Is Visa Stock Too Expensive at $160 Or Is There Even More Upside Here?

Payments processor Visa (NYSE:V) has been a gift that keeps on giving for investors who’ve held on to their shares. V stock is up roughly 21% so far this year and many believe the firm can keep going. The S&P 500 index is up 13.4% in the same period.

However, with a price-earnings ratio of 33.1 and a dividend yield that’s below 1%, Visa stock is also an expensive buy. While the V stock price is up there, the company has a lot of room to keep on growing and that make the shares a solid addition to long-term investors’ portfolios.

Payments Processing Goldmine

One of the biggest reasons investors consider Visa stock at all is the fact that the firm is the largest payments processor in the world, as measured by the number of branded cards issued. That’s a big deal because the industry itself has a huge growth runway, so owning the largest beneficiary of that trend has its perks. 

People are abandoning cash and opting instead for credit/debit cards and digital payments. Back in 2016 we saw the number of non-cash purchases overtake cash for the first time, and since then the gap has only gotten wider. Visa has been on the receiving end of a great deal of that growth. In 2018, Visa processed 124 billion transactions on its network — a step up from the 111 billion it facilitated in 2017.

Those rising transaction figures are the reason Visa has been able to consistently produce double-digit growth over the past few years, a trend that most expect to continue throughout the medium term.

Growth Ahead

With the largest number of outstanding cards, Visa has a lot of power over the fees it can charge merchants and it’s used that power to grow its margins. As one of the most widely accepted credit cards, Visa appeals to customers and that in turn makes merchants more willing to pay a premium to accept Visa payments.

It’s also important to recognize that Visa stock isn’t just a credit card play anymore, either. V has also started branching out into the digital payments space with Visa Checkout, and the firm has also took a position in Square (NYSE:SQ), a smaller payments processor with a firm foothold in next-generation payment methods. 

Times They Are a’ Changing

Some argue that Visa’s dominance in the payments processing space is actually a negative. The firm’s near duopoly with Mastercard (NYSE:MA) in the credit card space could make it a target for regulatory action, especially as cash payments continue to dwindle and it becomes more and more necessary to have a credit card on-hand. 

Plus, there’s further to fall when you’re already at the top. Investors aren’t wrong in saying that Visa stock has high expectations to live up to. We saw that materialize in the second quarter when V announced its earnings results. Despite the fact that Visa beat earnings expectations and met revenue predictions, the stock declined as investors digested the news. 

For those investors who like the payments sector but looking for broader exposure than just one name, the ETFMG Prime Mobile Payments ETF (NYSEArca:IPAY) might be the way to play it, with V stock, MA and SQ among the top holdings in its 40-stock portfolio.

Visa Stock’s Worth The Price

Sure, there are risks when it comes to buying Visa stock. If you’re a value investor, it can be worrisome to invest in a stock that’s trading near all-time highs. However, it’s important to note that Visa is almost always trading near all-time highs because the firm delivers solid growth more often than not.

The buy case for Visa stock is a simple one: the firm has a commanding market share in an extremely scalable business. The growth opportunity is there and Visa doesn’t have to work hard to get it. While some of its peers like American Express (NYSE:AXP) are considerably cheaper — at a P/E of 14.9 — Visa offers a level of stability and security that others can’t simply because of its size and reach.

As long as you believe that non-cash transactions will continue gaining momentum, V stock will be a worthwhile consideration. Don’t let the company’s price-tag scare you, it almost never trades at a huge discount. Visa is the kind of stock you buy and hold on to for years, so its worth a look for long-term investors. 

As of this writing Laura Hoy did not hold a position in any or the aforementioned securities.

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