Visa, Mastercard Leap Beyond 2019 in Cross-Border Spending

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Skift Take

The Caribbean has seen one of the biggest increases in cross-border spending, with many Americans traveling there and making the most of the strong dollar.

Credit card, payment and expense companies have seen a massive jump in transactions for the first quarter.

Travel to Latin America and the Caribbean region in particular has more than eclipsed 2019 levels, reaching 160 percent in the first three months of this year compared to before the pandemic.

That’s according to Visa (a co-brand partner with Latam Airlines in Colombia), which alongside Mastercard reported upbeat quarterly results this week.

Mastercard said cross-border volumes in April were at 171 percent of 2019 levels.

Cross-border payments are transactions where the person paying and the person receiving the money are located in different countries, and are a good indicator of travel and entertainment spend.

“We delivered strong revenue and earnings growth this quarter, reflecting resilient consumer spending and the continued recovery of cross-border travel, “ said Michael Miebach, Mastercard’s CEO, in a statement.

Visa during its second quarter earnings call this week said travel from the U.S. to all geographies continues to be strong at 150 percent of 2019. However, travel to the U.S. was still hovering just under 2019 levels, partly due to a strong U.S. dollar and travel visa backlog.

For Europe, excluding intra-Europe, travel remained strong, with outbound at 130 percent on 2019 levels, and inbound above 140 percent, it added.

Expense management platform Emburse has also seen domestic flights, car rentals and hotel spend all see double or triple-digit growth in the first quarter of this year, compared to the last quarter of 2022.

It said spending on air travel was up 85 percent domestically in the U.S. and 285 percent international, year on year, in its latest SpendSmart Report.

Meanwhile, March was a record month for American Express, with the credit card company recording its highest ever spending volume following a surge in people booking flights and eating out.

Visa has also seen an uptick in public transport spend, with record numbers of people using their cards to tap in and out.

In the first half of 2023, it processed 745 million “tap to ride” transactions globally, which is up 35 percent from the first half of last year. Visa also enabled 55 new transit systems, bringing its footprint to more than 650.

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