Getting Personal With Business Customers


San Francisco-based Wells Fargo rolled out online banking
and bill-paying services for small business owners, letting customers pay
both business and personal bills via the Internet.


The new service is called Wells Fargo Business Online Banking and Bill Pay,
and lets customers pay bills from either a business account or a personal
account with the banking company. It aims to compete with services like those
offered by CheckFree Corp. , First Data and
others.


“Rather than have separate personal and business bill pay services, Wells
Fargo believes, and our customers confirm, that it makes sense to have
anytime, anywhere access to a single, centralized service that fulfills all
of their bill payment requirements,” said Debra Rossi, executive vice
president for Wells Fargo’s Business Internet Services.


Small business customers can view account balances, review account activity,
transfer money and make payments between accounts, download transaction
histories, and access Wells Fargo Online, the bank said.
Recurring expenses that are always the same amount — an office lease,
mortgage payments or bills from an Internet Service Provider — can be paid
automatically through the bank’s Bill Pay service.


Customers can also make one-time payments for different amounts for bills
like telephone or utility services, and can also send money to any company or
person in the United States.


Most big banks are into the electronic bill paying business these days, and
competition is heating up, as witness Bank of America announcement earlier
this week Bank of America that it is waiving its monthly fee
for the bill payment feature of Online Banking for new subscribers, making
the entire service free. It had been $5.95 a month.


Bank of America claims 3.3 million active Online Banking customers and 1.1
million using Online Banking with Bill Pay.


The new Wells Fargo service is free for the first two months, and remains
free for customers with a minimum combined balance of $25,000 at all times in
their business and personal deposit accounts. For other customers the fee is
$9.95 per month.


Wells Fargo says it has more than 315,000 small business customers utilizing
business Internet banking services, over 70 percent of whom are active
(regular users over a six-month period).

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