Bank of America's winning bid of $3 million for rights to the name "loans.com" is not the highest price paid for a Web domain name.
Business.com was sold for a record $7.5 million, and altavista.com fetched $3.3 million. An auction for America.com may exceed $30 million, according to GreatDomains.com, a research company.
The moves are part of a strategy to capitalize on electronic commerce and its effect on financial services, a Bank of America spokesman said, adding that loans.com is a domain name "that you have one chance in a lifetime to get."
The spokesman said that though BankofAmerica.com will remain the company's primary site he expects that loans.com will gain a customer base throughout the United States and Canada. "We think this address gives us a chance to reach more people and more customers," he said.
The sale is another unexpected way the Internet is producing profits.
"I got lucky," Marcelo Siero, the seller of loans.com, told the San Jose Mercury News. Mr. Siero, a computer consultant and electrical engineer, bought the domain name as a marketing tool for an on-line connection service that went out of business. Upon hearing the price paid for loans.com, Seth Werner, chairman of Mortgage.com, quipped, "Maybe we should sell our name and raise some capital."
HomeSide Lending of Jacksonville, Fla., used to own the domain name homeloan.com. Last year it sold the name to a Dallas company for "more than $1 million," said Daniel T. Scheuble, chief information officer at HomeSide. It bought homeside.com for "less than five figures," he said. "Obviously we feel pretty good about the tradeoff."
"It's a very valuable name," Mr. Scheuble said of homeloan.com. But HomeSide's strategy is not to have a retail brand name but to process and service loans for others that do, so the Web address "had more value to someone else."
"I don't think we'd pay $3 million for a domain name," said Tiffany Kelley, a spokeswoman for E-Loan. "The return on investment might not look good."
Bank of America officials, however, said they feel the investment will pay off. The company also owns 5% of E-Loan, an Internet mortgage and auto lender, and a stake in 724 Solutions, a financial services software developer.
"Loans.com will give us an additional channel to market our loans and enable us to develop new value propositions that reach millions of new individuals and small businesses," said Ken Lewis, president and chief operating officer of Bank of America.