At 10-Year Mark, 157M Americans Now Carrying A VISA Debit Card

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Ten years after it was launched, more than 157-million Americans are now carrying a Visa check card.

Rolled out in 1995 when fewer than 2% of Americans carried any type of check card, advertising featuring Sen. Bob Dole, Daffy Duck and James Bond was introduced by Visa as it sought to educate millions of cardholders on the value associated with this "new" form of payment. Those advertising efforts played up the lack of ID needed to use a check card versus a paper check.

Visa's efforts and those of other check-card issuers have apparently worked. In the first six months of 2005, American consumers used their Visa check cards 5.1 billion times to pay for a wide variety of purchases. In 1995, 2,792 financial institutions offered check cards; today, more than 9,000 do.

"Over the last ten years, the Visa check card has grown from a great idea to common currency for millions of Americans," said Stacey Pinkerd, senior vice president, consumer debit products, Visa USA. "

According to a new poll conducted by Visa:

* Sixty-three percent named the Visa check card as their "preferred method of payment," up from 46% in May 2002.

* More than three-quarters of respondents (76%) have used their Visa check card for Internet purchases, up from 44% in May 2002.

* A majority of respondents named the Visa check card "as important or more important" than these other innovations of the past 10 years: the iPod; flat panel TVs; satellite TVs, cell phones, laptop computers and hybrid cars.

* A significant majority (72%) of respondents agreed that they use their Visa check card whenever they can.

* Eighty-four percent said they now write fewer checks since they started using their Visa check card.

* 94% used their Visa check card at a grocery store; 84% at a gas station; 65% to pay bills, and 58% at a fast food restaurant.

* Half of respondents (50%) now use the Visa check card 11 or more times per month.

* In the first half of 2005, the average Visa check card transaction was $38.07.

* The average annual amount spent by cardholders using Visa check cards grew from $2,307 in 1995 to $5,464 today.

Finally, Visa noted that if all the Visa check card transactions completed over the past year were paper checks, they would weigh 7,135 tons.

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