CajaVecina: The Bancarization of Chile Through Corner Shops

Juan Felipe Espinosa Cristia and Jose Ignacio Alarcon Molina

Introduction and Presentation of the Case

The current chapter aims to show a case of technological change that lines up with the phenomenon known as a ‘Cashless Economy’. As Hernandez et al. (2012)1 have shown in the case of Chile, different actors in the banking and payment industry have sought to set up new payment channels for the unbanked population in Chile. Among the alternatives are BCs such as CajaVecina. Such a BC would have a transaction cost

1 Hernandez Cesar Araya, Maino Maria Luisa and Martinez Claudio Villar, “Masificacion de los medios de pago: Barreras de adopcion de la tecnologfa financier”. Documento de Trabajo N°5. (Facultad de Economfa y Negocios Universidad Andres Bello/BancoEstado de Chile, 2015).

J.F. Espinosa Cristia (h)

Universidad Andres Bello, Vina del Mar, Chile e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

J.I. Alarcon Molina

Universidad de Chile , Santiago , Chile

e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it © The Author(s) 2016

B. Batiz-Lazo, L. Efthymiou (eds.), The Book of Payments, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-60231-2_14

inferior than the bank branches. This cost is even lower than the one involved in the operation of ATMs but higher than alternative channels based on Internet and mobile telephony. CajaVecina is ‘a customers and noncustomers service channel of BancoEstado, that operates in stores during their business hours. Through terminals placed in the stores, it allows a series of bank transactions and financial services, making use of the BancoEstado ATM cards or the CuentaRUT debit card.[1]

The Chilean Government report sheds light, moreover, on the fact that CajaVecina is carrying out services such as cash withdrawal, cash deposits, transfers between BancoEstado accounts, balance inquiries, payments of credits and dividends, services payments, cash advances and payments of BancoEstado credit card, and topping up mobile phones, among others. The technology behind the transactions is a POS terminal that is connected with the bank’s central system. Regarding the system regulation, it is minimal. It is barely mentioned in the appendix of Chapter 20 of the Compilation of the Superintendency of Banks and Financial Institutions. The BC concept is never mentioned in the body of that law. As a consequence, this is a case of financial inclusion with almost no regulation.

Furthermore, the government has posed that the CajaVecina business model is attractive both for the storekeeper and for BancoEstado. The government assures that the store’s customer flow will increase with the offered service. The adoption of the innovation is endorsed by the Banks and Financial Institutions Association, which has quantified the development of BC in Chart No.1. As a matter of fact, the total number of BCs in Chile has shown an explosive growth between 2006 and March 2015. As of 2015, CajaVecina has around 40 % of the BC market in Chile (Fig. 14.1).

CajaVecina’s success is based on a related innovation, the so-called RUT account. This sight acccount, operated by BancoEstado also, has more than seven million cards issued. A RUT account is automatically opened based on each Chilean Social Security Number -RUN/RUT, that is, the document that certifies the personal and tax identity of every person in Chile. In this way, the user has access to the ATM network and to the electronic devices authorised by the regulatory entity of the Chilean banking sector. However, as has been suggested by Batiz-Lazo

Banks correspondents per year (Source

Fig. 14.1 Banks correspondents per year (Source: Chilean Banks Association and SBIF)

and Espinosa (2015),[2] although ATMs are decreasing in number, cash still remains very important for low-income Chileans. As a consequence, CB is increasingly important for the low-income population.

To get a closer view of this financial inclusion mechanism it will be necessary to introduce some concepts that come from the sociology of money, credit, and from organisational studies. After that, the analysis of a corpus coming from website is carried out. In this website, different people express the problems they have come across in the use of the CajaVecina system. It is from the categorisation of such complaints that the central aspects of CajaVecina institutionalisation emerges as a mechanism that affects the ecology of payments, and the economic relationships among the users, as well as the storekeeper (BC).

  • [1] Gobierno de Chile, “Informe Inclusion Financiera y Medios de Pago Electronicos ” (Ministeriosde Desarrollo Social, Economfa, Hacienda y Transporte y Telecomunicaciones, 2013).
  • [2] Batiz-Lazo Bernardo and Espinosa Juan, “Cash remains king in Chile but its days could be numbered”. The Conversation. (accessed March 25, 2015).
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