Helping the Unbanked and Small Businesses Participate in the Digital Economy

Visa is bringing access to digital payments to millions of people around the globe.



An estimated 1.7 billion people globally remain excluded from the formal financial services system. For the people who participate in it, that system makes it possible to quickly pay bills, transact online, manage a personal cash flow, and save money securely. By expanding access to digital payments, Visa continues to help advance digital equity and improve the lives of millions of people around the world.

In 2015, Visa committed to providing 500 million previously unbanked or underserved people with access to a Visa-branded payment account by 2020, in support of the World Bank’s goal of universal financial access. The firm met this goal in 2019, and it remains committed to expanding access to the unbanked and underserved.

A Brand Name That Consumers Trust

Payment instruments, like debit or credit cards, are often the first financial product adopted by consumers. Visa’s position as a leading payments network puts it at the center of this “on-ramp” in the financial adoption curve. Visa’s network enables consumers to make payments and get paid quickly, reliably, and securely. Visa’s strong consumer protections help to differentiate its network from other payment methods. Consumers also have a high level of trust and confidence in the well-known Visa brand.

Some of the services Visa provides that support financial inclusion include the following:

• Visa Acceptance Cloud: This offers business owners a low-cost and easily scalable payments solution that is available on a cloud-based platform. It enables them to use any Internet-connected device, like a mobile phone, as a tool to accept and process payments right at the moment of interaction with customers.

• Visa Direct: Businesses can use Visa Direct through their financial institutions to send money quickly and securely to their customers and workers. Consumers can use Visa Direct to send money to friends or family members around the world.

• Scan to Pay: Visa’s QR-based payments solution allows users to send payments directly from a Visa prepaid debit or credit card account to a range of merchants and businesses using just a mobile phone. Scan to Pay allows consumers to more easily access their money and enables merchants to accept another form of payment without investing in specialized hardware.

• Tap to Pay: Contactless payments, or tapping to pay with a contactless card or payment-enabled mobile device, provide a secure and touchless payment experience without customers needing to touch a checkout terminal.

• Tap to Phone: This service allows sellers to use a mobile application to accept payments without any additional hardware. Customers can pay by tapping their contactless card, phone or watch to the seller’s smartphone.

In addition to these services, Visa provides free and accessible financial education to help people better manage their money. Its flagship program, Practical Money Skills, delivers literacy tools to help people at every stage of their financial lives. It is offered in 45 countries and 18 languages and reached more than 1.5 million people in 2020.

Support for Small and Micro Businesses (SMBs)

Visa’s global acceptance network enables a geographically dispersed, fragmented pool of merchants to connect to the formal global financial system. Enabling businesses to switch from cash-centric transactions to a Visa-enabled digital payment system can help them reduce fraud, improve security, streamline operations, and increase sales.

In 2020, Visa announced a global commitment to digitally enable 50 million SMBs by the end of 2023. In support of this goal, Visa introduced a range of locally designed programs and solutions. These efforts entail helping small businesses build their online presence, fostering greater acceptance of digital payments among merchants and consumers, and encouraging people to support the small businesses in their community by shopping locally.

Visa has built localized online resource centers, now available in more than 20 countries, that provide tools and information on starting, running, and growing digital-first small businesses. Across European markets, Visa is investing to increase the number of digital payment acceptance devices within shops by more than 50%. Visa is also working with a range of partners to increase the number of locations where consumers can tap their contactless card or mobile phone.

Visa street teams also visited more than 300,000 small businesses in 12 markets over the course of 2020 to provide “back to business” kits with new point-of-sale materials, branding, educational resources, and special offers. In early 2021, Visa introduced a virtual version of this program to offer small businesses access to tutorials on contactless payments, digital marketing, and brand reputation management.

In addition to all these efforts, Visa has programs to support women who own small businesses. It is also committed to empowering small and microbusinesses in Africa to help them fully engage in the digital economy.

Part of a Larger Network

Visa is not alone in pioneering the adoption of digital payments. It is one piece of a much larger payments value chain that includes the merchant acquirers that make it possible for businesses to receive payments from credit or debit cards and the banks that issue credit and debit cards, as well as a variety of service providers. Still, Visa, Mastercard, and other major credit cards are the glue that hold the global card payments ecosystem together.1

Sustainable Development Goals

The Sands Capital six investment criteria tend to lead us to businesses that are innovators or vital facilitators of change in industries undergoing significant transformation. Visa is one of many portfolio businesses that create impact by addressing at least one major social or environmental challenge identified by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Visa’s efforts support SDG 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth; SDG 9, Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure; and SDG 10, Reduced Inequalities.

1 Mastercard is not held in any Sands Capital strategy.
Source for all information: 2020 Environmental, Social & Governance Report (


The business profiled was selected based on its reported alignment with one or more U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. The views expressed are the opinion of Sands Capital and are not intended as a forecast, a guarantee of future results, investment recommendations, or an offer to buy or sell any securities. The views expressed were current as of the date indicated and are subject to change. This material may contain forward-looking statements, which are subject to uncertainty and contingencies outside of Sands Capital’s control. Readers should not place undue reliance upon these forward-looking statements. There is no guarantee that Sands Capital will meet its stated goals. Past performance is not indicative of future results. All investments are subject to market risk, including the possible loss of principal. Differences in account size, timing of transactions and market conditions prevailing at the time of investment may lead to different results, and clients may lose money. A company’s fundamentals or earnings growth is no guarantee that its share price will increase. The specific securities identified and described do not represent all of the securities purchased, sold, or recommended for advisory clients. There is no assurance that any security will continue to be owned by Sands Capital. All investments are subject to market risk, including the possible loss of principal. You should not assume that any investment is or will be profitable. Company logos and website images are used for illustrative purposes only and were obtained directly from the company websites. Company logos and website images are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners and use of a logo does not imply any connection between Sands Capital and the company. GIPS® Reports and additional disclosures for the related composites may be found in the Sands Capital GIPS Report.

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