NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Shoppers unabashedly whipped out their credit cards over the 2004 holiday shopping season, according to the leading issuers MasterCard and Visa, as sales remained robust right up to Christmas Eve.
Visa, the No. 1 card issuer, said spending by consumers and businesses on Visa branded payment cards during the past week, from Dec. 20 -26, totaled more than $25.4 billion, a 31.8 percent increase over the same period last year.
A big surge came on Christmas Eve when consumers alone spent $4.35 billion on Visa cards, which ranks as the sixth highest daily sales total this holiday season, Visa said.
"Consumers continued to spend right up to Christmas. Considering the post-holiday sales over the next few weeks and consumers' eagerness to purchase items they may not have received during the holidays, we expect that spending in the final days of 2004 will continue to rise," Visa spokesman Wayne Best, said in a statement.
Since the start of the November-December holiday season, consumers have spent more than $197.5 billion using Visa branded payment cards, a 15.3 percent increase compared with the same period in 2003.
The number of Visa debit transactions outpaced Visa credit card transaction during the period although the total dollar credit transactions were higher than the total for the Visa debit cards.
Separately, MasterCard reported that it processed more holiday transactions globally this year than at any time in its history with a 17.9 percent increase in transaction volume, or 914 million transactions for the 2004 holiday season, compared with last year.
Dollar transactions for the season totaled $60 billion, up 12.9 percent from last year. MasterCard did not break out the credit versus debit transactions for the period.
"MasterCard's processing numbers appear to be outpacing the reports of holiday spending by many retailers," MasterCard spokesman Michael Manchisi said in a statement. "We believe consumers are shifting their preferences from cash and checks to our payment cards, especially in the holiday season."
MasterCard said it processed the most transactions, 36.9 million, over its network on Dec. 23. The quietest shopping day was the Sunday after Thanksgiving, as it appears that consumers stayed home to enjoy family that day, the company said.
Rather than being the busiest day of the season, Black Friday -- the day after Thanksgiving -- was actually the sixth busiest day of the holiday shopping season for MasterCard.