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Banking rivals take battle online

Wells Fargo and Bank of America offered packages for consumers and small business.

In the rush to put financial services online, two rival banking leaders today introduced packages tailored for consumers and small-business owners.

Wells Fargo is debuting Business Gateway, a Windows-based package specifically designed for small businesses. Bank of America is launching Internet HomeBanking, a new service co-designed by Netscape Communications.

Business Gateway connects online bankers to Wells Fargo's computer systems through online service Compuserve's proprietary network. It allows users to check up-to-the-minute account balances and transactions, transfer funds between accounts, and stop check payments. The service is available nationwide for a one-time fee of $14.95, plus a $5 monthly connection charge.

Wells Fargo expects to have one-third of its small-business customers online in three years, according to a story in today's Wall Street Journal.

Bank of America's Internet HomeBanking allows consumers to conduct encrypted banking services, such as obtaining balances, statements, paying bills, transferring balances, and contacting customer service, on the Internet. The service, which uses a standard Netscape Web browser, also links into personal finance software, such as Managing Your Money. Pricing was not available.

Most major banks are rushing to debut online services in an effort to cut expenses. Many are introducing services based on popular personal finance software from Microsoft and Intuit, such as the latter's Quicken program. IBM is backing a rival service already adopted by ten leading banks that uses its own customized software.

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