I've been critical of Visa (NYSE:V) for a while now. In short, I've thought it to be a great company trading at a greater valuation.

I still feel that way. But I'll admit: Visa is proving its ability to withstand this global recession and retrenchment in consumer spending far better than I had thought.

Net income in its fourth quarter came in at $514 million, or $0.69 per share. That was up from a loss of $0.45 in the same period last year, but last year's results included big one-time litigation payments to Discover Financial (NYSE:DFS) and American Express (NYSE:AXP), so it isn't really comparable. Revenue jumped 10%, to $1.9 billion.

Visa also upped its dividend by 19% and authorized a $1 billion share buyback plan. I'm all for dividends, but investors may wish to question the timing of a buyback plan after shares have nearly doubled since January.

If there was a negative, it came from purchase volume growth (or lack thereof):   

Period

Reported Worldwide

Payment Volume Growth

Q3 2008

19.1%

Q4 2008

15.2%

Q1 2009

12.4%

Q2 2009

(0.9%)

Q3 2009

(5.5%)

Q4 2009

(1.7%)

While the fall in payment volume is waning, it's falling nonetheless. Chalk that up to a 5.3% decrease in worldwide credit volume, and a stunning 9.6% decline in U.S. credit volume.

But here's the thing: There's a one-quarter lag in Visa's payment volume reporting. So numbers reported for Q4 actually accrued for the quarter ended in June, Q3's numbers reflect the quarter ended in March, and so on. This is important to note because American Express and Capital One (NYSE:COF) both reported sequential increases in purchase volume when they reported last week. Odds are, then, that Visa actually is back on the road to payment volume growth.

And the other big factor contributing to the bottom line -- total processed transactions -- is still growing quite nicely:

Period

Processed Transactions Growth

Q3 2008

13%

Q4 2008

11%

Q1 2009

8%

Q2 2009

6%

Q3 2009

8%

Q4 2009

9%

All of which means Visa is on track to not just keep itself together, but to keep growing. When you consider the trauma inflicted on global consumers over the past year, that's pretty remarkable.

What do you think? Are shares still a buy a these levels? Let me know in the comments section below.

Fool contributor Morgan Housel doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. American Express and Discover Financial Services are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. The Fool has a disclosure policy.