Visa Inc. may be seeing a slowdown in U.S. debit card sales-volume growth, but outside North America it is a different story.

Sales volume for Visa credit and debit cards abroad surged during the card brand’s fiscal first quarter ended Dec. 31, placing Visa securely within its stated target of generating at least half of its total revenue from international markets by 2015, Joe Saunders, Visa’s CEO, told analysts Feb. 8.

Emerging markets in Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Africa in particular generated the strongest sales-volume growth for Visa during the quarter, Saunders told analysts during a conference call to discuss earnings. And Visa’s business in emerging markets is growing at rates faster than the global average, he said.

Worldwide credit sales volume during the quarter reached $617 billion, up 12.2% from $550 billion a year ago. Worldwide debit sales volume reached $378 billion, up 8.6% from $348 billion.

Visa’s payment card sales volume growth rates in the U.S. were considerably lower, partly due to a “deceleration” attributed to new debit card interchange rates and routing rules (see story).

In the U.S., debit purchase volume rose 5.4%, to $292 billion from $277 billion a year earlier. Total U.S. debit transactions rose 4%, to 7.8 billion from 7.5 billion. U.S. credit purchase volume rose 9.7%, to $237 billion from $216 billion. Total U.S. debit transactions rose 12%, to 2.8 billion from 2.5 billion.

Total U.S. debit card accounts reached 306 million at the end of Visa’s fourth fiscal quarter ended Sept. 30, the most recent data available. That represents an increase of 4.1% from 294 million a year earlier.

Visa counted 201 million total U.S. credit card accounts at the end of its fourth fiscal quarter, down 3.4% from 208 million a year earlier.

Visa’s purchase sales volume is rising faster for both credit and debit cards in most regions outside the U.S., building lower bases.

Total credit and debit sales volume in Asia during the quarter rose 14.6%, to $275 billion from $240 billion a year earlier. Total transactions in Asia rose 3.6%, to 2.9 billion from 2.8 billion. Total credit and debit card accounts in the region reached 509 million at the end of the fiscal fourth quarter, up 9% from 467 million a year earlier.

Prepaid debit cards are becoming increasingly significant as a profit-driver for Visa in Asia, Saunders said.

Credit and debit sales volume in Latin America rose 16%, to $94 billion from $81 billion. Total transactions in the region rose 11.1% to 2 billion from 1.8 billion. Total credit and debit card accounts reached 372 million at the end of the fourth fiscal quarter, up 4.5% from 356 million a year earlier.

Overall payment card activity in the Latin America region showed robust growth, and during the quarter Visa expanded its relationship with Mexico’s largest bank, Grupo Financiero BBVA Banco, to include “a broad suite of products and services” that will bear further fruit this year, Saunders noted.

Credit and debit sales volume in Canada rose 7.5%, to $57 billion from $53 billion. Total transactions in Canada rose 7.7% to 503 million from 467 million. Total credit and debit card accounts in Canada reached 26 million at the end of the fourth fiscal quarter, up 8.3% from 24 million a year earlier.

In the Central Europe, Middle East and Africa region, credit and debit sales volume rose 30%, to $39 billion from $30 billion. Total transactions in the region rose 32% to 631 million from 478 million. Total credit and debit card transactions in the region reached 241 million at the end of the fourth fiscal quarter, up 15.9% from 208 million a year earlier.

In the Middle East, Visa during the quarter signed a long-term credit and debit card processing contract with Al Rajhi Bank covering 50% of all payments volume in Saudi Arabia, Saunders said.

Visa also is expanding its reach in Africa through key partnerships with deals announced last year with Fundamo and Monitise PLC (see story).

Those deals and other initiatives backing mobile payments are helping to place Visa in a position to “lead forward the migration to digital currency on the African continent,” Saunders said.

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