MasterCard plans a 10-for-1 stock split after its stock price rose to among the richest on the S&P 500, at more than $790 US today.

Since listing in 2006 at $39 US a share, MasterCard’s stock has risen on steadily expanding earnings.

As consumers increasingly rely on credit cards to pay bills and more merchants accept MasterCard, the credit card saw a 14 per cent increase in worldwide purchase volume annually in the third quarter.

Its net income rose to $879 million, or $7.27 per share, in the third quarter, from $772 million, or $6.17 per share, a year earlier, despite decreased income from rival Visa.

After trading had closed Tuesday, MasterCard announced several measures to bring its stock price down to the $80 a share range and reward shareholders.

In addition to the stock split, which is set for Jan. 9, 2014, it will begin a $3.5-billion share buyback program and increase its third quarter dividend by 83 per cent to $1.10 per share.  That would be 11 cents a share after the stock split.

Stock splits are designed to widen the potential pool of investors by making it less expensive to buy small numbers of shares.

S&P companies flush with cash also have begun to return increased amounts to their shareholders in the form of dividends.

MasterCard shares are up 58.2 per cent since this time last year  and continued their gains Wednesday on the news, trading near their 52-week high of $801.  Competitor Visa is up 35.6 per cent in the same period and traded at Wednesday.

With files from the Associated Press