First Niagara Bank is joining the growing movement among US banks to drop all charges for its Web banking bill payment service.
Previously, customers who did not have a relationship current account were charged $5.95 for the service. Under the new deal, all consumer banking customers will be able to use the bill pay service free of charge, while small business banking customers will receive up to 15 online bill payments per month for free.
First Niagara expects the move to a free service to result in an estimated 30-40 per cent of its customer base singing up for bill pay.
The bank's bill payment service in powered by CheckFree. Customers can receive and view bills online and schedule payments using their current or money market accounts.
David Nasca, executive vice president, consumer banking, First Niagara, says free online bill pay is becoming an inherent part of a checking (current) account, similar to ATM cards and overdraft protection: "While initially positioned as separate services, both became an expected part of the checking package. We see the same customer expectation in the future for online billing and payment."
The bank cites research by CheckFree Research Services where consumers who currently use online bill payment services said that the amount of time it takes them to pay bills has been reduced by one third compared to writing paper cheques.