Visa U.S.A. said its total payments volume grew 28% in 1994 - the highest growth rate in the last 10 years - to $290.7 billion.

The San Francisco-based bank's credit and debit card volume increased by 19.3%, to $227.0 billion, while the number of credit and debit cards rose by 37.5 million, or 22.4%, to 205.7 million.

"It's very important to know our core business is continuing to grow and (the growth) shows the strong commitment the banks have in the Visa product," said Carl Pascarella, Visa U.S.A. president and chief executive officer.

In the fourth quarter of 1994, payment service volume grew to $87.3 billion from $67.6 billion in the 1993 period. The 23% growth made it the sixth consecutive quarter of year-to-year volume, increasing by more than 20% over the previous year.

Visa said its share of personal consumption expenditures in the United States grew from 5% to 6% in 1994. All card brands account for 13% of PCE, including 4% for MasterCard and 2% for American Express.

A 1% increase on a $7 trillion base translates into $63 billion of additional sales for Visa, Mr. Pascarella said.

Visa Check card volume - the off-line debit card - grew in 1994 to $19.8 billion, a 59.3% increase from $12.5 billion in 1993.

Sales volume for Interlink, Visa's on-line debit service, grew 11% to $4.1 billion from $3.7 billion in 1993.

"We're really seeing a ramp-up of all the cards that have been issued over the last two or three years - there's always been a lead-lag between issuance and usage - and we're now seeing that usage kick in," Mr. Pascarella said of the debit product.

The annual volume for Visa credit cards, including commercial cards, reached $167.6 billion, compared to $143.5 billion in 1993, a 16.8% hike.

Gold card volume jumped 45.3% to $103.3 billion in 1994, from $71.1 billion a year earlier.

"We've been able to go in and move market share away from our traditional competitors, and also from cash and checks," Mr. Pascarella said.

"A lot is going to depend on the economy," Mr. Pascarella said. "We've seen a ratcheting up of interest rates, which could have an effect on the credit market. Given some of the initiatives we have to expand the marketplace and get into new usage for the card, we're pretty optimistic about being able to sustain a good growth rate.

MasterCard International has yet to report its 1994 numbers, but chief executive officer H. Eugene Lockhart said in an interview last week that the association had another record year, with credit card volume in a healthy double-digit range and even stronger debit growth.

MasterCard's year-to-year growth rates have been slightly behind Visa's in recent quarters.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.