Sales of credit card portfolios soared to $20.8 billion in 1997 from $7.1 billion in 1996, according to R.K. Hammer Investment Bankers.

The 1997 figure does not include the $14 billion portfolio Citicorp is buying from AT&T Corp., a deal that had not closed by yearend. Nor did it include mergers of equals or whole institution purchases like Banc One Corp.'s of First USA Inc.

The largest were Fleet Financial Group's purchase of Advanta Corp.'s $10.5 billion card unit and Chase Manhattan Corp.'s acquisition of $4 billion from Bank of New York.

Robert K. Hammer, head of the investment banking firm that specializes in card portfolio transactions, said there were 22 of them in 1997, up from 21 in 1996. The average premium in 1997, 13.27%, was down from 17.70% in 1996.

Mr. Hammer has been tracking card portfolio sales for 12 years. Until last year, the record was $7.1 billion in 1996, followed by $6.6 billion in 1989.

Portfolio-transfer volume was less than $1 billion a year from 1992 to 1995.

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