Now that 2021's come to a close, it's time to look back at the best-performing fintech stocks to see if they have what it takes to keep climbing. Global-E Online (GLBE -1.45%), Upstart Holdings (UPST -2.10%), and Shopify (SHOP -1.37%) aren't necessarily the best-performing fintech stocks of 2021, but they did put up market-beating gains last year.

Buying stocks simply because they're going up is usually a good way to lose money. A look at the underlying businesses that keep exciting investors, though, suggests they could do it again in 2022.

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Global-E Online

Global-E Online didn't make its market debut until May of 2021, but it finished the year with a 149% gain. This fintech is breaking down barriers that make international transactions prohibitively expensive for small business owners all over the world. 

Shopify and its peers have made it super easy for merchants all over the world to build their own direct-to-consumer businesses. Unfortunately, cross-border financial transactions are often prohibitively expensive. The stock is surging because demand for its services is off the charts.

The total value of transactions Global-E Online facilitated in the third quarter soared 86% year over year to $352 million. The company expects another big rise up to a range between $465 million and $475 million in the fourth quarter.

Global-E's rapid growth rate is impressive for a young company and it could accelerate in 2022. Strategic partnerships with both Shopify and Meta Platforms that began in 2021 are driving heaps of new merchants straight into Global-E Online's arms.

Upstart Holdings

This was one of the best-performing fintech stocks of 2021. At least up until a couple of Wall Street analyst downgrades brought the stock crashing down in October and November. Despite the severe haircut, the stock still rose a whopping 271% in 2021.

Investment bank analysts are still over the moon with Upstart's performance. In the third quarter, total revenue soared 250% year over year. Despite making its stock market debut in December 2020, the company's artificial intelligence (AI) powered loan origination operation is already generating sustainable profits.

Upstart is in the personal loans business, but it doesn't actually lend out its own money. Banks who would normally rely on problematic FICO scores to assess creditworthiness instead pay Upstart referral fees upfront and annual servicing fees of around 0.5% and 1% while those loans are repaid.

Upstart's position between FICO-disadvantaged borrowers and banks that need help assessing their level of creditworthiness is a lucrative one. In the third quarter, adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) reached $59.1 million, or 26% of total revenue for the period.

Upstart cut its teeth finding new borrowers who need personal loans, which is a relatively tiny opportunity compared to the new auto-loan market it's currently growing into. With lots of room to continue its rapid growth rate, this stock has what it takes to soar again in 2022 and beyond.

Shopify

The stock marched 22% higher in 2021 even though it's down around 19% from a peak it reached in November. The recent pullback looks like an opportunity to buy a terrific business at a relative discount.

You're most likely familiar with this company's ability to turn a creative hobby into a fully functional business. What you probably haven't considered, though, is that there are only a handful of retailers out there large enough to compete with the standard set by Amazon

In addition to your niece's pottery, Shopify helps distribute products from large businesses with well-recognized brands including Allbirds, Gymshark, and Heinz. Only a handful of companies in the U.S. can hold a candle to Amazon's enormous logistics network and Shopify is one of them. This means there aren't many businesses that don't have a lot to gain by hiring Shopify to handle fulfillment issues.

Shopify has fallen from its recent peak, but expectations are still very high. The stock has been trading at a whopping 206 times forward earnings expectations. That said there are signs it can grow into its valuation provide big gains for patient investors. Over the Black Friday weekend, Shopify recorded $6.3 billion in sales which was more than double the pre-pandemic figure.

Social media integration that offers buyers a seamless checkout experience nearly tripled year over year during the latest Black Friday weekend. Investors will probably see a lot more influencer-driven sales too. In the third quarter, Shopify introduced TikTok Shopping to merchants with TikTok business accounts.