The extreme volatility and whispered promises of huge returns on penny stocks can be tempting, but very few of them actually deserve a serious investor's attention. Building your investment portfolio around proven winners with solid business models is a much better idea.

So we asked a few of your fellow investors here at The Motley Fool what they might recommend buying instead of falling for the hottest penny stocks today. Read on to see the specifics of why these Fools would prefer Visa (NYSE:V)Cirrus Logic (NASDAQ:CRUS), and Skechers (NYSE:SKX) over pretty much every penny stock on the market.

Six pennies forming a loose pile on a plain white background.

Image source: Getty Images.

Growth and value

Tim Green (Skechers): When shares of footwear company Skechers plunged in April after its guidance for the second quarter came in below expectations, I added to my stake. Not only is Skechers a growth stock with ample opportunities in international markets, but it's also a value stock, trading at a pessimistic valuation.

In the first quarter, Skechers' total sales surged 16.5% year over year. Global comparable retail sales jumped 9.5%, while international wholesale revenue soared 17.9%. Earnings were up as well, jumping 25% to $0.75 per share.

Skechers does expect a slowdown in the second quarter, with the company blaming a shift in shipments to the second half of the year. That spooked investors, but I'm not all that worried. Skechers stock trades for right around 15 times the average analyst estimate for earnings this year and that multiple drops to just 12.5 if you back out the hundreds of millions of dollars in excess cash on the balance sheet.

In other words, Skechers doesn't need to put up blockbuster numbers to justify its valuation. Even if this growth slowdown isn't temporary, a beaten-down price makes the stock a solid investment.

Cirrus is an Apple-holic in remission

Anders Bylund (Cirrus Logic): The audio-chip designer's investors have had a rough year. Share prices fell 27% in the first half of 2018 and 39% over the last 52 weeks, driven by weak results from Cirrus' largest customer.

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has relied on Cirrus amplifiers and audio processing tools for its iPhone and iPad lines for many years and the partnership only expanded when the iPhone 7 shipped with Cirrus-powered wireless earbuds instead of a traditional headphone jack. In the recently reported fourth quarter of fiscal year 2018, Apple represented 79% of Cirrus' total revenues.

So when Apple coughs, Cirrus catches the bubonic plague.

This stock now trades at a skimpy 11 times trailing earnings or 10 times free cash flows. Cirrus shareholders would obviously love to see Apple returning to its classic high-growth form, but that's not the only way Cirrus might rise again.

The company is expanding its product portfolio with innovative features such as haptic feedback drivers and analysis of voice biometrics. Haptics provides a physical "feel" to interacting with a smartphone that lacks physical buttons, and voice biometrics could one day replace passwords, fingerprints, and face scans with a voice-based login procedure. Cirrus sees huge interest in these tools and is actively shopping them to lots of potential customers not named Apple. One high-volume Android phone is expected to ship with Cirrus haptics later this year, perhaps paving the way toward cross-selling audio chips as customer relationships evolve over time.

My crystal ball is in for repairs but I wouldn't be surprised to see Cirrus expanding its Android-based clientele over the next few years. A resurgent Apple would be icing on the cake, but the real long-term story here is all about a more diverse customer roster.

Today's low share prices include a huge risk-based discount, leaving much more upside opportunity than downside danger for investors who pick up Cirrus shares today. And it's a far less risky bet than your average penny stock.

Charging forward

Dan Caplinger (Visa): The most successful companies have great business models that produce expensive stock prices, not penny-sized ones. Visa's business model takes a different tack on pennies, collecting tiny fees every time its customers use its payment network to facilitate electronic financial transactions. By providing a reliable conduit for money to move electronically, Visa's able to take billions of transactions and produce billions of dollars in revenue from them.

Visa has two primary avenues for growth. First, the rise of electronic commerce over the internet and on mobile devices has dramatically increased adoption of electronic payment systems in the most advanced economies in the world, and Visa has sought its share of increased traffic across its industry-leading network. At the same time, smaller economies are still making the transition away from cash-based transactions toward network-based payments, and Visa is working to ensure that it has the international scope to build market share in emerging economies across the globe.

At around $135 per share recently, Visa is hardly a penny stock, and some people worry that it might be overvalued. When you look at recent earnings and compare them to its stock price, Visa does indeed have a fairly lofty valuation of roughly 30 times forward estimates. But the size of the opportunity in front of the payment giant is immense, and that has bullish investors optimistic about Visa's prospects to remain the leader of the electronic payments industry for the foreseeable future.

Anders Bylund has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Dan Caplinger owns shares of Apple. Timothy Green owns shares of Skechers. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends both Apple and Skechers. The Motley Fool also owns shares of Visa and has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Cirrus Logic. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.