Exhibit 3.1
                
 
                AMENDED AND RESTATED CERTIFICATE OF INCORPORATION
 
                                       OF
 
                             PROVIDIAN BANCORP, INC.
 
     I,  the  undersigned,  for  the  purpose  of  amending  and  restating  the
certificate of incorporation of Providian Bancorp, Inc., a corporation organized
and existing under the laws of the State of Delaware (the "Corporation"), hereby
certify as follows:
 
     1. This Amended and Restated  Certificate of Incorporation was duly adopted
by unanimous written consent of the Board of Directors of the Corporation and by
its sole  stockholder in accordance  with the applicable  provisions of Sections
228, 242 and 245 of the General Corporation Law of the State of Delaware.
 
     2. This  Amended and Restated  Certificate  of  Incorporation  restates and
amends the Certificate of Incorporation of the Corporation in its entirety.
 
     3. Pursuant to this Amended and Restated Certificate of Incorporation,  the
name of the  Corporation  is hereby  changed  from  Providian  Bancorp,  Inc. to
Providian Financial  Corporation.  The date of filing the Corporation's original
certificate of incorporation with the Secretary of State was April 13, 1984.
 
     FIRST. The name of the Corporation is Providian Financial Corporation.
 
     SECOND. The address of the Corporation's  registered office in the State of
Delaware is the  Corporation  Trust  Center,  1209 Orange  Street in the City of
Wilmington,  County  of New  Castle.  The name of its  registered  agent at such
address is The Corporation Trust Company.
 
     THIRD.  The  purpose of the  Corporation  is to engage in any lawful act or
activity for which corporations may be organized under the General  Corporation
Law of Delaware.
 
     FOURTH.  (A) The total  number of shares of all  classes of stock which the
Corporation  shall have  authority to issue is 450 million,  of which 50 million
are to be  Preferred  Stock,  par value  $.01 per share  (hereafter  called  the
"Preferred  Stock"),  and 400 million are to be Common Stock, par value $.01 per
share (hereafter called the "Common Stock").
 
     (B) The designations, preferences and relative, participating, optional or
other special rights and the qualifications, limitations or restrictions on the
Preferred Stock are as follows:
 
     Preferred Stock may be issued from time to time in one or more series.  The
number of  shares  of each such  series  and the  voting  powers,  designations,
preferences  and relative,  participating,  optional or other special rights and
qualifications,  limitations or  restrictions  thereof shall be fixed by and set
forth in  resolutions of the Board of Directors of the  Corporation  pursuant to
authority  hereby  expressly vested in such Board. The authority of the Board of
Directors  with respect to each series  shall  include to the full extent now or
hereafter  permitted by the laws of  Delaware,  but shall not be limited to, the
determination or fixing of the following:
 
     (1) the  distinctive  designation  of such  series and the number of shares
which shall constitute such series,  which number may be increased (except where
otherwise  provided  by the  Board of  Directors  in creating such  series)  or
decreased  (but not below the number of shares  thereof then  outstanding)  from
time to time by like action of the Board of Directors to the extent permitted by
law;
 
     (2) the dividend rate of such series,  the conditions and times upon which
such dividends  shall be payable,  the relations which such dividends shall bear
to the  dividends  payable  on any  other  class or  classes  of stock or series
thereof, or any other series of the same class, whether the Corporation shall be
required  to pay  such  dividends  on  specified  dates,  if funds  are  legally
available  for the payment  thereof,  or whether  the payment of such  dividends
shall be entirely at the  discretion  of the Board of  Directors,  whether  such
dividends  shall be payable in cash or by the  issuance  of Common or  Preferred
Stock  of  the  Corporation,  and  whether  dividends  shall  be  cumulative  or
noncumulative;
 
     (3) whether or not the shares of such series shall be subject to redemption
by the Corporation and the conditions  thereof,  and the times, prices and other
terms and provisions upon which the shares of the series may be redeemed;
 
