Visa sees 35%+ surge in debit card spends; trend expected to continue in the upcoming Avurudu season

  • Out of the total domestic spends on debit cards, the share of in-store spending is 7 times that of ecommerce.
  • Last holiday season saw over 20% growth in Visa debit transactions vis-à-vis 2022

Visa (NYSE: V), the global leader in digital payments, today announced that Visa debit card spends saw a significant increase of over 35% in the past year, indicating healthy growth of digital payments in Sri Lanka. This increase is buoyed by a 30%+ increase in face-to-face spends and over 40% increase in ecommerce spends.

As the Tamil & Sinhala New Year celebrations commence in the country, retail transactions are picking up with more active shoppers during the festive period. Consumers are increasingly paying by debit card, opting for safer, simpler and more convenient transactions.

Avanthi Colombage, Country Manager – Sri Lanka and Maldives said, “We are excited to see the jump in debit card usage by consumers in Sri Lanka lately. While this is skewed towards in-store spends, ecommerce growth too has been heartening and we expect this momentum to continue during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year. We also saw a robust over 35% growth in debit spends in 2023 over 2022, in the year-ending holiday season. This festive season too, we believe cardholders will gravitate towards secure and faster ways to pay like tapping or dipping their cards. We have also been working closely with our issuing and acquiring partners to boost card usage and its acceptance, so that consumers can use their Visa cards anytime anywhere – conveniently, easily and safely.”

Recent data by Visa Consulting & Analytics shows that Visa debit cards have largely been used at face-to-face or ‘in-store’ channels like merchant outlets and shops. Proportion of instore spend of the overall domestic debit card usage is 7 times of what is spent on ecommerce. The top in-store categories where consumers shopped have been Food and Grocery, Apparel, Fuel and Restaurants. Ecommerce spending was mostly for telecom and utility services, education, government payments and insurance.

Avanthi Colombage points out, “This indicates the rising usage of debit cards, one of the most familiar, simple and quick ways to pay digitally. Geographically, we saw urban centres such as Colombo and Gampaha recording over 50% of in-store transactions. We are working with partners to create regional roadshows beyond the western province to increase awareness of debit cards among consumers and merchants.”

This increase in debit card usage among Sri Lankans is seen in many developing countries as more consumers are opting for a seamless and secure payment experience with cards vis-à-vis using cash.

With the promising growth in tourism as well, digital transactions by tourists also played an important role in increased spends. Compared to 2022, Visa data shows that the share of tourism in total cross-border spends during the holiday season grew by 15 percentage points. In terms of volume and value both, tourism-related spends have increased by over 100% on Visa credentials”, confirms Avanthi Colombage.

Visa further shared that over 50% of tourism-related spends in Sri Lanka came from the USA, India, UK, UAE and Australia. Tourists have spent largely on lodging and retail goods, which contributed to over 60% of tourism spends during the holiday season.

“We are committed towards raising awareness of the benefits of using debit cards for safety and ease of use” says Avanthi Colombage. Visa has tied up with its clients and conducted awareness initiatives for merchants on debit cards, as well as promotional activities, cash back offers and discounts for Visa cardholders. It is also focusing on increasing the acceptance of Visa cards and digital transactions across Sri Lanka.

AboutVisa Inc.

Visa (NYSE: V) is a world leader in digital payments, facilitating transactions between consumers, merchants, financial institutions and government entities across more than 200 countries and territories. Our mission is to connect the world through the most innovative, convenient, reliable and secure payments network, enabling individuals, businesses and economies to thrive. We believe that economies that include everyone everywhere, uplift everyone everywhere and see access as foundational to the future of money movement. Learn more at

Uma Balakrishnan