Discover Financial is ending the year on a high note. The company announced via a conference call that its fiscal fourth quarter earnings increased by 46 percent from the previous quarter. The Washington Post quoted Discover executives as saying during that call that the increase showed more and more consumers are using Discover as their primary credit card.

The company also points to greater acceptance by merchants as a factor in its becoming more frequently used, plus the fact that cash back rewards like Discover offers are one of the most popular features in credit cards today. Another factor in the company's financial growth was more card holders were not only paying their credit card bills on time, but also paying them off each month. The Post story notes that it's an industry-wide trend, as people using credit cards today tend to be better off economically, meaning they are more likely to pay off their bill each month.

The jump in earnings follows a study the company just released saying consumer confidence had risen in November by 7 points from the previous month. The Discover U.S. Spending Monitor is a daily poll the company uses to gauge the spending intentions of almost 8,200 customers. The Monitor poll also revealed 39 percent of customers plan to spend more money in December, which is the highest level in the poll since July of 2008.

The company posted gains in other areas as well, including student loans and personal banking. During the fourth quarter the company purchased another $2.4 billion in student loans which brought its total non-credit loans to $10.7 billion. For the full fiscal year through Nov. 30, Discover reported net income of $2.2 billion, which was up from $1.53 billion over the previous year.