As an investor, it doesn't pay to follow the crowd.

In this series, though, we highlight a possible exception -- the collective wisdom of our CAPS community. Read the next section if you're unfamiliar with our methodology. Skip it if you want to go straight to the results.

Why this crowd is different
Jumping into a stock because your rich neighbor did, or because you heard about it from your friend's uncle who used to work on Wall Street, or because CNBC has been talking about it nonstop is a recipe for disaster.

If there's one thing I've learned as a stock analyst, it's that any stock can be gussied up to sound like a world-beater. If there's a second thing I've learned, it's that being a smart person doesn't make you a good investor.

In the hands of a smart person with good communication skills, the never-were and never-will-be stocks sound like tickets to instant fortune. The ancient Greek philosophers made the distinction between rhetoric and knowledge. The former is convincing; the latter is true.

That's why we factor in track record in our Motley Fool CAPS community. We invite everyone to give stocks an outperform (i.e., a "buy") or underperform rating (i.e., a "sell") in CAPS. We then use those opinions to calculate a rating for each stock -- from one to five stars (five being the best). But -- and this is a big distinction -- we give more weight to the opinions of folks whose picks have performed well in the past.

The top 10 Visa-like buys
So, with that methodology as prelude, I present to you the top 10 diversified services stocks based on the number of CAPS members who have rated the stock an outperform. Diversified services range from credit card activities like Visa (NYSE: V) and MasterCard (NYSE: MA) to construction services like Jacobs Engineering (NYSE: JEC) to mobile phone entertainment services like KongZhong (Nasdaq: KONG). Remember that only stocks rated 4- or 5-stars are consensus buys.


Market Capitalization (in millions)

Outperform Picks

CAPS Rating (out of 5)




**** (Nasdaq: CTRP)




Portfolio Recovery Associates (Nasdaq: PRAA)








China Security & Surveillance (NYSE: CSR)




Western Union












Jacobs Engineering








Source: Motley Fool CAPS.

More CAPS members think Visa is a buy than any other diversified services company. It rates as a four-star stock, so it's a consensus buy as well.

Do you think another stock deserves the top spot? Do you think Visa is overrated? Make your thoughts known in CAPS by clicking here. Or just go there to do further research on one of these popular stocks.

Anand Chokkavelu owns shares of Accenture and Portfolio Recovery Associates. Accenture, Paychex, and Western Union are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Western Union is a Stock Advisor pick. International and Portfolio Recovery Associates are Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendations. Paychex is an Income Investor selection. Motley Fool Options has recommended writing covered calls on Western Union. The Fool has a disclosure policy.