To attract new customers and serve current ones better, Mississippi's Lamar Bank and two nonbank partners are offering low-cost computers along with discounted Internet access.
The six-branch bank, which is owned by $393 million-asset Lamar Capital Corp. of Purvis, Miss., is counting on the offer to increase fee income and reduce overhead.
Lamar teamed up with Howard Industries, a privately held computer and electronics manufacturer in Laurel, Miss., and the mobile phone giant Cellular One to package the deal.
In the three-way arrangement, Howard sells two computer models for as little as $749. Lamar finances the purchase, and Cellular One offers Internet access at $14.95 a month.
Once buyers configure their machine and connect to the Internet, they are immediately greeted by Lamar Bank's home page.
"By offering Internet-ready PCs and local Internet access, along with very competitive finance rates, we make it possible for customers to afford a much-needed service," said Kenneth Lott, Lamar Capital's president and chief operating officer.
The Internet site lets Lamar customers check balances, transfer funds, and see if checks have cleared. For a fee, customers also can use the Internet to pay bills.
"Internet service reduces overhead costs for certain transactions," Mr. Lott said. "If they can check on things with their computer, that's fewer phone calls that customers make here, which reduces the level of support accounts need."
Lamar is not the only community bank to jump onto the Internet with a broader strategy than building a Web site and hoping people find it.
Britton & Koontz First National Bank of Natchez, Miss., and City National Bank of Charleston, W.Va., are among a number of banks that own Internet service providers.