American Express Wants to Power Your iTunes Purchases

image How much does the average American Express cardholder spend in the iTunes store each month? A lot. And how often do you go to iTunes and change your default card? Never. Is it worth $5 to have your card powering an iTunes account? To American Express it is.

I’m sure the card company’s spreadsheet shows a payback within a year or two on incremental interchange alone. But more important is the added stickiness these frequent Apple purchases give to the card. Plus, it can’t hurt to associate your brand with the most valuable tech company on the planet.  

The fine print
To earn the five-song credit, cardholders must make a purchase with their Amex card between Feb. 10 and March 15. That earns a statement credit equal to five song downloads. It doesn’t say which song price-point is used in the calculation, but I’m guessing the standard $0.99.

Relevance to Netbankers
It’s always good business to get your card installed as an automatic payment source. Interchange goes up, credit card receivables improve, and you’ve added one more electronic hook to the account. So consider taking a similar approach and offering a small bounty after your card is used with a new biller.

iTunes promo on main Amex account page (Business Gold, 11 Feb. 2011)

iTunes promo on main American Express account page

Enrollment screen (link)

 Amex Enrollment screen

Ebilling Update: Doxo Adds Payment Capabilities

image Striata and AcceptEmail delivered two of my favorite demos this week at FinovateEurope. Both are working on ways to help move consumers away from antiquated and wasteful (but easy to use) paper billing and into the 21st century with interactive PDF versions delivered via email (also see ActivePath’s FinovateFall 2010 demo video).

Unlike certain personal finance products which have more intangible benefits, ebilling stands to drive tens of $ billions of wasted expense out of the system while at the same time making consumers’ lives simpler. That’s worth paying attention to.

And I like the Striata/AcceptEmail/Activepath approach. Migrate consumers to an interactive email bill which is far superior to its paper ancestor and is aggregated within a familiar interface, the email client (see note 1). This is the most likely method of gaining mass adoption.

Ebilling hubs
But email inboxes are notoriously messy and over-crowded making it easy to overlook emailed bills (note 2). So I really like the idea of an ebilling hub, a place where all my bills are stored so I can review the history, communicate with billers, and make sure everything was paid on time (note 3).

That’s why I’ve been following the developments at Doxo; Volly from Pitney Bowes; and Zumbox, which all have very different ideas on how to pull this off. But one thing they’ll all need is payment capabilities. It’s not enough to just view a stack of ebills, you have to be able to complete the task with payment. 

So it was good to see Doxo add payments to its ebilling hub this week. The Seattle startup, which moved into public beta late last year (see previous post), now allows users to pay any bill received into the hub (currently only Sprint and KCPL).

Users press the Pay button displayed by the bill in the “to do” section (see first screenshot). A popup screen is used to schedule the payment.

Bottom line: There’s plenty of opportunity here for multiple approaches. Email bills are a pretty safe bet, while the ebill hub is a longer shot. But ultimately, we believe there’s a place for both models. 

Doxo’s ebilling hub now includes a Pay button (3 Feb. 2011)

Doxo's ebilling hub now includes a Pay button

Popup payment-scheduling screen

Doxo's Popup payment scheduling screen


1. See our recent reports: Paperless Billing and Banking and Email Banking: Revitalizing the Channel.
2. Also at FinovateEurope, Yodlee demoed a clever solution to help organize bills. It’s new app will automatically search your hard drive to find downloaded bills and statements and automatically upload them into the Yodlee PFM where they can be aggregated and stored in the cloud.
3. You can do this with individual billers by logging into their sites, but that is a time-consuming chore best avoided.

New Online Banking Report Published: Paperless Finance, Banking & Billing

imageWhen I first began writing about online banking in 1995, there were many unknowns. But by the late 1990s, most people were pretty sure of three things:

  • Online would trump the ATM, call center, and branch for routine information queries and simple transactions.
  • Alerts would keep users informed of account activity and status.
  • Bills would be paid online and delivered the same way.

Most of this vision has come to pass. The only holdout is bill/statement delivery, which has remained stubbornly paper-based, despite a decade of trying to coerce consumers to do without the paper security blanket.

imagePaper bills and statements are an enormous waste of resources, costing $40 billion or more annually in paper and postage. Plus, there’s all the time customers spend storing, sorting, and rummaging through paper statements. And there’s the tens of thousands of calls to customer service that could have been avoided with better organization.

