American Express Co's first-quarter profit rose 33 percent from a year ago, as its wealthy customers spent more on their credit cards.

The credit card lender and processing network said on Wednesday it earned $1.18 billion, or 97 cents per share, in the first quarter.

That compared with $885 million, or 73 cents per share, a year earlier.

The New York-based company was one of the first to recover from a surge in losses on its credit cards during the financial crisis. It has refocused its business on processing the transactions of high-spending customers who mostly pay their bills in full every month.

American Express shares closed up less than 1 percent at $47.00 on Wednesday, and fell about 1 percent in after-hours trading following the earnings report.

(Reporting by Maria Aspan; Editing by Gary Hill)