U.S. Bancorp has become the first bank in the country to align itself openly with Intuit Inc., saying it will link its computer banking service to the Quicken personal finance software.

The Portland, Ore.-based banking company is expanding its home banking program, called U-Bank, to accommodate users of Intuit's market-leading finance program for personal computers.

U.S. Bancorp's Quicken option will become available sometime this fall, said Linda Parker, vice president and manager of remote banking.

For more than a year, U.S. Bancorp has offered its PC banking customers similar on-line financial services using Microsoft Corp.'s Money software. It was in the first group of financial institutions to work in partnership with Microsoft, along with First Chicago Corp. and Michigan National Corp.

Chase Manhattan Corp. has also allied with the software giant to provide home banking.

In October, Microsoft announced an agreement to acquire Intuit for $1.5 billion. The deal rocked the software and banking worlds and pointed up a heightened interest in broad-based home banking - and electronic commerce in general.

U.S. Bank's decision to team up with Intuit had nothing to do with the bank's prior relationship with Microsoft, Ms. Parker said. In fact, the bank had been "exploring on-line banking" with both Intuit and its would-be parent since 1991, she said.

"We had talked with them about a couple of different ideas - brainstorming, selling, or distributing software," Ms. Parker said.

But she said bank officials were most encouraged by the success of the Money on-line service, and by the number of customers who had inquired about expanding the service to include Quicken. About 3,500 U.S. Bancorp customers have signed up for the current home banking program.

The new service, much like the bank's Money program, will allow Quicken software users to access their checking, savings, money market, personal line of credit, or U.S. Bank credit card accounts. New transactions will be immediately downloaded from the bank to the customer, eliminating the need to key in the account changes.

Quicken has more than six million users, by far more than any other personal finance software on the market. While Intuit got that far without direct help from domestic banks - it recently entered marketing alliances with two of the top banks in Germany - the U.S. Bancorp announcement provides a symbolic lift, and perhaps much more.

It is the first such vote of confidence from the banking community, much of which reacted with fear and apprehension to the Menlo Park, Calif.-based firm's pending acquisition by Microsoft. Also, the ability to download financial information directly from the bank and update transactions adds value to the Quicken software in terms of time savings.

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