But consumers will continue to cling to the paper until there are:

A.) Clearly better alternatives
B.) Tangible incentives to turn off the paper

Both of these themes are addressed in the latest Online Banking Report (link). Financial institutions, situated at the intersection of the bill and the payment, are in a great position to drive paper out of the system. But so far, it’s not happening as fast as it should.

Doxo, which launched an ebilling hub last month, could be the catalyst for change, at least on the billing side. It’s encouraging to see two billing innovators, Sprint and Kansas City Power & Light teaming with the startup, even before the service gets out of private beta (see previous posts).

So what can you do to take part in the inevitable movement away from paper? Read our latest report for 34 ways to convince customers to part ways with paper.

About the report:

Paperless Banking & Billing (link)
Cloud computing combined with mobile capture mark
the beginning of the end of paper statements

Author: Jim Bruene, editor & founder

Published: 26 Nov. 2010

Length: 40 pages

Cost: No extra charge for OBR subscribers, $495 for others here


Why Mitek’s New Photo Bill Pay Could be a Way Bigger Deal than Mobile Deposit

imageFor the second time in three years, Mitek completely wowed me on the floor at BAI Retail Delivery. In 2008, I was amazed to see them deposit a check with their mobile phone; this year, the trick was similar, but with a bill.

Mitek CEO James DeBello demonstrated the new systam to me at their booth (press release). He grabbed a bill from a pile, took its picture via the Mitek iPhone app, and sent it off via 3G connection to servers which read the characters through OCR and queued it up for payment. The billing and payment-due info was presented in an easy-to-read table for the user to verify before hitting the “pay” button (see screenshots below). I coveted it for my checking account … now. 

While the deposit of a paper check has a little more of a “wow” factor (as in wow, I don’t have to go to the branch anymore), the mobile scan-and-pay of a bill is actually far more useful. The potential market for mobile deposit-capture is limited by the shrinking number of personal checks in use, especially by iPhone-wielding early adopters. I’d guess the total U.S. market for mobile deposit is no more than 10 to 15 million households and shrinking.

And even though paper bills will eventually be eliminated by Doxo or someone, they are still a fact of life for just about everyone with a checking account. And even if consumers start accepting ebills from their major payees, most will still have a few paper bills every month for at least another decade or two.

So not only is the market for photo bill-pay about 10x that of mobile deposit, but the service also solves a peskier problem for most end-users: getting bills paid on time, something that has far more financial consequences than processing the occasional paper check gathering dust in the drawer. 

And for financial institutions, photo bill pay provides several important benefits:

  • Helps get customers started with online bill pay by eliminating the data-entry task of setting up new billers
  • Helps convert customers from other bill pay providers by eliminating much of the conversion hassle of re-establishing payees at a new bill pay service
  • Provides a tangible, value-added mobile service to differentiate from the competition
  • Provides a fee-revenue opportunity from either monthly subscriber fees and/or expedited payment fees

The downsides:

  • Cost
  • Tech support/customer service
  • Potentially harder to wean customers off the paper bill, if it’s so convenient to just point-and-shoot to get it paid

Bottom line: Without knowing costs, what type of back-office integration hurdles the app faces, or even personally testing the user experience, I can’t say for sure how popular it becomes. If the scanning is finicky, it could be a non-starter. But, if it works like it did in the demo, Mitek may have figured out how to finally eliminate the data entry from the electronic bill payment process, a HUGE win.

1. Main screen                               2. Scan with mobile camera

image     Mitek photo billpay camera view

3. Verify data (3 screens)

 Mitek photo bill pay verify data    Mitek photo bill pay verify data    Mitek photo bill pay verify data

Note: For more info on mobile banking, see our mobile banking series in Online Banking Report.

Launching: Will Ebilling Startup Doxo Become a Household Word?

image The Internet has already yielded some great solutions for a number of modern-day consumer problems.

