Credit card transactions increased considerably last year

As the economy continues to improve and consumers are feeling better about their own personal finances, the number of credit card transactions handled by the world's largest payment processers increased, as did the number of new accounts issued.

The number of credit, debit and prepaid cards in circulation worldwide climbed to a total of 6.54 billion at the end of 2011, up 12.4 percent from last year on an increase of 718.7 million new cards, according to the latest annual Credit Card Brands study published by the Nilson Report. Cards carrying the brand of the world's two largest payment processors increased considerably, as Visa issued 88.5 million new cards, up 3.9 percent from the end of 2010, and MasterCard added 86.4 million new accounts, an 8.9 percent increase. Purchases on all cards issued worldwide increased by a total value of nearly $2.3 trillion.

"These results reflect a continuation of the worldwide movement from cash and checks to payment cards, both debit and credit," said David Robertson, publisher of the Nilson Report.

The number of credit cards carrying the Visa, MasterCard or American Express brands issued to consumers in the U.S. alone generated 36.78 percent of all purchase volume worldwide, though that was a decline from the 37.65 percent seen at the end of 2010, the report said. Purchases for goods and services, which do not include cash advances on credit cards and withdrawals on debit cards, increased 18.5 percent, and purchases on Visa and MasterCard-branded accounts fell to $70 of every $100, down from $73 the year before.

The total number of purchases on all major worldwide card issuers (American Express, Diners Club, JCB, MasterCard, UnionPay and Visa) increased to a total of 135.33 billion, up 12.1 percent from 2010 on an additional 14.56 billion transactions, the report said.

Consumers who are seeking new credit cards should first take the time to check their credit reports. Being in good credit standing is crucial to obtaining the most affordable and rewarding lines of credit available, and checking these documents will ensure that borrowers aren't having their score negatively affected by unfair markings. Working with a credit repair company to clear up any of these markings can ensure that borrowers are in good shape going forward.