     (4)  whether  or not the  shares  of the  series  shall be  subject  to the
operation  of a  retirement  or sinking  fund to be applied to the  purchase  or
redemption  of  such  shares  and,  if  such   retirement  or  sinking  fund  be
established,  the annual amount thereof and the terms and provisions relative to
the operation thereof;
 
     (5) whether or not the shares of the series  shall be  convertible  into or
exchangeable  for shares of any other  class or  classes,  with or  without  par
value,  or any other  series of the same class,  and, if  provision  is made for
conversion or exchange,  the times, prices,  rates,  adjustments and other terms
and conditions of such conversion or exchange;
 
     (6) whether or not the shares of the series have voting rights, in addition
to the voting  rights  provided by law,  and,  if so, the terms of such  voting
rights;
 
     (7) the  rights of the shares of the  series in the event of  voluntary  or
involuntary liquidation, dissolution, or upon the distribution of assets of the
Corporation; and
 
     (8) any other powers, preferences and relative, participating,  optional or
other special rights, and qualifications,  limitations or restrictions  thereof,
of the shares of such series,  as the Board of Directors may deem  advisable and
as shall not be  inconsistent  with the  provisions of this Amended and Restated
Certificate of Incorporation.
 
     (C) The  Board of  Directors  is  authorized,  subject  to any  limitations
prescribed by law, to provide for the issuance of the shares of Preferred  Stock
in series,  and by filing a certificate  pursuant to the  applicable  law of the
State of  Delaware,  to  establish  from time to time the number of shares to be
included in each such series, and to fix the designation,  powers,  preferences,
and rights of the shares of each such series and any qualifications, limitations
or restrictions  thereof. The number of authorized shares of Preferred Stock may
be  increased  or  decreased  (but not below the number of shares  thereof  then
outstanding) by the affirmative  vote of the holders of a majority of the Common
Stock,  without a vote of the holders of the Preferred  Stock,  or of any series
thereof, unless a vote of the holders of any such series is required pursuant to
the certificate or certificates establishing such series of Preferred Stock.
 
     (D) Except as otherwise provided by law or by the resolution or resolutions
adopted by the Board of Directors designating the rights, powers and preferences
of any series of  Preferred  Stock,  the Common  Stock shall have the  exclusive
right to vote for the election of  directors  and for all other  purposes.  Each
share of Common  Stock  shall  have one vote,  and the Common  Stock  shall vote
together as a single class.
 
     FIFTH.  Unless and except to the extent that the By-Laws of the Corporation
shall so require,  the election of directors of the  Corporation  need not be by
written ballot.
 
     SIXTH. In furtherance and not in limitation of the powers conferred by law,
except as  otherwise  provided  herein,  the  Board of  Directors  is  expressly
authorized  and  empowered  to  make,  alter  and  repeal  the  By-Laws  of  the
Corporation by a majority vote at any regular or special meeting of the Board of
Directors or by written consent, subject to the power of the stockholders of the
Corporation  to alter or repeal  any  By-Laws  made by the  Board of  Directors.
Notwithstanding  the  foregoing  and  anything  contained  in this  Amended  and
Restated Certificate of Incorporation to the contrary, Section 1.2 of Article I
of the By-Laws,  and paragraphs  (a), (b), (d) and (e) of Section 2.2 of Article
II of the  By-Laws,  shall not be altered,  amended or repealed and no provision
inconsistent  therewith  shall be adopted  without the  affirmative  vote of the
holders  of at least 80  percent  of the  voting  power of all the shares of the
Corporation  entitled to vote  generally  in the election of  directors,  voting
together as a single class.  Notwithstanding  anything contained in this Amended
and Restated Certificate of Incorporation to the contrary,  the affirmative vote
of the  holders of at least 80 percent of the voting  power of all the shares of
the Corporation entitled to vote generally in the election of directors,  voting
together  as a single  class,  shall be  required  to  alter,  amend,  adopt any
provision inconsistent with or to repeal this Article SIXTH.
 