  • Finding info: Google
  • Purchasing and organizing music: Apple iTunes + iPod
  • Keeping track of your friends: Facebook
  • Booking travel: Expedia and others
  • Getting rid of stuff: eBay and Craigslist
  • Paying for it: PayPal
  • Tracking your money: Online banking

But despite all these advances, does anyone feel like they are more organized today than they were 10 or 15 years ago? Most of us still deal with stacks of paper bills, receipts, statements, privacy notices, along with emails, alerts, and the occasional voice message from our service providers. And if we forget to pay someone, the financial consequences can be huge. So, it’s no wonder we decide to keep the paper statements coming to help us remember to pay each bill. 

The company that solves the paper-based “organizational mess” could be the next big thing online. While it’s way too early to project a winner, a Seattle-based startup launching this week has as good a chance of taming the paper beast as anyone I’ve ever seen. The company is Doxo, which I wrote about briefly this summer (see note 1 for invites). The company’s DNA is Qpass, an early billing and payments company sold to Amdocs in 2006 for $275 mil. Co-founders Steve Shivers, Mark Goris and Roger Parks all worked at Qpass.

Here’s Doxo’s service in a nutshell, using the Facebook metaphor:  

  • Create a secure place online where bills can be stored; let’s call it
  • Allow authorized biller “friends” to communicate directly to their customers via, this includes sending the bill itself, plus customer service and marketing communications
  • Once the biller and end-user are friends, turn off the pesky paper statements and store everything forever, for free, on the platform

The business model:

  • Consumers pay nothing
  • No advertising (other than marketing message from biller “friends”)
  • Billers pay for the entire platform since it costs them a fraction of what they pay today sending paper bills and processing payments

Why would billers pay for it?

  • It’s a fraction of the cost of paper + postage
  • Adoption of estatements has stalled at 10% to 15% of consumers even for billers who’ve worked relentlessly to get rid of paper; and the easy way to get adoption, charging for paper statements, gets both consumers and politicians all worked up
  • The Doxo platform provides a direct, secure communications path to end users, including marketing messages
  • No advertising from competitors makes Doxo more desirable than other third-party systems where billing info might end up residing (e.g., Google/Gmail, Mint, etc.)
  • The network effect; managing multiple bills in one place is the carrot to get consumers to give up the paper

What’s missing?

  • Billers are not yet on the system in this private-beta release (note 1). Users can set up pages for each biller and populate it with their account info and uploaded statements. This is a temporary limitation; I’ve been assured that some big-name billers are on the way.
  • It’s currently a read-only system, meaning there’s no way to pay the bill. Eventually, it makes much more sense to allow customers not only to receive the bill, but also to pay it from within Doxo.

Why it could be huge: This is a classic “network” play. The more billers on the system, the more the consumer benefits and vice versa. Whoever gets this system to scale first will enjoy an enormous “eBay” network effect which will be difficult to dislodge. CheckFree/Fiserv and others have been down this road but have not achieved critical mass, leaving the door open for an aggressive startup to fill the void.

I like what I see at Doxo. And not just its slick UI. I’ve interviewed company execs several times and they have this thing nailed, at least in theory. The user-experience is great, assuming the startup brings in the billers. And the biller’s business case is a no-brainer, if Doxo scores the end-users. We’ll know it has a good shot when a half-dozen big-name billers come on board.   

Why it could lose: Consumers are absolutely not looking for another place to manage their bills. And very few care enough about it to do a lot of work populating a website with account info. Finally, until the portal develops a recognized brand, users won’t trust it. It’s critical that a few big billers endorse Doxo to get it jump-started. Even then, end-users may simply not be willing to spend the few minutes it takes to get set up on Doxo. 

Bottom line: I love it and want all my bills to go here now. So here’s to being able to “doxo” statements to me sometime very soon.    


Electronic biller page at Doxo for fictional Goliath Bank (21 Oct 2010)
Note: The “To Do” tab is where account statements are delivered

Electronic biller page at Doxo for fictional Goliath Bank

Doxo inbox for receiving statements and other communications

Doxo in-box for receiving statements and other communications

Doxo storage area for filed statements
Note: Users can upload their own electronic documents to supplement (or in lieu of) those received through the Doxo platform

Doxo storage area for filed statements

1. The company has tweeted that it will hand out invites to its followers on Update: Doxo sent us some invite codes, use “netbanker” as your access code. 

