Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc. said strains on their card-issuing customers — which have been hit far harder by the downturn, because of their credit exposure — have created hurdles for the two companies to raise prices.

In quarterly earnings reports this week, Visa and MasterCard also said the deteriorating economy and weakening trends in transaction volume are posing increasing challenges. However, the number of transactions processed on their networks continued to increase, and executives cited room to maneuver on expenses and stuck to profit growth targets of more than 20%.

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