The use of electronic payments can have a positive impact on national economies, with nearly $127 billion added to the U.S.'s gross domestic product (GDP) in the past four years, according to a study conducted for Visa by Moody's Analytics.

The boost in GDP has been enough to provide nominal support to the tepid economic recovery. From 2008 to 2012, global real GDP was 1.8 % per year. Without increased card use, that growth would have been about 1.6% per year, Moody's Analytics said.

Elsewhere in North America, electronic payments added $10 billion to the Canadian economy and nearly $8 billion to the Mexican economy over the past four years. The growth was attributed to card use tied to the expansion of electronic payments systems — which has also increased efficiency for transactions, reduced reliance on paper checks and cash, and increased security, Moody's said.

"Despite a challenging global economic landscape, the increasing penetration of payment cards helped increase consumer consumption and on average, added to GDP," Mark Zandi, Chief Economist of Moody's Analytics, said in a press release. "The increase in consumption parallels the growing popularity and accessibility of electronic payments among global consumers. At the same time these findings point to the need for governments to adopt policies that encourage the shift to efficient and secure electronic forms of payments."

The research also found that a one-percent increase in card use in the 56 global countries included in the study produces an annual increase of 0.056% in consumption. Based on recent card penetration growth rates, that would lead to a 0.25% addition in consumption and 0.16% increase in added GDP, Moody's Analytics said.

There's also the reduction of the "grey" economy, or the unregulated cash-heavy economies that exist in a number of developing nations. Increasing electronic payments is beneficial for those countries, because it increases transparency and generates tax revenue.

"We also can't forget about this huge number of 2.5 billion people across the world that don't have access to the formal financial system today," said Charlie Scharf, Visa's CEO, while speaking during a Feb. 6 conference call to discuss the company's earnings.

"And our products that we offer can bring them into it," he said. "It really is something, over time, that will improve their lives," says.

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