     SEVENTH.  Except as  otherwise  fixed by or  pursuant to the  provision  of
Article  FOURTH  hereof  relating  to the rights of the  holders of any class or
series of stock  having a  preference  over the Common  Stock as to dividends or
upon  liquidation to elect additional  directors under specified  circumstances,
the  number of  directors  shall be fixed from time to time  exclusively  by the
Board of Directors  pursuant to a resolution  adopted by a majority of the total
number of  authorized  directors  (whether or not there exist any  vacancies  in
previously authorized directorships at the time any such resolution is presented
to the Board for  adoption),  but such number shall not be less than three.  The
directors,  other  than those who may be elected by any class or series of stock
having a preference  over the Common Stock as to dividends or upon  liquidation,
shall be divided into three classes, as nearly equal in number as possible, with
the term of office  of the  first  class to  expire  at the  annual  meeting  of
stockholders  to be held in 1998,  the term of  office  of the  second  class to
expire at the annual meeting of stockholders to be held in 1999, and the term of
office of the third class to expire at the annual meeting of  stockholders to be
held in 2000, with each director to hold office until his or her successor shall
have been duly elected and qualified. At each annual meeting of the stockholders
of the  Corporation,  the successors of the directors whose terms expire at that
meeting  shall be  elected  to hold  office  for a term  expiring  at the annual
meeting  of  stockholders  held in the third  year  following  the year of their
election,  with each  director to hold office until his or her  successor  shall
have been duly elected and qualified. If authorized by a resolution of the Board
of  Directors,  directors  may be  elected  to fill any  vacancy on the Board of
Directors, regardless of how such vacancy shall have been created.
 
     Advance  notice of  stockholder  nominations  for the election of directors
shall be given in the manner provided in the By-Laws of the Corporation.
 
     Except as otherwise  provided for or fixed by or pursuant to the provisions
of Article  FOURTH hereof  relating to the rights of the holders of any class or
series of stock  having a  preference  over the Common  Stock as to dividends or
upon  liquidation to elect additional  directors under specified  circumstances,
newly created directorships resulting from any increase in the authorized number
of directors and any vacancies on the Board of Directors  resulting  from death,
resignation,  retirement,  disqualification,  removal  or other  cause  shall be
filled by the affirmative vote of a majority of the remaining  directors then in
office,  even though less than a quorum of the Board of Directors.  Any director
elected in  accordance  with the  preceding  sentence  shall hold office for the
remainder  of the  full  term  of the  class  of  directors  in  which  the  new
directorship  was  created or the  vacancy  occurred  and until such  director's
successor shall have been duly elected and qualified.  No decrease in the number
of directors  constituting  the Board of Directors shall shorten the term of any
incumbent director.
 
     Subject to the  rights of holders of any class or series of stock  having a
preference  over the Common Stock as to dividends or upon  liquidation  to elect
additional directors under specified circumstances,  any director, or the entire
Board of Directors,  may be removed from office at any time,  but only for cause
and only by the  affirmative  vote of the  holders of at least 80 percent of the
combined voting power of all of the then  outstanding  shares of the Corporation
entitled to vote  generally in the election of directors,  voting  together as a
single class.
 
     Notwithstanding anything contained in this Amended and Restated Certificate
of  Incorporation  to the contrary,  the  affirmative  vote of the holders of at
least 80 percent of the voting power of all shares of the  Corporation  entitled
to vote  generally in the  election of  directors,  voting  together as a single
class, shall be required to alter, amend, adopt any provision  inconsistent with
or to repeal this Article SEVENTH.
 