Now That’s Payments Innovation: Parkzing Puts Your Parking Tickets on Autopilot

image When talking about payments innovation in the 21st century, PayPal is usually the first thing that comes to mind. The company took existing payment methods (debit, credit, and electronic/ACH transfer) and used the Internet for delivery and messaging. Ten years later it is one of a handful of financial companies that can claim nine-figure customer bases. 

And there are dozens (hundreds?) of companies working on creating their own PayPal in relatively new frontiers: mobile, social networks, health care, micropayments, and so on. We’ll have several of them demoing at our upcoming FinovateSpring event May 11 (lineup here).

image But you don’t need millions of users to create something of value. Case in point: Parkzing is a new service (with a great name) created in his spare time by Aren Sanderson, CTO of Third Ave Labs, the creator of mobile app discovery service Apptizer (great name #2).

Parkzing is a mostly free service that removes the hassle, and worry, from remembering to pay your parking fines. How it works:

  • Users register their license plate number with the service
  • Parkzing scans city parking fine databases daily
  • If it finds a match, it contacts the user with a reminder to pay; reminders continue until the fine is removed from the database
  • Optionally, users can give Parkzing their credit card number and the ticket  will automatically be paid for a very economical $5 per ticket fee (see note 1)

This is one of those ideas that is so simple, yet so valuable, that you cannot believe it wasn’t invented the day that city databases went public. As you might suspect, not all cities post this info online, so it currently only helps those in San Francisco, Washington D.C. and NYC (request your city here).

Relevance to Netbankers: This would be a valuable service to offer online/mobile banking customers. It would differentiate you from the competition, help fill your city’s coffers, and add value to your payments card(s). The main downside? Liability for technical glitches that cause fines to go unpaid. A nominal fee for the service could fund a payments guarantee and provide a small bit of revenue.   

Also, think about the bigger picture here. Why limit this to parking tickets? How about if my bill-pay provider scanned all my accounts every day and told me what I owed? Utilities, credit cards, school lunch account, the dentist, and so on. To some extent Mint, Yodlee and the other PFM/bill-pay players already do this. But as Parkzing demonstrated, there’s still room for innovations in bill pay. 

1. Five bucks is incredibly low considering the convenience and the savings in late fees; in Seattle we owe an extra $25 after only 15 days. I’d be willing to pay $25 per year + $5/ticket for the service.
2. HT to VentureBeat for writing about it. 

Numbers in the News: P2P Payments Usage at First General Credit Union

image It’s always difficult to gauge actual consumer demand for new services. Traditional market research, while providing some broad intent data (e.g., “yeah, that sounds like something I might buy“), doesn’t really do a very good job in telling you whether real customers will use the service. The problem is that in the real world, customers have real concerns about new products and most are unwilling to spend very much time learning about them.

So it’s always great to find financial institutions willing to share usage data on their online or mobile services. This week, First General Credit Union wins our undying gratitude (and a free subscription to Netbanker) by revealing its person-to-person payments numbers in the latest issue of Credit Union Journal

The CU uses iPay Technologies P2P payment service which is provided at no-cost to its deluxe bill-payment clients. Keep in mind, this is a small $44 million credit union serving 5,000 members, so the raw numbers aren’t large but the percentages are interesting:

Number of online banking users: 500 (10% of members)
Number of bill-pay users: 200 (40% of online banking users)
Number of P2P payment users:    3 (1.5% of bill-pay users,
       0.6% of online banking users

Analysis: The credit union says it hasn’t promoted the P2P feature, which is offered free of charge. It’s not even mentioned on its website, except on slide 22 of its online demo. So this isn’t a representative sample for a financial institution looking to drive usage to the product. However, a 2% penetration (of online/mobile customers) is along the lines of what we expect this year nationwide. Longer-term, we expect usage to grow at least 10-fold from that level (see note below).

Note: For more information on P2P payments including a 15-year usage forecast, see our recent Online Banking Report: Making the Case for P2P Payments (published Dec. 2009).

Banks Help Fundraising Efforts for Haiti Relief

image One of the lasting benefits of the Internet is it’s ability to quickly rally resources. The latest proof point: raising funds for Haitian earthquake relief. The big Internet companies, such as Amazon, Google, Bing, Craigslist and PayPal, post links almost immediately to provide site visitors with a trusted path to donate funds (see screenshots below). 

