Four bank card specialists announced substantial earnings growth for the third quarter, with First USA Inc. posting the biggest percentage gain, as it did in the preceding quarter.

The Dallas-based issuer, ranked 10th nationally, reported $54.9 million in net income, 47.3% more than a year earlier.

MBNA Corp., the nation's second-largest bank card issuer, reported $97.3 million in net income, for a 32% rise.

"First USA had the best quarter of the bunch, with a significant 20- basis-point increase in its net margin, despite very strong growth," said Moshe Orenbuch, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.

Advanta Corp., and Capital One Financial Corp. reported similar third- quarter net incomes of $34.9 million (up 30%) and $33.9 million (up 13%), respectively.

MBNA's outstandings totaled $24.7 billion on Sept. 30, up from $16.8 billion a year earlier. Outstandings were up $2 billion from the June 30 level.

From January through September, MBNA said, it reached agreements with 575 groups to issue affinity cards and added six million cardholders.

Delinquency on total managed loans was 3.6% for the third quarter; losses on outstandings stood at 2.7%.

First USA, with 11.9 million cards and $15 billion in managed loans, said its outstandings had increased by $6.2 billion since last year's third quarter, including $1.7 billion during this year's.

First USA opened 986,000 new accounts during the third quarter, 29.8% more than in the same quarter a year earlier.

"We are pleased with our improvement in operating efficiencies," said John C. Tolleson, chairman and chief executive of First USA. He also noted new acquisitions and issuing commercial cards as boons to the bank's success.

Its delinquency rate was 3.29%, compared with 2.36% in last year's third quarter. Net credit loss also rose, to 2.88% from 2%.

Capital One, ranked 12th nationally, was spun off from Signet Banking Corp. this year.

In the third quarter it increased outstandings by $1.3 billion, to $10.2 billion.

The Falls Church, Va., company added 230,000 accounts, bringing its total to six million.

"Information-based opportunities in account origination and account management fueled record balance growth of more than $1 billion in each of the last two quarters," said Richard D. Fairbank, Capital One's chairman and chief executive.

The net chargeoff rate increased to 2.35% in the third quarter, from 2.10% in the second. The delinquency rate, over 30 days, increased to 3.37% from 3.07%.

Advanta, based in Horsham, Pa., added 263,000 accounts during the quarter, raising its total to more than four million. Sept. 30 credit card receivables totaled $8.3 billion, 62% more than a year earlier.

The 30-day delinquency rate increased to 3% from 2.9% a year before. The chargeoff rate increased to 2.3% from 2.2%.

Advanta said the numbers represent the 25th consecutive quarter of record growth. "By building on our core strengths of highly developed analysis and targeting, we continue to be well positioned for future growth," said Richard Greenawalt, president and chief operating officer.

Profitable growth in the card industry continues, Mr. Orenbuch said, even though there has been a trend toward increasing losses. "Earnings are growing quite robustly because of the improvement in margins," he said.

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