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B of A tests consumer payment service

Joining rivals such as Citibank and Wells Fargo, Bank of America is quietly testing its own online consumer payment system.

Joining rivals such as Citibank and Wells Fargo, Bank of America is quietly testing its own online consumer payment system.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based bank is testing the system inside the company, Bank of America representatives told CNET News.com on Friday. Bank of America has not decided whether to release the system, which would compete with PayPal and other services.

"We're trying to see if this makes sense for our customers," said John Rosenfeld, consumer e-commerce executive at Bank of America. "Do they really want it, and do we want to get into that area?"

Bank of America is the latest financial giant to jump into person-to-person payments. Last year, Citigroup launched c2it, and Wells Fargo bought a 35 percent stake in eBay-owned Billpoint. Meanwhile, JP Morgan and Providian Financial each have invested in consumer payments leader PayPal.

Person-to-person payment systems allow Internet users to instantly e-mail money to each other from their checking, credit card or other accounts. The systems are popular among auction sellers because they allow the sellers to accept credit cards without going through the hassle of setting up a more costly merchant account.

While PayPal and Billpoint charge auction sellers and those who accept money to use its system, c2it charges auction buyers and those who send money.

Rosenfeld did not give details on how Bank of America's system would work.

Bank of America developed its person-to-person payment system with the help of CheckFree, Rosenfeld said. The company has also worked with CheckFree on developing its electronic bill payment and presentment service.

CheckFree representatives did not return calls seeking comment.