Consumers trust those companies and visit frequently, so it’s a great way to raise awareness and funds. But there’s another group of Internet powerhouses that historically have not participated in Web-based fundraising: financial institutions.

Even during the New Orleans flooding in 2005, we found only three top-50 banks linking to the Red Cross. It’s not a whole lot better this time. But one major bank, Citibank, has a homepage link to earthquake relief (screenshots below). Also, we found two other top-50 banks with homepage links: Astoria Federal and Webster Bank (see screenshots below). None of the largest 10 credit unions had links up on Saturday.

Several major banks, such as Wells Fargo and Chase, have homepage references to their own donations, but no way for their customers to participate directly. 

Online bill-pay fundraising
imageAnother welcome addition to bank-enabled fundraising was launched by Online Resources just two days after the earthquake hit. The bill-pay provider created banners and splash pages for its clients to use in publicizing the availability of bank bill pay for use in donating to the Red Cross (see inset right and top of the page; link to ORCC page with examples).

As of Friday, ORCC had commitments from about 10 clients to participate in the effort.

Mobile fundraising
imageIt was also interesting to see the role mobile is taking in the current crisis. Websites and television networks have done a great job publicizing a simple way to donate $10 to the Red Cross: text “Haiti” to the shortcode 90999. Once you authorize the transaction via a return text message, $10 is automatically added to your mobile phone bill. The service is powered by mGive, a nonprofit based in Colorado. In a Friday blog post, the organization said $8.5 million had been raised so far, a number likely exceeding $10 million by now.

Banks with links: Citibank, Astoria, and Webster Bank (18 Jan. 2010)

image              image 

 Links for Haitian relief at Google, PayPal, Amazon, Craigslist, and Microsoft Bing (18 Jan. 2010, 11 AM PDT)

image  image


 image              image

P2P Payments: CashEdge’s POPmoney Spotted in the Wild at First Hawaiian Bank

clip_image002When CashEdge demo’d its new person-to-person (P2P) payment solution, POPmoney, at Finovate in September (video here), they said they expected four clients to be live by year-end. It looks like the first one is there, or almost there.

imageFirst Hawaiian Bank has a lengthy POPmoney FAQ posted on its website (see screenshot  below). Pertinent details on the new POPmoney service include (refer to full text below):

  • Cost is $1 per transaction
  • Users can send money via email address, mobile phone number, or directly into the recipient’s bank account (if known)
  • Online banking customers will find it in the Transfers section under a tab entitled Send Money
  • P2P payments are limited to $5,000 per month subject to a daily maximum of $1,000 via email/mobile or $2,000 transferred directly to another bank account
  • Payments can be scheduled up to one year in advance

For more on the P2P payments market, see our latest Online Banking Report, published 15 minutes ago: Making the Case for Person-to-Person Payments

First Hawaiian Bank’s POPmoney FAQ (link; 8 Dec. 2009)


FAQ text:

What is “POPmoney”?
“POPmoney” is a feature of the FHB Online® banking service that lets you send money to someone electronically via their email address, mobile phone number, or directly to their bank account. Payments to someone’s email address or mobile phone number are accompanied with a personalized message letting them know that the funds are available for electronic deposit to wherever they choose, while payments to someone’s bank account are deposited automatically.

How much does POPmoney cost?
Sending money via POPmoney costs only $1.00 per transaction.

How do I sign up for POPmoney?
POPmoney is available to customers through the FHB Online service and can be accessed via the “Send Money” tab within the “Transfers” section. If you are not currently enrolled for FHB Online, visit and click on the Online Banking “Enroll” button in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. If you are already enrolled for FHB Online, sign onto FHB Online, go to the Transfers section, and then click on the Send Money (Personal Only) link. Follow the three-step sign-up process:

  • Step 1 POPmoney Agreement – Accept the FHB Online POPmoney amendment.
  • Step 2 Contact Information – Your email address and mobile phone number are required as part of the sign-up process. You will need to verify the email address we have on file is correct. If it is incorrect, please close the window and click “Update Email Address” within the Customer Service tab to update your email address. After confirming your email address, return to the “Transfers – Send Money (Personal Only)” link and you will also be asked to provide a mobile phone number as part of the sign-up process.
  • Step 3 Email/Mobile Phone Validation – We will send verification codes to your email address and mobile phone. Please check your email and your mobile phone for these codes and enter them in the boxes shown on-screen to complete the sign-up process.

