Capital One Financial (NYSE:COF) reported third-quarter earnings that beat analysts' expectations for earnings and revenue. More impressively, Capital One showed solid revenue growth in a tough quarter for the bank industry as a whole. Here's how Capital One outperformed its peers, and the figures its investors need to know.

Impressive growth that beat expectations
Capital one produced earnings per share of $1.98 for the quarter, surpassing analysts' expectations of $1.93. And the company generated $5.9 billion in revenue, slightly exceeding the $5.86 billion projection, and representing year-over-year revenue growth of nearly 5%.

Now, 5% annual growth doesn't seem terribly impressive until you consider what's going on in the banking industry right now. Net interest margins are at historic lows, investment banking activity is down, and the stock market's third-quarter decline caused wealth management fee and commission income to drop. Few banks produced any revenue growth at all, and a comparison to the major players in the banking industry makes that 5% revenue growth look pretty impressive.

The credit-card business is booming
When you look at the performance of Capital One's consumer and commercial banking divisions during the quarter, it's understandable if you're not impressed. In consumer banking, loans were flat, and revenue grew just 1% from a year ago. Commercial banking wasn't much better -- average loans were up 6% year over year, but revenue was flat.

That leaves Capital One's bread and butter -- the credit-card business, which posted some impressive results. Loan balances were up 12% from last year, and generated 10% more revenue. Impressively, noninterest expense increased by just 7%, largely due to increased spending on marketing, which certainly appears to be working.

The company has done a tremendous job of making consumers aware of its cards. After all, who hasn't seen the Samuel L. Jackson commercials promoting the Quicksilver card? Or how about the many ads promoting the Venture card -- which is actually one of the best all-around credit cards in the market, as I've written before.

Most of the other banks with substantial credit-card operations saw revenues climb, as well, though not as impressively as Capital One. So why were their results not quite as impressive? Simply put, Capital One's credit-card business makes up a dominant share (63%) of the company's revenue. In contrast, Bank of America has a large credit-card business -- it issued 1.3 million new cards in the third quarter alone -- but the revenue it derives from credit cards makes up roughly 15% of the company's total.

Looking forward
Capital One delivered excellent performance in the quarter by doing what it does best -- offering some of the most attractive credit-card products in the market, and allocating lots of capital to get the word out. The bank is well-positioned to take advantage of any increase in interest rates, as spreads tend to widen when rates rise, and is committed to sustaining its growth going forward.

In a nutshell, Capital One's third quarter looks to be among the best in the banking industry. With shares down 9% year to date, this major player in the credit-card space may be worth a look.