Visa International has increased its share of the U.S. small-business card market to 20%, from 11% a year earlier, according to a study by PSI Global.

Visa's active pursuit of this market has brought it within striking distance of the leader, American Express Co., which had a 22% share in the annual PSI survey.

The Tampa research firm did the study on behalf of 25 of the top 50 banking companies, many of which offer Visa business cards, said PSI senior vice president Maria Erickson.

MasterCard International had a 13% share, up from 10% in 1998, the survey found.

PSI, a subsidiary of NFO Worldwide Co., based its conclusions on telephone interviews with 900 companies with annual sales of $500,000 to $10 million. Among respondents, 49% used some type of business credit card, up from 37% last year.

The average company in the survey spent $10,000 a year using a business card and typically revolved $2,000 a month in balances, according to the study, which was part of PSI's commercial services research program.

Twenty percent of respondents said they were doing some buying on-line. "Visa is heavily promoting itself as the payment vehicle of choice on the Internet," Ms. Erickson said. "As spending on the Internet increases, so will the card billings of small businesses."

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