Here's What You Don't Know About Visa Inc, Today's Best Dow Stock

The world's largest payment processor is becoming an increasingly important part of the global economy.

Mar 21, 2014 at 12:09PM

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was up 108 points just after noon EDT, as recent economic and business data continue to point toward further growth. The Dow's rise defies the dip in the Nasdaq Composite and the moderate gain in the S&P 500.

No Dow component is more important to the day's gain than Visa (NYSE:V), which is leading all 30 blue-chip stocks with a 2% gain. Solid gains today for the payment processor and peer MasterCard come after after an federal appeals court sided with them against a coalition of retailers that have plagued the companies for years over the issue of swipe fees. As the highest-priced stock in the Dow, Visa has a disproportionate impact on the index's moves -- the company is responsible for 8.7% of the Dow's daily movements, which is nearly nine times the impact of smallest-weighted component Cisco.

As a savvy investor, you probably know a few things about Visa. It's the world's largest card issuer, responsible for processing trillions of dollars of payments around the world each year. This size and strength make Visa is the most profitable Dow component by a wide margin. Visa is ubiquitous around the world, and is one of the most valuable brands globally, according to brand strategy firms Interbrand and Millward Brown Optimor. It was also Fortune's most admired company in the world for 2012.

But what do you really know about Visa?

Did you know that Visa was originally part of Bank of America (NYSE:BAC)? The megabank created the BankAmericard, which was the first modern credit card, way back in 1958. The card wasn't rebranded as "Visa" until 1976, six years after Bank of America spun off BankAmericard as an independent company.

Did you know that Visa (as BankAmericard) nearly died on the vine? Bank of America's initial push for market share saturated California with more than 2 million credit cards, but since the bank hadn't bothered to run credit checks on its new cardholders, many simply defaulted after going on a shopping spree.

Did you know that Visa went public in 2008, a full 50 years after it was formed? At the time, it was the largest IPO in history by the size of its offering ($17.9 billion worth of shares were sold to the public).

Did you know Visa waited so long to go public because there was no consolidated "Visa Inc." until roughly a year before its IPO? For much of its existence, Visa operated as a group of regional bank-owned payment processors that shared a single brand and technology platform; these regional operations finally merged in 2007.

Did you know that Visa reached $1 trillion in annual payment volume for the first time in 1997, and issued its 1-billionth Visa-branded card in 2000? Many of those were Visa-branded debit cards -- the volume of Visa debit-card payments first surpassed credit payment volume in 2004.

Visa's 2.2 billion cards were used an average of almost 41 times apiece last year to buy about $2,000 in goods or services per card -- each card's average spending per transaction was about $49.

If Visa's total annual transaction volume -- $7 trillion -- were considered a national economy, it would be the third largest in the world, behind only the United States and China. On a per-capita basis, each card's $3,181 in transaction volume (this includes cash withdrawals) would be much weaker, its rank of 140th out of all nations falling between the Solomon Islands and Pakistan in purchasing power parity.

Visa's glory days might be behind it
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Alex Planes holds no financial position in any company mentioned here. Add him on Google+ or follow him on Twitter @TMFBiggles for more insight into markets, history, and technology.

The Motley Fool recommends Bank of America, Cisco Systems, MasterCard, and Visa. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America, MasterCard, and Visa. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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