Visa Inc. said Thursday that payments volume on its U.S. cards picked up 12% in February from a year earlier, driven by a surge in debit use.

The amount consumers spent on Visa-branded debit cards spiked 20% last month from February 2009, according to a regulatory filing.

Credit card payments volume, meanwhile, saw more modest, 2% growth, Visa, the world's largest payments network, said.

Debit card use has been picking up in the last couple of years as consumer behaviors shifted in the global recession; Americans would rather spend money they already have than rack up more debt.

Globally, processed transactions grew 13% in February, the San Francisco payments company said.

Visa, which has a larger share of the debit market than its rival MasterCard Inc. of Purchase, N.Y., said last month that it expects revenue to grow 11% to 15% this year.

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