2018. Brazilians are paying a lot in maintenance fees and other hidden fees, and digital banks are setting out to offer a more honest and transparent service. 

By the end of 2021, Brazil may have 200+ million digital accounts. That is huge. Although that might mean that almost all residents of Brazil have a digital account, even children, that’s not true of course. 

The truth is that Brazilians have on average 3.6 accounts in banks or other financial institutions. The top independent digital banks by customer numbers are:

  • Nubank with 35+ million
  • Inter with 11+ million
  • C6 Bank with 7+ million
  • Original with 5+ million

The numbers above show that there’s still a lot of growth available, and the fact that Brazilian bank apps and digital wallets are downloaded 20+ million times per month shows that clearly. 

Many digital banks claim to be “fee-free” or have “no hidden fees,” which in some cases also applies to international transactions. Digital banks offering no fees on international transactions and ATM withdrawals abroad are especially appealing to frequent travelers, as bank fees are known to rack up while abroad.

Let’s find out what are the best digital banks in Brazil.

Nubank (Our pick)

nubank
  • Easy to open online
  • Personal and business accounts
  • Credit card and metal card
  • Loans
  • No hidden fees
  • No monthly fee

Nubank is the biggest digital bank in the world at the moment. It acquired more than 40 million customers, mainly in Brazil, but some in Colombia and Mexico. It’s opening its app for the people of Argentina in the near future as well.

And it’s easy to see why. The personal and business accounts are free of charge and offer all the features that you need from a bank account. Especially the personal account. 

As with any digital bank, Nubank has some upsides and some downsides. But, being such a huge financial institution in Latin America, it surprisingly doesn’t have many things going against it.

Read more in our Nubank review.

Agibank

agibank
  • Easy to open online
  • Checking account
  • Debit and credit cards
  • Loans
  • Investments
  • Insurance
  • Pix

Agibank was formerly known as Agiplan and was founded all the way back in 1999 by Marciano Testa. It holds a record as the first financial institution in the world to transform users’ mobile phone numbers into checking account numbers.

And although Agibank is an entirely digital bank, it still offers so-called service points around the country. This is, of course, untypical for a digital bank, but it does give them an edge over the competition. 

Apart from checking accounts, the bank offers personal and car loans, debit and credit cards, money transfers, and even investing options. 

C6 Bank

c6 bank
  • Free to open 
  • Free debit card
  • Toll and parking tag
  • Investing
  • Rewards program
  • No-annuity credit cards

The C6 Bank was founded in 2018, and in 2019 it got the operating license and started taking on customers. C6 offers personal and business accounts that are free of charge. On top of that, there are several different credit cards, one of which has no annuity. There’s also a free debit card available.

 If you’re interested in investing your money, you can start with as little as R$1. The available investment vehicles are:

  • CDBs, 
  • Funds, 
  • Shares, 
  • REITs, 
  • ETFs, 
  • BDRs, 
  • Options

C6 is a well-rounded bank with many financial products and services, including a global, dollar, and euro account.

Banco Inter

  • Easy to make an account
  • Personal and business accounts
  • Loans and mortgages
  • Debit and credit cards
  • Investing
  • Exchange 

Inter started its journey all the way back in 1994 as Intermedium Financeira. They were granted a banking license in 2008. Fast forward to 2021, and Inter acquired more than 9 million account holders.

The company offers a well-rounded financial platform that doesn’t stop at personal and business accounts but ventures into loans, mortgages, investing, insurance, and anything and everything you’d expect from a traditional bank. 

Banco Pan

banco pan
  • Apply online in minutes
  • Debit and credit cards
  • Overdraft
  • Car loans
  • Insurance

Pan is a veteran, being founded in 1969 by the all-encompassing Silvio Santos. The bank doesn’t have any physical branches on its own. Still, it does have an extensive sales network that’s operated by many partners.

It offers many financial products such as a digital account, credit card, payroll loans, cards, insurance, car loans, and finance. It’s no wonder that Banco Pan is one of the largest midsize banks in Brazil.

Like all other digital banks in Brazil, Pan also offers free and instant transfers via PIX. 

Banco Original 

banco original
  • Personal and business account
  • Insurance
  • Investing
  • Loans
  • Cashback rewards

Banco Original started off focused on agribusiness but now offers personal and business accounts. The account is 100% online and can be opened in a few minutes. For only R$19.90 a month, you are entitled to unlimited services without hidden fees.