     EIGHTH.  Subject  to the  rights of the  holders  of any class or series of
stock  having  a  preference  over the  Common  Stock  as to  dividends  or upon
liquidation, any action required or permitted to be taken by the stockholders of
the  Corporation  must be effected at a duly called annual or special meeting of
stockholders  of the  Corporation  and may not be  effected  by any  consent  in
writing by such stockholders. Except as otherwise required by law and subject to
the rights of the  holders of any class or series of stock  having a  preference
over the Common Stock as to dividends or upon liquidation,  a special meeting of
stockholders  of the Corporation may be called only by the Chairman of the Board
of the Corporation or by the Board of Directors pursuant to a resolution stating
the  purpose or purposes of such  special  meeting  adopted by a majority of the
total number of authorized  directors  (whether or not there exist any vacancies
in  previously  authorized  directorships  at the time any  such  resolution  is
presented to the Board for adoption).  The stockholders shall not have the power
to call a special meeting for any purpose. Notwithstanding anything contained in
this Amended and Restated  Certificate  of  Incorporation  to the contrary,  the
affirmative vote of the holders of at least 80 percent of the voting power of of
all shares of the  Corporation  entitled to vote  generally  in the  election of
directors, voting together as a single class, shall be required to alter, amend,
adopt any provision inconsistent with or to repeal this Article EIGHTH.
 
     NINTH. The Corporation  reserves the right at any time from time to time to
amend,  alter,  change or repeal any  provision  contained  in this  Amended and
Restated  Certificate of Incorporation,  and any other provisions  authorized by
the laws of the State of Delaware at the time in force may be added or inserted,
in the manner now or hereafter  prescribed  by law; and all rights,  preferences
and privileges of whatsoever  nature conferred upon  stockholders,  directors or
any other  persons  whomsoever  by and  pursuant to this  Amended  and  Restated
Certificate  of  Incorporation  in its present form or as hereafter  amended are
granted subject to the right reserved in this Article.
 
     TENTH. (A) A director of the Corporation  shall not be personally liable to
the Corporation or its stockholders for monetary damages for breach of fiduciary
duty as a  director,  except to the extent  such  exemption  from  liability  or
limitation  thereof is not permitted  under the General  Corporation  Law of the
State of Delaware as the same exists or may hereafter be amended.  Any repeal or
modification  of any provision of this Article TENTH shall not adversely  affect
any right or protection of a director of the Corporation existing hereunder with
respect to any act,  omission  or  occurrence  or matter  arising  prior to such
repeal or modification.
 
     (B) (1) Each person who was or is made a party or is  threatened to be made
a party to or is involved  in any action,  suit or  proceeding,  whether  civil,
criminal,  administrative  or  investigative  (hereinafter a  "proceeding"),  by
reason of the fact that such person,  or another  person for whom such person is
the legal representative,  is or was a director or officer of the Corporation or
is or was serving at the  request of the  Corporation  as a  director,  officer,
employee or agent of another  corporation  or of a  partnership,  joint venture,
trust or other  enterprise,  including  service with respect to employee benefit
plans,  whether the basis of such  proceeding  is alleged  action in an official
capacity as a  director,  officer,  employee  or agent or in any other  capacity
while serving as a director,  officer,  employee or agent,  shall be indemnified
and held harmless by the  Corporation  to the fullest  extent  authorized by the
Delaware General Corporation Law, as the same exists or may hereafter be amended
(but, in the case of any such amendment, to the fullest extent permitted by law,
only to the  extent  that such  amendment  permits  the  Corporation  to provide
broader  indemnification  rights  than said law  permitted  the  Corporation  to
provide  prior to such  amendment),  against  all  expense,  liability  and loss
(including  attorneys' fees,  judgments,  fines, ERISA excise taxes or penalties
and amounts paid or to be paid in settlement) reasonably incurred or suffered by
such person in connection therewith and such  indemnification  shall continue as
to a person  who has ceased to be a  director,  officer,  employee  or agent and
shall inure to the benefit of such person's heirs, executors and administrators;
provided,  however,  that,  except as provided  in Section  (B),  paragraph  (2)
hereof, the Corporation shall indemnify any such person seeking  indemnification
in connection with a proceeding (or part thereof)  initiated by such person only
if such proceeding (or part thereof) was authorized by the Board of Directors of
the Corporation. The right to indemnification conferred in this Section shall be
a contract right and shall include the right to be paid by the  Corporation  the
expenses  incurred  in  defending  any such  proceeding  in advance of its final
disposition;  provided,  however,  that, if the Delaware General Corporation Law
requires, the payment of such expenses incurred by a director or officer in such
person's  capacity  as a director or officer  (and not in any other  capacity in
which  service was or is  rendered  by such person  while a director or officer,
including,  without limitation,  service to an employee benefit plan) in advance
of the final  disposition  of a proceeding,  shall be made only upon delivery to
the Corporation of an undertaking,  by or on behalf of such director or officer,
to repay all amounts so advanced if it shall  ultimately be determined that such
director or officer is not  entitled  to be  indemnified  under this  Section or
otherwise.  The Corporation may, by action of the Board, to the extent permitted
by the Delaware General  Corporation Law, provide  indemnification  to employees
and agents of the  Corporation  with the same scope and effect as the  foregoing
indemnification of directors and officers.
 
