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May 6, 2000

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Larissa Fernand

Ah! The convenience of Internet banking. You can access details of your account any time of the day, or night for that matter. Who's to bother with a trip to the bank? You can operate from your home or office and, maybe, even from a cybercafe.

But before you do decide to opt for Internet banking, make sure that the services offered match your expectations. Broadly, there are four areas on which you should focus on: services offered over the Net, transfer of funds, account history and security.


Can you stop payment of cheques? Does the bank permit ordering of cheque books over the Net? If yes, how many days will it take to reach you? Is it possible to report the loss of an ATM card online? What about payment of credit card bills online? Can credit card transactions be viewed over the Net? Requests for a new fixed deposit or renewal of existing deposits? Payment of electricity or mobile bills online? For demand draft requests, does the draft get delivered to your own address or to that of a third party?

Funds transfer

Can you transfer funds between accounts of the same bank? Do both the accounts have to be in your name or can you transfer from your account to someone else's account? Can you transfer funds from your account to an account with another bank?

Account history

How far back does the account history go? Can you download just the last transaction, the past four transactions or maybe even the past 10 transactions? Will you get a detailed report of a particular account? Is account information restricted to balance and statement enquiry. Can you check the balance in just one account at a time or do you have the option of checking it in all your accounts. Do you have the option of retrieving information on the basis of criteria other than name (date or amount). Can you check how many cheques have been issued or deposited in the past, say, eight transactions?


How many login attempts are permitted before the password is disabled? Can you pre-set an activity period if your terminal is left unattended? For example, you are accessing information on your account but some urgent work cropped up and you left your terminal unattended. After, say 5 minutes or 10 minutes or maybe even more, will access automatically get terminated? Everytime you log in, will the last date and time of login be displayed?

Besides hardcore banking, keep an eye open for other facilities as well. Does the bank offer free Net access for a fixed number of hours, can you customise your account. ICICI Bank offers to nickname your accounts to avoid remembering detailed account numbers.
Can your balance be monitored and a message sent in case it drops below a particular level?
In the future, banks plan to introduce e-broking services online and set up shopping portals so that the money will be directly debited from the customer's account, eliminating credit card security problems.

For starters, you can take a look at the demo offered by various banks on their sites. See which one you are most comfortable with. Here are the banks which you can check out: ICICI Bank (, HDFC Bank (, Global Trust Bank (, IndusInd Bank (, UTI Bank ( and Federal Bank (

Way back in 1995, when Security First Network (SFN) set the first pure Internet bank amid a lot of sniggering, critics sat down to write its obituary. However, a year later, Booz Allen & Hamilton came out with a North American internet banking survey where the figures made a strong case for Internet banking.

By way of costs, the survey stated that Internet banking is the cheapest form of delivery. Here is how they estimated the cost of transactions to be: $1.07 (full service branch), $0.54 (phone banking), $0.015 (PC banking) and $0.01 (Internet banking).

Last month, Grant Thornton LLP, an accounting and management consulting firm, released its seventh annual banking survey. Based on a response of 638 North American banks, here are some of the findings:

By the end of this year, 78 per cent will have a Web site, up from 55 per cent at the end of 1999.

Currently, 17 per cent of all banks say they offer Internet banking services and another 47 per cent expect to offer them by the end of this year.

Internet banking services to be introduced by the end of 2000 include the ability to monitor account balances (55 per cent), transfer funds between accounts (54 per cent), pay bills (46 per cent), and apply for loans (37 per cent). Only 8 per cent will allow customers to make electronic trades through brokerage accounts.

28 per cent of all banks cite both Internet portal Web sites and Internet-based banks as competitive concerns.

Within the next three years, 89 per cent of banks will offer home banking via an interactive Web site, 87 per cent will offer electronic bill payment, and 75 per cent will offer online loan applications.

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