AmSouth Bank Shifts to Free Online Banking Model

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In an attempt to secure its online customer base as well as to attract new customers, AmSouth Bank will no longer charge for online banking and bill payment.

Since it began offering online services in 1998, the Southeastern regional bank had charged its customers $5 per month for online bill payment and $8 per month to use Microsoft Money via the bank's Web site.

The bank now is offering the services free for all current customers and those who sign up for a personal checking account by April 30.

"Our Internet banking customers generally have higher account balances, use a wider variety of products and have a lower rate of attrition," said Rod Woodford, director of e-commerce at AmSouth Bank, Birmingham, AL. "We are making this move to retain this customer base."

The bank's online customers maintain an average savings balance that is 50 percent higher than that of offline customers, and they typically use six banking products compared with an average of three used by offline customers, he said.

AmSouth will be sending 800,000 direct mail pieces to its exclusively offline checking account holders and 140,000 pieces to its online customer base to alert them about the new promotion. The bank is airing radio ads as well as running print ads in newspapers in the Southeast.

AmSouth's online banking services include access to account balance information for checking, savings, CD, credit card, credit line and installment loans; transaction histories for checking, savings, credit card and credit line accounts; the ability to complete transactions and transfers; bill payment; and brochure and check reordering capabilities.

The bank is looking to add electronic bill presentment and account aggregation to its list of online services, Woodford said.

AmSouth Bank serves 1.8 million customers through 600 branches in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida.

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