It's been a stellar year so far for Visa ( V) shareholders. Since the first trading day of January, shares of the payment network have rallied more than 27%. Visa owns a global payment network that's used by around 60% of the debit and credit cards issued worldwide. That scale is a big deal -- it means that merchants who accept credit cards need to accept Visa if they want to attract customers, and consumers looking for universal acceptance are more likely to pick Visa too. That positive feedback loop is a big reason for the successes that Visa has had in the past few years. Prescience is another. Unlike rivals like American Express (AXP), Visa doesn't actually lend money -- it's just the network. As a result, the firm doesn't have any credit risk on its balance sheet, and it skirted the biggest black mark on credit card issuers during the Great Recession. >>4 Large Bank Stock Picks From Deutsche Bank At the same time, its first-to-market status on debit cards meant that the company actually benefited when consumers eschewed their credit cards in favor of debit. At this point in the game, a rising tide is lifting all ships. Gradually, worldwide payments of all sorts are switching from conventional cash and checks to payment cards, and as they do Visa and its biggest peers should all benefit. With relative strength looking stellar in Visa right now, we're betting on shares.