Visa Inc's quarterly profit rose more than expected as increasingly confident consumers spent more, but doubts remain about the payments network's ability to grow under looming regulation.

Shares fell in after-hours trading, as Visa failed to beat expectations by the wide margins investors were once used to.

People get spoiled. There's nothing obvious not to like, said Eric Grover, a payments consultant at Intrepid Ventures.

There's still some disquiet about regulation, he added.

Like smaller rival MasterCard Inc , Visa is benefiting from a rebound in consumer confidence after the financial crisis. But Visa, reporting two days after MasterCard cheered investors with its upbeat report on U.S. consumer spending, has more to prove.

The world's largest card processing network dominates the U.S. debit processing market -- and is now much more vulnerable to increasing U.S. regulation. A provision of the U.S. Dodd-Frank financial reform law will restrict the fees merchants pay banks and networks every time a customer buys something with a debit card.

The Federal Reserve has proposed rules under the law that would cut an estimated $13 billion of the banking industry's $23 billion in annual debit card processing fee revenue.

Some industry members are increasingly optimistic that a last-ditch effort in Washington will blunt the law's impact -- or even delay it for two years.

But for the time being, that's absolutely still a cloud over these companies, Edward Jones analyst Shannon Stemm said.


Visa said on Thursday revenue rose 15 percent to $2.25 billion, slightly above expectations.

Like MasterCard, Visa does not lend at all and was not directly affected by the surge of credit losses during the financial crisis. But it struggled to grow during the recession, as consumers and companies cut back sharply on spending.

Now people are increasingly willing to spend money using their Visa cards, and are even spending on travel and other discretionary items, instead of restricting themselves to necessities as they did during the recession.

Cross-border volumes rose 13 percent during the quarter, indicating that people are swiping their Visa cards abroad.

The San Francisco-based company on Thursday reported net income of $881 million, or $1.23 per share for its fiscal second quarter ended March 31. That compared to $713 million, or 96 cents per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected Visa to earn $1.20 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company also said its board had authorized a $1 billion share buyback program, which will be in place through April 20, 2012.

Visa shares closed down 1.3 percent at $78.70 on Thursday and fell about 1.9 percent in after-hours trading.

(Reporting by Maria Aspan; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)