Banc One Corp. announced Monday that it will begin offering home banking services this month through screen phones in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The Columbus, Ohio-based banking company will work with Visa Interactive, the remote services affiliate of Visa International, to sell the enhanced telephones and related services directly to customers and through retail outlets, beginning the week of Sept. 25.
"We feel this program is a model for the delivery of financial services," said Bruce Luecke, vice president of alternative delivery for Banc One, at a press conference Monday during the national bank card conference in New York.
Bank One Texas will be the first financial institution in the Visa home banking program to conduct a full rollout of screen phones.
The initiative appears to be bringing the devices more into the mainstream than was the case in many past attempts.
Typically, the advanced phones were available primarily through banks and were priced as high as $700. The phones in Bank One's program are being sold in part through GTE retail outlets and will have an introductory price of $149.95.
Bank One Texas will also solicit holders of its OneCard Visa check card via direct mail.
The service package - including bill payments, account inquiries, transfers of funds, and shopping - will cost $5.95 a month. Users must enter a password and swipe a debit or credit card before making a transaction.
Through Visa Interactive, Banc One Corp. is making its most significant run at remote banking. After failing at several advanced banking experiments dating back to the early 1980s, the company has been offering a PC-based service over the Prodigy network that has a "very limited" following in the Columbus area, Mr. Luecke said.
In November 1993, Banc One had committed to marketing screen phones - using the PhonePlus device from U.S. Order Inc. that will be enlisted in the Visa Interactive program.
But nothing has been done since, Mr. Luecke said, because the phone was not up to snuff.
"The software has been upgraded significantly," he said. "Quite frankly, we didn't think it would sell at that time."
"Anyone who held off in 1993 is probably happy now," said Adam Schoenfeld, an analyst with Jupiter Communications Co., a New York-based consulting firm.
Mr. Schoenfeld said screen phone prices are more reasonable, approaching the cost of the more sophisticated telephones without the screen enhancement.
However, Mr. Schoenfeld said, "we may be seeing the last gasps of screen phones" as the trends shift in favor of personal computers.
D. Fraser Bullock, president of Visa Interactive, said its strategy is to bring consumers closer to the bank through a range of different access channels, including PCs and screen phones. He said he expects major retailers, such as Circuit City, to carry screen phones in two to three years, adding the price point will generate volume sales.
Mr. Luecke said the phones can be "transaction enablers" that are more time-efficient than computers for routine services like checking balances and making purchases.
Carl Pascarella, president of Visa U.S.A., said the smart phone "cuts to the core of what the consumer is asking for," noting that more than 50% of consumers surveyed by Visa preferred to do home banking via telephone.
Lisa Fickenscher contributed to this report.