Late-payment rates tend to creep higher in the fall, particularly as cardholders spend more money on holiday shopping, travel and other expenses. The company said that seasonal factor led to a slight increase in its credit card loan delinquency rate between the third and fourth quarter.
While Discover's rates for late payments and defaults remain low, the company has been making more loans. As a result, it has been setting aside more funds to cover potential loan losses.
In the September-to-November quarter, Discover increased its provision for loan losses by 6 percent to $338 million, noting that was somewhat offset by a drop in the number of unpaid credit card balances that had to be written off.
Meanwhile Discover's payment-services business, which competes with Visa and MasterCard, saw dollar volume increase 13 percent in the latest quarter.
In a client note Thursday, RBC Capital Markets analyst Jason Arnold said Discover is benefiting from increased acceptance of its cards and favorable credit trends.
"We remain very enthused by Discover's fundamental position and believe the company remains well positioned for loan and (earnings per share) growth," wrote Arnold, who has a $50 price target on the stock.
For the period ended Nov. 30, Discover earned $541 million, or $1.07 per share. That compares with $513 million, or 95 cents per share, a year earlier.
Analysts surveyed by FactSet expected earnings of $1.12 per share.
Revenue climbed 11 percent to $2 billion, after interest expense. Wall Street forecast $1.96 billion.
Also on Thursday, Discover declared a dividend of 14 cents per share. It will be paid on Jan. 17 to shareholders of record on Jan. 3.
Discover shares fell $1.36, or 3.4 percent, to close at $38.41 Thursday. The stock is up 60 percent this year.