Prepaid mobile plans are common in Brazil, and so are the multitude of ways to recharge them. In this article we will detail the status and outline what payment methods are available for prepaid mobile subscriptions in Brazil.
Prepaid Mobile Subscriptions in Brazil
Prepaid subscriptions for mobile phones are currently more popular in Brazil than postpaid plans. Data from Q3/2014, published by Anatel, or the Brazilian Telecommunications Agency, shows that 76.8% of all mobile subscriptions in Brazil, 212 million of the total 276 million subscription plans in the country, are prepaid plans. The market share for these plans are slowly declining since its peak of 82% in 2010.
The popularity of prepaid plans in Brazil can most likely be attributed to the the lack of value perceived with postpaid subscriptions. For some operators, prepaid plans can actually be more expensive than postpaid ones for the same services offered. The option to pay only for services they actually use, and in small chunks, can also be appealing for Brazilian customers.
A recent rise of postpaid subscriptions, on the other hand, can be related to a variety of reasons, such as recently introduced plans which offer better value and the increase in popularity of mobile phones for businesses, which are predominantly comprised of postpaid.
Prepaid Recharge Outlets
There are multiple ways to recharge prepaid mobile plans in Brazil, such as:
Official Operator Stores and Recharge methods
Brazil’s four major mobile phone operators offer prepaid plans that can be recharged in their retail outlets spread across the country, which usually accept a variety of payment methods, like cash, credit or debit cards.
Additionally, the official websites of all these operators offer recharge services by credit card payment and Paypal. One of the operators, Claro, also offers payment through wire transfers from Brazil's largest banks.
The major operators also provide recharge services on Facebook, where users only need to register personal and payment information once and are able to gift prepaid credit to friends.
Additionally, operators provide ways to recharge directly from phones. These methods include calling or sending a SMS message to determined numbers, or installing official apps from operators. In all cases payments are handled by credit card.
A variety of stores and commercial institutions in Brazil offer prepaid recharges that support multiple mobile operators, as opposed to the official operator methods, such as:
- Correios, or Brazilian Postal Office
- Drug Stores
- Lottery agencies
- Boteco - which is the Brazilian version of a pub
Other businesses can also offer recharge services for prepaid plans. There are third-party services that focus solely on providing sales of prepaid recharges. Some of these services are Now Prepay, Ponto Certo, Rede Trel and iRecarga. These companies provide dedicated POS solutions for many of the businesses mentioned above.
It is also possible to enable prepaid mobile recharges functionality through most POS systems that support credit cards. The business simply needs to require the functionality to acquirers. All the largest acquirers like Cielo, Rede and Santander support this functionality.
Offering of prepaid recharge sale is very appealing for Brazilian businesses, not because of the profit margins for these transactions, which are actually very slim, but the attraction of customers. Since prepaid phone plans are so popular, the probability of increased traffic in the store is very high, and so is the chance of additional purchases.
Online Sales and Third-party Apps
Another common way to acquire prepaid credit is to access online services or third-party apps, which usually ask for personal registration, phone number and credit card information to enable the transactions. Some of these services are:
Most of these services only allow for payment via credit card, which might limit their reach to customers who are not used to online transactions.
The largest banks in Brazil, like Itaú, Bradesco, Santander and Banco do Brasil, also provide ways for their clients to acquire prepaid credit without any third party service, allowing for direct transfers from their accounts to mobile operators.
The transfer can be initialised on the online banking solution, ATM, by telephone or by SMS. These banks are linked directly to the four largest operators in Brazil: Vivo, Tim, Claro and Oi.
Sponsored or Promotional Recharges
One alternative method to acquire prepaid mobile credit which doesn’t involve any payment by itself is to engage with sponsored recharge services. There are multiple ways to obtain these recharges, either listen to an advertisement or answer surveys and gain prepaid credit, or through services like Qualibest, that gives points for each answered survey that can be traded for recharges.
Some loyalty programs in Brazil offer mobile prepaid recharges as rewards for points earned by its users. Some of these programs are: