Visa 2004 Spending Volume Rises 19%

Visa USA (search), the largest U.S. credit card issuer, Tuesday said its cardholders increased spending 19.1 percent in 2004 to a record $1.045 trillion, as consumers extended their migration to cards from checks.

San Francisco-based Visa, whose client banks are its shareholders, also said it had 458 million cards outstanding in the United States at year end, up 7 percent from a year earlier.

Visa, which is part of Visa International (search), posted double-digit growth in consumer and business borrowing.

U.S. consumer credit card sales volume rose more than 11 percent to $517 billion, while check card volume rose 20 percent to $346 billion. Commercial and small business card volume increased more than 24 percent, and volume on prepaid cards surged 112 percent.

Last Thursday, MasterCard International (search), Visa's largest rival, said 2004 U.S. purchase volume, which excludes the impact of balance transfers and convenience checks, rose 9.4 percent to $526.4 billion. Its U.S. cardholder base increased about 6 percent to 338 million.

In December, the U.S. Federal Reserve said that while checks remain the largest noncash method of paying bills, U.S. billpayers now make a majority of noncash payments with credit or debit cards, or through automated clearing houses.

Other Visa rivals include American Express Co. (AXP) and Morgan Stanley's (MWD) Discover.