American Express Co. veteran Steven D. Goldstein will join Sears, Roebuck and Co. as president of its credit card business.

Mr. Goldstein, 44, resigned as the chairman and chief executive of American Express Bank in February.

He succeeds Jane J. Thompson, who was recently named president of Sears Home Services.

The move, announced last week, comes amid strong rumors that Sears is planning to issue a Visa credit card.

Spokeswoman Jan Drummond confirmed that the $56.6 billion company, the nation's second largest retailer, "has been exploring the concept for a number of months," and that a decision will be reached in the first half of this year.

"All signs indicate that Sears is gearing up to do something big," said James L. Accomando, a credit card consultant based in Fairfield, Conn. Mr. Accomando also believes that Sears will continue to bring in top card executives.

In addition to Mr. Goldstein, Sears recently hired MasterCard's cobranding chief, Kristine Crow, to be manager of market and product development of the retailer's proprietary card.

Last June, Sears announced a major relaunch of its store card, including a new look, and a $1 million sweepstakes program rewarding its customers for using their cards.

More than 6.4 million new accounts were opened as a result of the promotion, increasing the number of accounts to about 50 million.

In the past 12 months, more than 30 million people have used their Sears card to make purchases, said Ms. Drummond. Receivables in 1994 were $21 billion.

Mr. Goldstein, who spent 14 years at American Express - the last five at the helm of American Express Bank, a $13-billion asset institution licensed to operate outside the United States.

He also held several international general management positions with responsibility for the American Express card, travelers checks, and travel and related businesses.

Mr. Goldstein, who starts his new job on April 1, will report to Arthur C. Martinez, chairman and chief executive of Sears.

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