Get Ready for the Rise of APMs

8/28/2019 3:07 AM

With a new school year kicking off, colleges and universities around the world are greeting their students with new digitally enhanced commerce and credential platforms. But students may have updates of their own for schools to accommodate for — in the form of alternative payment methods (APM).

Instead of traditional payment methods like credit cards or checks, APMs give shoppers more flexibility in the way they choose to pay. Well-known U.S. APMs include Apple Pay, Google Pay, and PayPal. Around the world, hundreds more enjoy the regional popularity of non-traditional payments methods, including WeChat Pay in China and M-Pesa in Africa.

According to, in 2019 55 percent of online transactions will be made using APMs. Schools that don’t accept these new payment options run the risk of losing students or reducing students’ ability to pay for on-campus room and board, transportation, and other living expenses and services.

There are many reasons for the growing popularity of APMs worldwide. Some are cultural, such as Western Europeans affinity for APM bank transfers. Unlike U.S. consumers, Europeans are reluctant to use credit cards and consider bank transfers both accessible and convenient. When you combine the worldwide popularity of this payment method with millennials’ reluctance to accumulate debt, it’s easy to envision more U.S. e-commerce transactions completed by bank transfers.

Cash-in APMs are also popular outside the U.S., especially among younger consumers who may not have established credit or even a bank account. Both prepaid cards on traditional networks and prepay accounts fall into this category — they both require funds loaded in advance that decline in balance as purchases are deducted.

Among current APM categories, digital or e-wallets are probably the most familiar. Digital wallets are safer; they use encryption or tokens to hide account information and safely transfer payments. They’re also faster to use and easy to fund. With these advantages, it’s not surprising that by 2021, wallet-based solutions are poised to overtake credit cards as our preferred payment method in the U.S.

While we tend to focus on their academic needs, students are consumers too. And consumers like choices when it comes to paying for goods and services. By educating ourselves about students’ cultural and demographic preferences, we’re better prepared to accommodate whatever payment methods spring up in the ever-evolving APM landscape.