Norwest Corp. said it will cut 250 jobs in its Des Moines credit card operations by yearend and will transfer hundreds more from its Iowa bank to Colorado over the next two years.

The job eliminations, which will affect 25% of the bank's 950 credit card employees, comes as part of a downsizing of Norwest's credit card portfolio.

Norwest said it will sell $1 billion in credit card loans, or about half of its total portfolio.

The bank said it will also move an undetermined number of 400 check processing positions to Norwest Bank Colorado in Denver. This change is due to a national restructuring to consolidate operations, the bank said.

The sale of the credit card loans culminates a three-year debacle for Minneapolis-based Norwest. The $74 billion-asset company started mailing credit card solicitations nationally in 1994.

The bank wouldn't say how many delinquencies and chargeoffs were attributable to its mass-mailing campaign. But in January, Norwest announced it would sell off $750 million of the credit card loans that resulted from the mass-mailing program. Another $250 million in loans, which did not come from the mass-mailing drive, will be sold back to the original issuer, Norwest said.

Both sales are expected to close in the third quarter. Norwest said most of the job eliminations will also occur at that time.

Norwest's credit card business grew substantially between 1990 and 1995, as the company increased its portfolio from $1.3 billion to $2.1 billion and added 350 employees. Much of the growth was due to acquisitions.

Analysts said problems began when Norwest strayed from its policy of offering cards solely to bank customers. With increased competition in the credit card business, analysts said Norwest didn't know how to price or underwrite its risk.

"You have to find the right customer at the right price at the right time," said Michael Durante, with McDonald & Company Securities in Cleveland.

Mr. Durante said Norwest just did not commit the resources needed to be a national credit card issuer, and could not keep up with the competition from large issuers like Citicorp, Chase Manhattan Corp., and nonbanks. "As much as I respect the the management team at Norwest," Mr. Durante said. "I don't think they did a good job with the credit card business."

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