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Mercantile adds online banking, bill-paying

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Mercantile Bank has joined the cyberspace revolution.

Mercantile recently launched its free online banking service at

www.mercantile.com

providing various services at no cost and offering online bill-paying service for a monthly fee.

For the first time, Mercantile customers can check their balances, transfer funds and pay bills all via the Internet. And word travels fast on the Web, as evidenced by the nearly 100 customers per day who have been signing up for the new service, according to a March 12 news release from Mercantile.

"In terms of convenience, this is the most exciting innovation in banking since ATMs," said Steve Milstid, vice chairman, operations and technology, in the release. "Online banking allows our customers to complete many of the transactions that previously required a trip to the branch or a call to customer service all from their computers at home or on the road."

Specifically, the free part of Mercantile's online banking allows customers to:

?Check current balances in checking, savings, Money Market, Certificate of Deposit and personal reserve accounts.

?Verify posted checks.

?View recent account statements.

?Transfer funds from one Mercantile account to another.

?Review pending and future transfers.

?Download transactions into Quicken or Microsoft Money.

?Send e-mail messages to customer service using the Secure Mail feature.

?Receive proactive e-mail notifications when an account balance rises above or falls below a self-designated amount.

?Name accounts for quick identification.

Bill paying & money management tools. For a monthly fee of $5.95, customers can use Mercantile's optional bill-pay service to schedule bills up to one year in advance, pay recurring items like mortgages, pay bills when away from home, etc.

"Customers also can search their statement information going back six months to find a transaction a feature that will be handy at tax time," Milstid said.

Mercantile opted to develop a true Internet-based system rather than a direct dial-up system because "Internet banking has become the gold standard," according to Milstid. "If you bank via the Internet, you can access your accounts from virtually any Internet-connected computer."

System security. Security was a key issue in the system's development.

Mercantile technology staff deliberately selected a system that requires users to have 128-bit encryption in their Web browsers.

And, the online banking system checks each time a user logs on to make sure they are working from a secure browser.

Customers may find it a bit inconvenient to download a secure browser," Milstid said.

"But we believe the extra security precaution is worth it."

Potential. Recent Internet surveys show that 5.6 million adults go online to view banking or credit card accounts, transfer funds or pay bills.

Half of those, or roughly 2.8 million, use online bill payment.

What's more, the number of adults using the Internet for banking is expected to rise to more than 10 million by the end of 2001.

Mercantile expects to have 2.6 percent of retail customers enrolled by the end of 1999.

According to Mercantile, online banking is just the beginning. Work is in progress to make loan information, check reordering and other services available later this year.

Separate projects will allow online trading with Mercantile Investment Services and make credit card information available.

Mercantile's online banking service was developed using a third-party software tool from Edify Corporation, Santa Clara, which was customized to fit Mercantile's clients' needs.

Mercantile Bank is a subsidiary of Mercantile Bancorporation Inc., a $36 billion asset multi-bank holding company with headquarters in St. Louis, which operates banks in nearly 500 locations in Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Illinois, Arkansas and Kentucky.

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