NetSpend Holdings Inc.'s fourth-quarter net income grew 79% from a year earlier, to $6.3 million, as customers loaded more money onto its prepaid debit cards and spent more frequently.

NetSpend earned 7 cents per diluted share, up from 4 cents a year earlier. Its revenue increased 18%, to $70.2 million.

The Austin, Texas, company, which markets general-purpose and employee payroll cards that can be reloaded, said gross dollar volume increased 25%, to $2.5 billion, in the quarter.

The number of active cards was 2.1 million at Dec. 31, up from 1.9 million a year earlier. NetSpend's percentage of active cards with direct deposit, a feature intended to extend the use of its cards, rose to 34.2% in the quarter from 27.6% a year earlier.

NetSpend expects 2011 revenue of $323 million to $333 million and adjusted net earnings per diluted share to be between 44 cents and 49 cents.

NetSpend competes with Green Dot Corp., which also offers prepaid cards through partner banks.

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