MasterCard Inc.'s first-quarter profit rose 24%, beating analysts' expectations, as consumers increased spending and the company processed more payments.

The results offer fresh evidence on the rising optimism of consumers as the economy stabilizes. Higher retail spending also bolsters hopes of a turnaround in the broader credit-card industry and moves the spotlight from consumer defaults and delinquencies.

"We are starting the year with strength across several of our business drivers, including healthy cross-border volumes, which contributed to our solid first-quarter results," said Chief Executive Robert W. Selander.

MasterCard shares were recently up $2.92, or 1.6%, to $253.66.

For the first quarter, MasterCard posted a profit of $455 million, or $3.46 a share, up from $367 million, or $2.80 a share, a year earlier. Revenue increased 13.1% to $1.31 billion during the same period.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected a profit of $3.14 a share on revenue of $1.27 billion.

President and Chief Operating Officer Ajay Banga stressed on MasterCard's "focus on innovation," during a Webcast of a discussion of the company's quarterly results. Banga, who will succeed Selander as chief executive in July, has emphasized MasterCard's growth opportunities as consumers gravitate toward electronic means of payments while moving away from cash and checks.

Last week, bigger rival Visa Inc.'s fiscal second-quarter profit grew by a third from a year earlier to $713 million, as consumers increased spending and the company processed more payments.

Unlike traditional credit-card issuers, MasterCard, based in Purchase, N.Y., and Visa are insulated from credit woes arising from card delinquencies and defaults because they don't lend to consumers. MasterCard and Visa make money from the fees they charge banks to process card payments on the plastic these banks issue. JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. are among the top issuers of MasterCard- and Visa-branded cards.

The more consumers charge on their MasterCard and Visa plastic, the more these two companies earn in fees.

For the first quarter, worldwide gross dollar volume, or spending, on MasterCard-branded cards rose 8.3% in local-currency terms from a year earlier to $631 billion. The number of MasterCard-branded cards worldwide totaled 957 million, flat from a year ago. Processed transactions jumped 4.6% to 5.4 billion.

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