VISA is the world’s largest supplier of credit cards. It is accepted in almost thirty million locations around the world.
Debit cards are payment cards that work on the credit card system, so that merchants that accept credit cards also will accept payments on debit cards. Unlike credit cards the debit card directly accesses the transaction account of the card holder. Debit cards can be said to look like credit cards and operate like cheque books.
As VISA is not a bank and does not operate transaction accounts, VISA does not offer debit cards on its own account. Instead it is a payment processor that operates on behalf of thousands of banks, credit unions and building societies worldwide. So the debit card is offered and operated by the bank or credit union that the card holder has their debit card with.
VISA has for most of its life been a co-operative of all the banks and other card issuers who issue VISA cards. However it recently converted itself into a profit making company that is traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
It started in California when the Bank of America decided to launch a credit account for consumers who were used to using credit accounts with shops but wanted to consolidate their credit account into one place. It used the revolutionary idea of payment cards that were being used, without a credit account, by American Express and Diners’ Club.
Bank of America was a large Californian bank based in San Francisco, but it chose to launch its credit card in Fresno, California in 1958. This was because Bank of America had a large share of the market in Fresno and that Fresno was suitably isolated from the rest of California that any failure would not become well known.
Bank of America started offering the card to a large number of customers. To get over initial customer reluctance it mass mailed the cards out to all the customers it had selected with a pre-set credit limit – the first time that this tactic had been used but a tactic that has been used extensively since.
As the Bank of America card started to expand its card it started to adopt a co-operative model and eventually the VISA card became totally co-operative and commonly owned by its banks and other issuers. In the 1980s VISA started to introduce debit cards.