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"Send check." (CheckFree electronic funds transfer service)

Getting access to mainframe data is supposed to be a problem that only affects users in large corporations. But ordinary consumers also deal constantly with mainframe-baBed data--for banking and credit card transactions, utility bills, insurance claims, investment activity, and other routine household transactions. And, like their corporate counterparts, consumers rarely get to plug in directly to mainframe databases; instead, they have to rely on paper reports and often obstinate bureaucrats.

But the mainframe gap is closing, even for consumers. One important step: a consumer-oriented electronic funds transfer (EFT) service called CheckFree, which will soon make its debut as part of two leading home finance packages--MECA's Managing Your Money and Intuit's Quicken--and exists now as a stand-alone PC product.

Unlike earlier home banking services, which relied on local banks for processing (often by manual methods), checkFree is part of a true EFT system. Developed by a leading vendor of business-to-business funds transfer services, CheckFree plugs directly into the Federal Reserve System's nationwide banking network. instead of writing and mailing paper checks, checkFree users can simply zap payments straight into a creditor's bank account. "it's exactly the same system Citicorp uses to move billions of dollars around the country," says Checkfree Corp. president Peter Kight.

One of the nicest features about CheckFree is that it makes a complex process essentially transparent to the user. The CheckFree software automatically sets up a PC-to-mainframe linkage to the Federal Reserve Network; in the case of managing Your Money, a single 'Send Check' menu command activates the entire EFT process. Checkfree Corp. also makes sure the recipient accepts EFT transaction and cuts a laser-printed paper check if funds can't be sent electronically.

Kight told us he expects that consumer-based CheckFree transactions may eventually surpass his Company's business-to-business EFT volume, which last year exceeded $500 million. Besides MECA and Intuit, Kight is currently working on joint marketing deals with Tandy and 'several of the top modem manufacturers." once those deals are in place, says Kight, he'll probably look for ways to incorporate more powerful versions of CheckFree into small business accounting software. And it's possible that CheckFree will some day let consumers interact directly with mainframes that contain their own credit card and bank account data. 'I'm not going to say anything about our plans," he says. "But the technology is there."
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Copyright 1989, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Kight, Peter
Date:May 15, 1989
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