NationsBank Corp. has unveiled plans to offer a PC banking service through Meca Software Inc.'s Managing Your Money personal finance software.

The announcement marks the first time a bank has committed to using the software for home banking since NationsBank and BankAmerica Corp. jointly bought Meca in May with an eye toward offering a bank-owned alternative in the personal finance software market. Three other banks are in the process of buying shares of Meca.

The deal is an indication that Meca may be ready to make a stronger play for PC home banking customers. Meca's primary competitors, Intuit Inc. and Microsoft Corp., have signed upward of 20 banks each to run home banking services through their respective personal finance software packages, Quicken and Money.

Chris LeTocq, an analyst with Dataquest of San Jose, Calif., said that although Meca's software-based service doesn't have the market recognition that Quicken does, the product itself is comparable. "From a user's perspective, it looks pretty good."

NationsBank is taking a proprietary stance with its PC home banking program.

In addition to owning part of Meca - B of A is a co-owner and First Bank System Inc., Royal Bank of Canada, and Fleet Financial Group await approval of stakes - The Charlotte, N.C.-based bank plans to handle its own bill- payment processing from an operations facility in Houston.

"NationsBank is in the software business," said Rick Parsons, president of direct banking at the company. "Unlike previous ventures with software companies moving into the banking business, we're a bank moving into the software business."

Although handling bill-payment processing may be prove a heavy burden, Phoebe Simpson, an analyst with New York City-based Jupiter Communications Co., noted that it frees the bank from tying its reputation to that of a third-party processor.

NationsBank is giving away the software and offering free banking and bill-paying services to certain customers.

PC banking would be free to checking customers, and electronic bill- payment services would be free to customers with more than $3,500 in balances.

Other customers would pay $5.95 a month for up to 20 transactions and 50 cents apiece for each transaction after that.

The bank plans to roll out the services in Texas this month and in the Carolinas by May. It said it would extend them to Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., by the end of the year.

Based on an estimate that roughly 35% of NationsBank customer households have PCs, bank officials expect to have at least 100,000 on-line banking customers by the end of the year.

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