Visa Inc., the world's largest payments network, said fiscal first-quarter profit rose 24 percent as consumer card spending increased.

Net income for the period ended Dec. 31 climbed to $1.94 billion, or 80 cents a share, from $1.57 billion, or 63 cents, a year earlier, the Foster City, California-based company said Thursday in a statement. Adjusted profit, which excludes some one-time items, was 69 cents a share, beating the 68-cent average estimate of 32 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Chief Executive Officer Charlie Scharf is investing in technology aimed at accelerating digital payments, and striking deals with retailers like Costco Wholesale Corp. as consumers demand better reward programs. The firm in November agreed to buy Visa Europe Ltd. in a transaction valued at as much as 21.2 billion euros ($23.2 billion) to unify the brand globally after eight years as separate companies.

"We continue to be pleased with our financial performance given the uneven global economy and the ongoing negative effects of the strong U.S. dollar," Scharf, 50, said in the statement. "While these headwinds do not appear to be abating in the short- term as we had hoped, the fundamentals of our business remain strong."

American Express Co., the biggest credit-card issuer by purchases, said last week that fourth-quarter profit fell 38 percent to $899 million as expenses rose and the company took a restructuring charge. Discover Financial Services on Wednesday posted net income and revenue that missed analysts' estimates as card loan growth was at the low end of the company's forecast. MasterCard Inc., the second-largest payments networks, reports results Friday.

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