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11/13/2007
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AT&T Launches Mobile Banking Application

The service is available to customers of Wachovia, SunTrust, Bancorp South, FirstBank, Synovus, Regions Financial Corp, America First Credit Union, and Arvest Bank Group.

AT&T on Tuesday launched a mobile banking application that allows the carrier's nationwide subscribers to view account balances and pay bills on their cell phones.

AT&T collaborated with financial firms Wachovia and SunTrust Banks, as well as mobile banking and payment provider Firethorn Holdings and its strategic partner CheckFree, which specializes in financial e-commerce services, to enable mobile banking on cell phones.

The application will be pre-loaded on upcoming cell phones that will be introduced by AT&T later this year. It will be easily accessible through a mobile banking icon in the phones' applications folder.

But here is a downside to the preloaded app. The number of customers a bank can reach is limited to the number of phones its app is loaded on. Currently, AT&T's app is available to Wachovia, SunTrust, Bancorp South, FirstBank, Synovus, Regions Financial Corp, America First Credit Union, and Arvest Bank Group customers.

For subscribers that don't want to wait until next year or want to keep using their current cell phone, AT&T is offering the option to download the mobile banking app; it's compatible with more than 30 of AT&T's phone models.

"The ability to perform banking functions using a wireless handset is attractive for people who need to make financial decisions on the go -- business travelers, college students, and anyone who desires the flexibility that wireless delivers," said Mark Collins, VP of Consumer Data at AT&T's wireless unit, in a statement.

Subscribers can enroll in the service by first signing up on their financial firm's online banking Web site, which would provide them with an initialization code. The code is then used to link a bank account to the mobile banking app when a subscriber accesses the app on one of AT&T's compatible cell phones. Each subscriber has to create a personal identification number to access the app.

Once enrolled, subscribers can use the application to view account balances and history, transfer funds, and pay bills. All data is encrypted for security purposes and service is immediately deactivated if a cell phone is lost or stolen.

AT&T said it won't require subscribers to pay an additional fee to access mobile banking on their cell phones, although subscribers are encouraged to purchase a data plan, which typically start at $10 a month, to avoid high per-minute data charges.

The carrier announced a partnership last year to use Firethorn's software, which sits on a mobile device and connects with Firethorn's servers that communicate with bank systems. Verizon Wireless is another carrier that has tapped Firethorn for a banking and payments application. In fact, many financial firms are in the process of rolling out mobile banking apps in hopes of enhancing customer experience.

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