Chase Manhattan Corp. un- veiled a rewritten version of its home banking service Monday and removed its fee.
The move puts Chase in a stronger position to compete against rivals including Citicorp, which dropped many of its electronic banking fees two years ago.
"I think this is going to keep happening across the board," said Scott Smith, director of the digital commerce group at Jupiter Communications in New York. "People are going to be either lowering on-line banking fees to near zero or dropping them in an effort to be competitive."
Chase's old, proprietary service cost $10.95 a month and attracted about 15,000 users-a fraction of the 400,000 Citibank has reportedly enrolled. The new version, Chase Online Banking, should attract "several hundred thousand customers over the next two years," Chase officials said.
It also offers home banking to about 85,000 customers through Intuit Inc.'s Quicken and Microsoft Corp.'s Money personal financial management software.
Chase Online lets customers check account balances, track the clearing of checks, transfer funds between accounts, pay bills, and send electronic mail to service representatives. The customer interface is Windows-based, and transactions travel via a private computer link. Ronald Braco, senior vice president, said the New York bank is working on an Internet version of the system that should be available "in the latter part of this year."
Mr. Braco said Chase Online is designed to be less complicated and offer "more fundamental" banking services than Quicken and Money.
The Chase service does not need user fees to justify its development and maintenance costs, he said. Those expenses "will be more than offset with the kind of relationship profitability that we are seeing with customers who use PC banking," he said.
Alan Pohlman, executive vice president at Carmody & Bloom, a Ridgewood, N.J., consulting firm, said the no-fee strategy is smart but puts "a lot of pressure on the operational aspect to be extremely efficient and low-cost."