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CompuServe opens window at bank

CompuServe opened an online banking center that will even let customers talk to tellers.

CompuServe opened an online banking center today that will let subscribers pay bills, check out account balances, and even talk to customer service representatives over the Net.

CompuServe has teamed up with Security First National Bank to provide the service. The bank, which first opened its virtual lobby to Internet users in October, is an independent, publicly held institution insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

What's new is that subscribers to CompuServe, the second-largest online service, can now get access to SFNB's Web site (keyword: Go Banking) without appearing to exit CompuServe's proprietary network. Subscribers who join now will get four months free, 200 complimentary paper checks, and no check-writing limits. The banking service normally costs $10 per month and includes 20 free electronic payments and ten withdrawals from any machine that accepts a Security First ATM card.

Transactions are encrypted by a multilayered, military-grade platform that is used by the Defense Department and other military agencies, according to CompuServe. In addition to the encryption technology and firewalls protecting the bank's internal network, SFNB uses a "virtual lock box" for each customer account so that only the account holder can access their information.

CompuServe is hoping for to eventually have 20 or 30 banks available to users, starting with more arrivals later this month. By fall, the company expects to add a service that will allow users to arrange loans of up to $10,000 by applying online with Beneficial National Bank.

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