     (2) If a claim under  Section (B),  paragraph  (1) of this Article TENTH is
not paid in full by the Corporation within thirty days after a written claim has
been received by the Corporation,  the claimant may at any time thereafter bring
suit against the  Corporation  to recover the unpaid amount of the claim and, if
successful in whole or in part,  the claimant  shall be entitled to be paid also
the expense of prosecuting  such claim. It shall be a defense to any such action
(other  than an action  brought  to  enforce a claim for  expenses  incurred  in
defending any proceeding in advance of its final  disposition where the required
undertaking,  if any is required, has been tendered to the Corporation) that the
claimant has not met the  standards of conduct which make it  permissible  under
the Delaware  General  Corporation  Law for the  Corporation  to  indemnify  the
claimant for the amount claimed, but the burden of proving such defense shall be
on the Corporation.  Neither the failure of the Corporation (including its Board
of Directors,  independent  legal counsel,  or its  stockholders) to have made a
determination  prior to the commencement of such action that  indemnification of
the  claimant is proper in the  circumstances  because the  claimant has met the
applicable  standard of conduct set forth in the  Delaware  General  Corporation
Law, nor an actual  determination  by the  Corporation  (including  its Board of
Directors, independent legal counsel, or its stockholders) that the claimant has
not met such applicable standard of conduct, shall be a defense to the action or
create a presumption  that the claimant has not met the  applicable  standard of
conduct.
 
     (3) The right to  indemnification  and the payment of expenses  incurred in
defending a  proceeding  in advance of its final  disposition  conferred in this
Article  TENTH  shall not be  exclusive  of any other right which any person may
have or hereafter  acquire under any statute,  provision of the  Certificate  of
Incorporation,   By-Law,   agreement,  vote  of  stockholders  or  disinterested
directors or otherwise.
 
     (4) The  Corporation  may maintain  insurance,  at its expense,  to protect
itself  and any  director,  officer,  employee  or agent of the  Corporation  or
another  corporation,  partnership,  joint  venture,  trust or other  enterprise
against any such  expense,  liability  or loss,  whether or not the  Corporation
would have the power to indemnify such person against such expense, liability or
loss under the Delaware General Corporation Law.
 
                                                     
 
<PAGE>
 
 
     IN WITNESS WHEREOF,  said Providian  Financial  Corporation has caused this
certificate  to be signed by its President and attested by its  Secretary,  this
30th day of May, 1997.
 
                                        By:        /s/ Shailesh J. Mehta
                                                   -----------------------
                                        Name:      Shailesh J. Mehta
                                        Title:     Chief Executive Officer
                                                   
 
                                        Attest:    /s/ Mary Ellen Richey
                                                   ----------------------
                                        Name:      Mary Ellen Richey
                                        Title      Secretary