Payment processors Visa (NYSE:V) and Mastercard (NYSE:MA) just reported earnings -- Visa after the close on Wednesday and Mastercard before the market's open on Thursday -- and while both companies beat expectations on the top and bottom lines, both stocks are down the day after reporting.

As of about 9:45 a.m. EDT on Thursday, Visa's stock price was lower by about 1%, while Mastercard is down by about 4%. While at first glance looks like Visa is the earnings winner, here's a look beyond the numbers to give you a better idea of how these two payment-processing giants did and where they could be going.

Couple shopping online with a credit card.

Image Source: Getty Images.

The headline numbers

As I mentioned, both companies beat estimates for both earnings and revenue. Visa's adjusted earnings of $1.20 per share were significantly higher than the $1.08 analysts had projected and represented 40% annual growth. Revenue of $5.24 billion was about 15% higher than a year ago and also handily beat estimates.

Mastercard's numbers also beat expectations on the top and bottom lines. The company earned $1.66 per share on an adjusted basis, handily beating estimates of $1.53 and representing 51% year-over-year earnings growth. Revenue of $3.67 billion came in slightly ahead of the $3.65 billion analysts were looking for and was 18% higher than the same quarter a year ago.

Visa: Excellent growth beyond the headline numbers

Looking past the revenue and earnings numbers, here's a rundown of some of the key highlights from Visa's report. (Note: Because of how Visa's fiscal year runs, this was the company's third quarter. On the other hand, Mastercard uses a standard fiscal year, so this was its second quarter.)

  • Visa's payments volume grew by 11% year over year, while the number of processed transactions rose by 12%.
  • The number of total Visa-branded payment cards grew by 4% year over year to 3.28 billion. This includes equal 4% increases in credit cards and debit cards.
  • Service revenue grew by 13%, while data processing revenue was particularly strong with 19% year-over-year growth.
  • International transaction revenue grew by 16% over the past year. This is an especially important number, as Visa's international markets represent perhaps the best potential catalyst for future earnings growth.

Mastercard: Strong growth in key business areas

Mastercard also reported excellent growth throughout its business, and in some ways was even more impressive than Visa. Here are some key highlights:

  • Mastercard's payment volume increased by 14% on a local-currency basis, and the number of processed transactions grew by 17% on a Venezuela-adjusted basis.
  • Mastercard now has 2.44 billion cards in existence. While this is roughly three-fourths that of Visa, it represents an even stronger 5% growth rate.
  • Like Visa, Mastercard's international payments volume grew by 16% year over year. Cross-border volume fee revenue grew by an impressive 22% (18% after being adjusted for currency fluctuations).

So why are the stocks down after earnings?

To be sure, not everything in these companies' earnings reports was great news. There were a few items that disappointed investors.

In Visa's report, payment volumes were a bit lighter than expected. Now, 11% growth is still excellent, but analysts had been looking for 12.4%.

In Mastercard's case, the company reported that it set aside $225 million for litigation costs with merchants stemming from fee-related lawsuits. Plus, Mastercard's revenue barely exceeded expectations, while Visa's handily surpassed what analysts had been looking for.

Another item worth pointing out is that the performance of these companies' stocks has been absolutely excellent. Over the past decade, both stocks have increased by nearly 700% and over the past year alone, Visa and MasterCard are up 40% and 58%, respectively. So, it's possible that these stocks were simply priced for perfection, and since they didn't deliver perfection, some investors are taking their profits.

V Chart

V data by YCharts.

Whatever the specific reason for the mild drops in the stock prices, the key takeaway is that both Visa and Mastercard put up some pretty impressive numbers in their respective quarterly reports and that these two giants' growth stories don't seem to be running out of gas just yet.

Matthew Frankel has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Mastercard. The Motley Fool owns shares of Visa. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.