Once you’ve completed the steps above, you will receive a confirmation message indicating that you have successfully signed up for POPmoney. Click “Continue to POPmoney” to start using the service.

Who can I send money to?
You can send money to someone just by knowing their mobile phone number or email address. The person receiving the notification will be able to deposit the money to any personal checking, savings, money market checking, or money market savings account at FHB or nearly any other U.S. bank. You can also send money directly to someone else’s bank account if you have their bank routing and account number information.

How does the recipient receive and deposit funds?
If you are sending money to a mobile phone or email address, the recipient will receive a notification with a personalized message indicating that you have sent them a payment. The recipient has two ways of depositing the funds:

  • If the recipient is a First Hawaiian Bank customer, they can deposit the funds into their account via the FHB Online service. Upon enrolling, or if the recipient is already enrolled for FHB Online, they can click on the “Send Money (Personal Only)” to access the POPmoney feature. Any payments that have been sent to them will be listed under the “Incoming Payments & Alerts” tab. They can then select an account to which to deposit the funds. They can also designate whether future payments should be automatically deposited to this account.
  • If the recipient is a not a First Hawaiian Bank customer, or would like to deposit the funds into a non-FHB account, they can visit They will be prompted to provide their mobile phone or email address along with their bank account information for the payment to be deposited.

Can I send money internationally?
No, you can only send money to individuals via their accounts within the U.S.

What is the maximum transaction amount I can make via POPmoney?
The maximum daily amount allowed for POPmoney transactions is the current available balance in the source account (plus any available credit in an associated Yes-CheckSM account if applicable) up to the daily limit mentioned below, whichever is less. This includes any single transaction or the total amount outstanding or “in process.” For additional information, see below:

Sending Money to Bank Account

Maximum Amount





Sending Money to Mobile or Email

Maximum Amount





Can I set up recurring or future-dated transactions?
Yes, POPmoney transactions may be scheduled up to 365 days in advance of the date the transaction is to be made. Automatic recurring transactions may also be scheduled for substantially regular intervals (e.g., monthly) in the same amount between the same two accounts. You can schedule recurring transactions to be made weekly, every other week, twice a month, monthly, every four weeks, every other month, quarterly, twice a year, and annually.

How far in advance can I schedule a transaction?
You can schedule a POPmoney transaction up to one year in advance.

When are POPmoney transactions processed?
Transactions will be processed on the date you specify up to a year in advance. Transactions will take approximately three business days to process. Transactions scheduled to process on a weekend or holiday will be processed the previous Business Day.

What is the cut-off time to submit a transaction?
The cut-off time for submitting transactions is 7:00 p.m. HT each Business Day. Transactions submitted after 7:00 p.m. HT or on weekends or holidays will be processed the next Business Day. A Business Day is every calendar day except for Saturdays, Sundays, and bank holidays.

What is the cut-off time to change or delete upcoming transactions?
The cut-off time to change or delete an upcoming transaction is 7:00 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time the previous Business Day prior to the send date.

When does the transaction get debited from my account?
The transaction debit request is initiated on the “send date” but will not post against your account for one to two days.

What happens if I set up a transaction but do not have sufficient funds in my account on the “send date?”
If, on the “send date,” there is insufficient balance in your account to make a transaction you authorized, we will delay the transaction and try again on the next Business Day. If there is still insufficient balance to make the transaction, we may either refuse to pay the item, or we may make the transaction and overdraw your account. In either event, you will be responsible for any non-sufficient funds (“NSF”) or overdraft charges that may result.

How many people can I add to my list of contacts?
You may add up to a total of 50 contacts.

I used to send money to third parties via the External Transfers function. What will happen to this information?
As part of introducing POPmoney, we have migrated your third-party information and activity from External Transfers to POPmoney. This includes contacts or accounts, as well as upcoming and previous transactions. Categories for previous transactions will not be migrated and will need to be re-defined.

How do I disable POPmoney?
You may disable POPmoney by calling us at 643-4343 (1-888-643-4343 from the Continental U.S., Guam, and CNMI). Please note that disabling POPmoney will also disable your access to External Transfers.

