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How Visa Came to Be

Ashley Dull
By: Ashley Dull
Finance Editor
How Visa Came to Be
CardRates.com Guide: Visa®

For decades, Visa has led the credit card market as the top payment processing in the world. Hundreds of credit cards from banks and credit unions large and small sport the Visa logo, and the company processes billions of transactions each year.

And it all started with the very first mass market consumer credit card.

Visa’s journey to become a global payments giant first began in 1958. In that year, Bank of America launched the first general consumer credit card — the BankAmericard. It was the first card to ever use the concept of revolving credit.

Two milestones helped mend a fragile industry

First, BankAmericard became Visa, and the famous blue and gold stripes of Visa’s brand were introduced. Second, Visa also launched VisaNet. According to the company, this development was, “the world’s first truly electronic authorization, clearing and settlement system, which enabled transactions to be completed in seconds.”

These changes brought scale, security and reliability

The next major change was in 1983, when Visa launched their ATM network around the world. In 1988, the company sponsored its first Olympic Games — something they continue to do to this day. In 1995, Visa debuted its check cards and debit card technology, which later became household staples worldwide. The company also began to co-develop EMV (Europay/MasterCard/Visa) technology (chip cards). By 1997, the company reached $1 trillion in total volume — a major milestone in the payments industry.

In 2000, the amount of Visa-branded cards reached one billion

That same year, the company launched a Zero Liability guarantee, which meant cardholders weren’t responsible for any fraudulent charges made on their Visa cards. While the company began in credit, by 2004 their debit card volume surpassed their total global credit volume, showing the popularity of debit cards. The company continued to introduce new technology. In 2005, they began issuing contact-less cards (the cards where you tap to pay rather than swipe).

The payment company operated as separate entities owned regionally by global banks. In 2007, however, all of the separate worldwide regions (United States, Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia Pacific, Central Europe, Middle East and Africa) merged into Visa Inc. It went public in March 2008 in what Visa says was “one of the largest and most successful IPOs in history.”

Many consumers wonder how Visa is from a bank

While banks actually issue the credit or debit cards, Visa is the company that processes the financial transactions. They make money on small interchange fees charged to merchants for accepting the cards. The only credit card companies that don’t use Visa are Discover and American Express because they handle payment transactions for the cards they issue.

After decades of growth, Visa now operates throughout 200 countries and territories with its network of 2.2 billion cards. “As we look to the future,” the company says, “we are tied to vision first envisioned by our founder Dee Hock – to be the best way to pay and be paid, for everyone, everywhere.”

Photo source: npr.org

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

The information on this page was reviewed for accuracy on .

About the Author

Ashley Dull Ashley Dull Finance Editor

Ashley Dull is the editor-in-chief of CardRates.com, where she works closely with industry leaders in all sectors of finance to develop authoritative guides, news, and advice articles read by millions of Americans. Her expertise lies in credit cards and rewards programs as well as credit reports and how credit scores affect all aspects of consumerism. She is often asked to serve as an expert source on financial topics for national media outlets, such as CNN Money, MarketWatch, Money Matters, ABC News, and NBC News, and has recurring contributions to several leading finance websites. Connect with Ashley on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Ashley Dull

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