Countrywide Credit Industries Inc.’s recent deal with CheckFree Holdings Corp. paves the way for Countrywide customers to receive and pay mortgage bills electronically.

Under terms of the agreement reached last week, Norcross, Ga.-based CheckFree will make electronic bill payment and presentment services available to Countrywide’s 2.4 million mortgage customers.

Calabasass, Calif.-based Countrywide said customers signing up for the service will stop getting paper bills after only one billing cycle – a short migration timetable, one analyst said.

“Countrywide is moving very aggressively to cut costs,” said Avivah Litan, research director for the Gartner Group.

She added, “Countrywide has been very successful in attracting an online audience, and it will probably get a very high adoption of this process.”

Customers opting for the service will be able to view bills on demand, review current and outstanding account balances, and access full detail about their bills, according to Countrywide.

Though Ms. Litan referred to Countrywide as “the role model for the industry,” she said its competition is not far behind.

A recent survey of 175 lending institutions by Gartner found that almost 30% have, or are working on, online bill presentment. She expects this figure to jump to 40% by the end of the year.

Ms. Litan also said that though the deal is great news for CheckFree, the company faces increasing competition. Several competitors have entered the online billing business following the company’s mid-February deal for TransPoint.

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