In many countries today, consumers first interact with digital financial services by reaching out to mobile money agents to help them send or receive money, without having to register for their own accounts. These over-the-counter (OTC) users are limited to transactions that can be made without having a formal account. In Bangladesh, three-quarters (73%) of mobile money transactions are OTC; a quarter (27%) of transactions in Uganda are OTC. OTC users have varied reasons for choosing to transact this way: those who are less financially literate often depend on the help of an agent to make their transactions; the perception of not having enough money hinders account registration, especially in Uganda, and the lack of an ID in Tanzania is a common reason Tanzanians choose to make OTC transactions.
Agent-assisted or OTC transactions are often consumers’ first—but not only—step toward financial inclusion. Agents play a critical role in explaining, instructing, and building a consumer’s comfort and skill level with a new financial activity. Technological advances and increased ease of digital payment use help consumers move from assisted transactions to independent transactions and eventually on to more advanced, active use of mobile money.