First USA Inc. of Dallas posted a 51% increase in net income for the most recent quarter, to $33.2 million.

The report is the last of the cycle for the major publicly traded credit card specialty companies and was consistent with the others' record- breaking trends.

Also hitting new highs were American Express Travel Related Services Co. and Dean Witter, Discover & Co.'s credit services, primarily the Discover card.

Of the four bank card specialists - Advanta Corp., Capital One Financial Corp., First USA, and MBNA Corp. - First USA weighed in last week with the best year-to-year growth rate, though it was down from the previous quarter's 72%.

Its net income was second in that group to the $76.8 million of MBNA, which at $23 billion of managed loans ranks behind only Citicorp and Discover.

For First USA, the June quarter was the last of a fiscal year that produced total net income of $175.2 million, or $2.74 a share, up 73% from fiscal 1994.

"Our 10th year in business was extremely successful," said chairman and chief executive officer John C. Tolleson. He said the company has climbed to fourth place both in MasterCard and Visa issuance and in processing card transactions for merchants.

"Credit card loans grew $5.8 billion, or 77% (to $13.3 billion), we added 3.4 million new accounts, the merchant business increased processing volume (by 16%) to over $20 billion, and operating efficiencies continued to improve throughout the year," Mr. Tolleson said.

Net credit losses on managed loans held flat at 2.21%.

Mr. Tolleson pointed out that the results were favorable despite "a period of rising interest rates and the most competitive year ever experienced by the credit card industry."

First USA and its counterparts have been spending significantly on technology, marketing, and other initiatives to perpetuate growth even amid more difficult economic conditions and competition, a Goldman, Sachs & Co. analyst team wrote in a recent report.

At the same time, "a slowing economy provides companies like Capital One and First USA with opportunities to slow large and discretionary marketing expenditures - a process not necessarily available to many issuers content with a slow growth path," said the report by Robert Hottensen, Richard Strauss, and Michael Hodes.

They rated First USA "among the most efficient credit card issuers as a result of its branchless structure, continuous focus, commitment to the technology process, and its use of technology to minimize fraud and understand customer behavior."

The Discover unit's second-quarter income growth held to 9% as marketing and business development expenses jumped 36%, to $132 million, and systems and other operating costs rose 29%, to $105.4 million. Revenues rose 18%, to $665 million; the rest of the Dean Witter Group's $1.42 billion came from securities businesses.

Year-to-date point of sale transactions in its SPS affiliate rose 16%, to 175 million.

"We're investing in growth and will continue to invest at this higher level through 1995," chairman Philip J. Purcell said of the credit business.

American Express' card-related group boosted net income 13%, to $298 million, while operating expenses rose only 9%. Revenues were up 16%, to $2.9 billion, three-fourths of American Express Co.'s consolidated $4 billion.

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