ING Direct’s Electric Orange Checking Gets Bill-Payment Facelift

image ING Direct’s (USA) paperless-checking account, Electric Orange, will get a new bill-pay user interface over the weekend (see first screenshot). The direct banking giant has also jazzed up the logo (inset) for its online checking option introduced in early 2007 (previous post).

The new GUI attempts to make bill payment more understandable. With paper and electronic delivery to merchants, person-to-person payments (also paper or electronic), and expedited payments thrown in the mix, it was hard for users to know exactly which option to select (see second screenshot for old user interface). 

ING Direct has reorganized payments into four functions and clearly identified the free (#1-3) vs. fee (#4):

1. Bill pay (paying merchants)
2. Person2Person (sending to an individual’s bank account)
3. Send a paper check
4. Overnight a check (for $20)

The company is also adding the following features (see third screenshot):

  • Electronic bill statements (ebills)
  • Email due-date reminders
  • New sorting options
  • Expanded recurring payment options
  • Simplified navigation
  • Clearly shows estimated payment arrival date

Customers have been notified through two emails that various aspects of bill pay will not be functioning beginning over the three-day weekend as the system is converted. 

Analysis: Overall, it’s a significant improvement, but there are still confusing aspects for novice users. For example, how do I decide between Person2Person and Send a Check? (see note 1) Why should I pay $20 for overnight, when the same delivery terms seem to be available in free bill pay? I’ll withhold final judgment until I have a chance to use it next week.  

1. New bill-pay interface (link, begins 25 July 2009)


2. Previous user interface (22 July 2009)


3. Landing page describing the changes (link, 23 July 2009)


1. Answer: You have to have the person’s bank account info to use the P2P option.
2. For more on bill payment, see our Online Banking Report on Epayments (also part 1) (published in 2005) and the Online Banking Report 2009 through 2018 Forecast (published Jan 2009). 

Little Earth Day Excitement at U.S. Banking Websites

image Given the financial benefits of driving paper out of the banking system, I was surprised to see little evidence of banks or credit unions using Earth Day to promote paper-saving options (eStatements, electronic bill pay, ebills) or fuel-saving approaches (online banking, remote deposit capture, bank by mail).

I looked at the 30 largest retail banks and the 10 largest credit unions and found just three green banking promos running on the homepage: Sovereign Bank (Santander), Zions Bank, and Citizens Bank (Royal Bank of Scotland).

And none of those were Earth Day specific. A Google search turned up a few credit unions sponsoring shredding days, which are nice, but not really doing much for the environment.

Sovereign Bank (Santander)
Santander’s Sovereign Bank encourages users to go green by signing up for bill pay and ebills. A savings calculator on the landing page allows users to determine the environmental impact of converting bill pay activity from paper to electronic. In addition to the environmental benefits of eliminating paper, the bank promises to plant a tree for every ebill initiated.

The incentive program is conducted in partnership with the bank’s bill payment provider Fiserv/CheckFree (press release).  Similar programs are also in place at BankAtlantic, Fifth Third Bank, PSCU Financial Services, SunTrust and USAAimage

Sovereign landing page (22 April 2009)



Zions Bank
Zions promotes eStatements in a small mid-page graphic. No monetary incentives are provided.


Citizens Bank

RBS’s Citizens Bank is pushing its Green$ense checking rewards program that pays users $0.20 per electronic transaction for the next 12 months. Ultra-heavy users (3x per day), could bag up to $20/month in savings.  


Bill Pay Needs an "Oops" Button

image Gmail’s new undo send option, aka the “oops button,” has been well received in online circles. Gmail users that enable the feature in the Google Labs area, have 5 seconds after hitting send to recall the message by pressing “undue” at the top of the page (see screenshot below). It’s a nice addition, although it would be better if you had more than 5 seconds to react.

The same concept would work nicely in online bill payment. While most bill-pay systems have several safeguards to prevent unwanted payments to go out, including a confirmation screen and an “edit pending payments” function, those functions still require some knowledge of the system to properly use.

A simple “undoue” button would make the process much faster. More importantly, it would make the bill-pay system appear more user friendly, helping increase usage. 

Gmail undo send function (24 March 2009)