American Express cardholders tend to be more affluent than other credit card users, and the company has done well in the slow, bumpy recovery from the recession.
For the three months ended Dec. 31, American Express reported net income of $637 million, or 56 cents per share. That compares with net income of $1.2 billion, or $1.01 per share, in the same period last year.
Excluding the after-tax charges, American Express' earnings amounted to $1.09 per share. Analysts polled by FactSet expected adjusted earnings of $1.06 per share.
Revenue for the quarter grew 5 percent to $8.14 billion, in line with analysts' forecast.
For the full year, American Express net income fell 9 percent to $4.48 billion, or $3.89 per share, compared with net income of $4.94 billion, or $4.12 per share, in 2011.
Revenue for 2012 grew 5 percent to $31.6 billion from about $30 billion.
American Express shares ended regular trading up 12 cents at $60.74. The stock lost 64 cents at $60.10 in after-market trading.
Rival credit card issuer and lender Capital One Financial Corp. also reported fourth-quarter earnings on Thursday.
The McLean, Va.-based company said its net income rose to $825 million, or $1.41 per share. That compares with $381 million, or 88 cents per share, in the same period a year ago.
Revenue jumped 38 percent to $5.62 billion from $4.05 billion.
The results fell short of Wall Street expectations. Analysts polled by FactSet expected earnings of $1.58 per share on revenue of $5.76 billion.
Capital One shares fell $4.41, or 7.2 percent, to $57.18 in extended trading. The stock ended the regular session down 16 cents at $61.59.