American Express Centurion Bank, the Delaware-based consumer lending unit of American Express Travel Related Services Co., said it will relocate to Wilmington at the end of this year.
The bank, which provides the Optima card and other credit products, will depart Newark, where its lease expires on Dec. 31.
The company will move with 125 employees to 27,000 square feet of space in Wilmington's One Christina Center. The lease there runs through 1998.
Each city is home to several credit card operations, lured to Delaware in the '80s by low taxes and no usury ceiling. Among the big issuers in Newark are Bank of New York (Delaware) and MBNA America Bank.
Denizens of Wilmington
Wilmington-based banks include First Chicago Corp.'s FCC National Bank, Chase Manhattan Bank (USA), and First USA Bank, which is also in Christina Center.
The American Express unit's move was hailed by Wilmington Mayor James H. Sills Jr. as "a terrific boost for the city."
Centurion Bank's chief operating officer, Frank Petrilli, is on the board of Wilmington 2000, which is promoting revitalization of the central business district.
"We are committed to maintaining a strong presence in Delaware," said Frank Skillern, Centurion's chairman and president. "This move will help strengthen the bank's visibility as one of the preeminent consumer lending institutions in the U.S."
Centurion Bank ranks among the 10 largest in card receivables. With $10.2 billion of total assets at yearend 1992, it was the largest of all banks in Delaware.
Aside from the Optima revolving credit card, the bank administers the American Express Sign and Travel program an provides lines of credit o American Express gold card an platinum card accounts.