You can get one of four different Mastercard credit cards that either offer no annuity at all or a free first year. 

You can also take out a loan, get a home or car insurance, or invest in CDB, LCA, LCI, and one of many investment funds. 

Neon 

  • Personal and business account
  • Free transfers
  • No-annuity credit card
  • Free international debit card
  • Loans and investing

Neon offers a free digital account and credit cards with no annual fees. Furthermore, there are no hidden fees, and the most notable ones you do have to pay are Banco24Horas ATM withdrawals that will cost you R$5.90 and 4% + IOF for international transactions. 

There are also free accounts for MEI that have sales of up to R$ 81 thousand per year. 

Superdigital 

superdigital bank
  • Personal and business account
  • Free to open
  • Free card and transfers
  • 1 physical card and up to 10 virtual cards
  • Loans

Superdigital offers personal and business accounts that are free of charge and can be canceled at any time. In addition, you get a prepaid Mastercard and up to 10 virtual cards that you can use for online shopping. 

Superdigital also offers a prepaid credit card for people with bad credit history. It’s not necessary to prove your income or positive status with the SPC or Serasa. Just create a virtual card in your Superdigital application, in the Cards > Virtual Card section, and load it with the exact amount you intend to spend on purchasing products or subscribing to services.

Will Bank (Meu pag!)

will bank
  • Easy to open online
  • Pix transfers
  • Credit card
  • International card
  • Virtual cards

Will Bank used to be known as Meu pag! But the two companies have consolidated under a single brand now. Existing Meu pag users won’t need to change their card unless it expired, and the only important thing is to update the old app.

Will Bank is a no-frills payments account and credit card that will serve its purpose to undemanding folks, especially millennials and Gen Z, towards its aimed for. 

Benefits of digital banks in Brazil

Digital banks have finally given Brazil’s unbanked and underbanked people the capability to open a bank account without fees by only using a smartphone. Offering credit cards without annual fees and much better interest rates than the greedy traditional banks have made the economy much better.

There are other benefits as well, of course. Apart from the aforementioned credit cards and fee-free accounts, the other big positives are the ease of opening an account the overall ease of use. 

Thanks to the revolutionary PIX that brought Brazil into the 21st century, people can now send money instantly to friends, family, or institutions. No more extortionate fees and days waiting to get the money.

All financial apps in Brazil also have the most impressive security standards that include secure logins via fingerprint or 2FA and real-time warnings every time you spend money with your app or card.

Another benefit is the budgeting and analytics feature that helps you see exactly where your money is going and what category you’re spending the most (rent, restaurants, take-away, car…). You can set limits so that you don’t overspend and can save a few pesos. 

Of course, there are more benefits of digital banks in Brazil, but let’s see some of the negative aspects.  

Drawbacks of digital banks in Brazil

Some digital banks are already veterans, serving customers for 20+ years, but others are very young companies that were founded less than five years ago. 

Compared to the rest of the world and especially neighboring Argentina, digital banks offer a solid amount of financial products and services, including investing, loans, and even mortgages. 

It all depends on what kind of account you’re looking for. If you don’t need all of the features a bank has to offer, go for a simpler digital bank that won’t confuse you with too many options.

One thing that mobile banks still suffer from is that their customer service often is not as good, but you could say that for traditional banks as well. 

How safe is digital banking?

Digital banks are often at the forefront of safety and security. They take customer security seriously and provide users with the latest methods to keep their finances safe. 

The younger nature of digital banks may lead some to be cautious, especially when it comes to safety. However, recent years have seen digital banks lead the way for traditional banks, with many conventional banks fast adopting the technology first introduced by challengers. 

The most popular digital banks hold full banking licenses or restricted banking licenses that allow them to guarantee deposits up to a specific limit. The FGC’s (Fundo Garantidor de Créditos) guarantee is up to R$250 thousand for the credits of each creditor.

How to get started with digital banking

To open a digital bank account in Brazil, you have to be a resident of Brazil, have a regular CPF status on the Receira Federal Brasileira, and be older than 18.

It’s extremely easy to open a digital banking account. Simply download the app from Google Play Store or the Apple App Store and enter all the personal information needed. The account will usually be verified in a couple of minutes, hours, or within a day.