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Visa’s spending recovery means the network can focus on high-growth sectors

The news: Visa’s total payments volume rose 34% year over year (YoY) in its fiscal Q3 (ended June 30, 2021)—an improvement from the same period last year, when the metric declined 10% YoY due to the pandemic. Volume was also at 121% of 2019 levels, according to Visa CEO Al Kelly. Here’s a closer look at volume metrics:

  • Debit volume jumped 37% YoY in Q3 (about 140% of 2019 levels) compared with last year’s 3% YoY growth in the same quarter.
  • Credit volume increased 31% YoY in the period (104% of 2019), a strong recovery from Q3 2020, when volume plunged 20% YoY.

How we got here: On the company’s earnings call, Kelly said external factors like economic impact payments and lifted COVID-19 restrictions propped up the card network’s total payment volume in the quarter, especially debit.

Lifting restrictions and economic improvements (relative to last year) provided more spending opportunities and let consumers release pent-up shopping demand. Credit volume also rose thanks to significant increases in travel, entertainment, and restaurant spending and the resurgence of affluent cardholder spending, Kelly said.

What's next? Here are three areas Visa is expanding into to maintain its growth trajectory and market share:

  • Cross-border payments: Visa’s cross-border volume, excluding intra-Europe, grew 53% YoY and was at 82% of 2019 levels—and improvements in travel and global trade should position Visa for growth in the coming months. The company’s recent acquisition of API-based cross-border payments startup Currencycloud and existing solutions like Visa Direct, its near-instant push payments platform, can help build out its cross-border business and open up new revenue-generating opportunities.
  • Buy now, pay later (BNPL): The company rolled out global pilots for its forthcoming BNPL product, which will let its cardholders pay for purchases in installments during or after a transaction. The solution can help Visa counteract the threat of BNPL providers like Klarna and Afterpay.
  • Cryptocurrencies: Visa recently began settling transactions in USDC, and it’s churned out several new crypto-linked cards in the last few months, which netted $1 billion in volume in H1 2021. According to recent comments from CFO Vasant Prabhu, the recent crypto frenzy is dying down, which means Visa’s volume surge may be short-lived. Despite this, Visa’s crypto activity can help it keep up with competitors like Mastercard, which has also been extending its reach in the space.