NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- One might think that credit card processors would be suffering the most from a wave of negative attention cast upon their plastic profit machine, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Banks are facing tens of billions of dollars worth of writedowns on bad credit card loans, while consumers contend with heady fees and unexpected rate hikes. Politicians have concocted an assortment of legislation and a new consumer protection agency to crack down on credit card lenders. But for the big negative spotlight that has been shining on credit cards recently, the companies most associated with them seem to be suffering the least. MasterCard ( MA) and Visa ( V), which profit from transaction fees rather than interest payments, as well as competitors like American Express ( AXP) and Discover ( DFS), which have a similar but more diverse business model, have performed relatively well through the financial crisis. They are expected to build strongly on that soft landing once economic conditions begin to improve.
Neither Visa nor MasterCard were totally immune to the recession, as both posted drops in volume last quarter. Still, they both matched or exceeded revenue estimates and topped Wall Street's profit targets through some combination of cost-cutting, increased debit card usage and expansion in untapped markets. Shares of Visa closed fractionally higher on Thursday at $67.21, while MasterCard rose 3% to $194.11. Visa CEO Joseph Saunders said the results "exemplify the resiliency and stability of our business model," while MasterCard CEO Robert Selander called card processing a "global, flexible and resilient business." Both focused on opportunities to expand further once the economic tide turns.