American Express will be ready to market the Optima card to the general public by late 1993, according to the top executive of the Optima unit.

Frank Skillern, the president of American Express Centurion Bank, which issues the card, said in an interview Wednesday that his unit will have worked through its credit problems by that time. He cautioned that the company has no specific plans now to broaden the marketing program.

Mr. Skillern joined Optima a year ago, following a $24 million charge related to writeoffs in the revolving-card program. The card, launched in 1987, is offered only to holders of American Express' charge cards - a policy designed to ensure superior credit quality.

On Wednesday, American Express Travel Related Services unveiled its first national campaign for Optima with the theme, "You Know What You're Doing."

"We now have a product we're proud of," Mr. Skillern said. "Now is the time to advertise."

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