Visa: Tokens Now Outnumber Physical Cards

Visa said Wednesday (Aug. 24) that it had issued more than 4 billion network tokens through its security technology Visa Token Service (VTS), more than the total number of its physical cards in circulation.

“Without exposing the consumer’s account to fraud, tokenization enables frictionless, card-free payments,” Jack Forestell, chief product officer at Visa, said in an interview with Reuters.

VTS replaces 16-digit Visa account numbers with a token that can only be unlocked by Visa, thus safeguarding the underlying account information.

Read more: Visa Says Tokenized Transactions Set To Hit $1T, Sets Click-to-Pay Transition

Visa launched VTS in 2014 and issued 1 billion tokens by 2020. From there, growth accelerated to 2 billion in 2021 before doubling this year.

The Reuters report noted that the popularity of the service coincides with the rise in online spending since the global outbreak of COVID-19.

Visa says eCommerce volume has climbed by more than 50% since the pandemic began, citing figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Related: U.S. Consumers Made $1.7T in Pandemic eCommerce Purchases

PYMNTS reported earlier this year that American consumers spent $1.7 trillion online from March 2020 to February 2022, citing figures from the Adobe Summit.

The two-year total is almost $610 billion more than all eCommerce spending from March 2018 through February 2020, Adobe said, projecting that online spending in the U.S. would top $1 trillion for the first time this year.

In 2021, 41.8% of overall eCommerce spending throughout the U.S. came from grocery, electronics and apparel purchases.

Groceries represented 8.9% of the overall eCommerce spending at $79.2 billion in 2021, compared to $73.7 billion in 2020, which was more than double the level of online grocery spending in 2019. Adobe expects that number to exceed $85 billion for 2022.