Prodigy Bounces Into Electronic Checks

Nothing leaves as bad an aftertaste as the gum from envelopes and stamps when you're paying bills each month. But a new feature on the Prodigy Services Co. information network, called BillPay USA, promises to do away with the licking, sticking, and mailing, if not the actual pain of bill-paying.

For $9.95 per month, Prodigy members will soon be able to transmit up to 20 electronic checks to any business. The payment will be handled by Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co., but you don't have to be a customer of the bank to use the service. MHT logs into the Federal Reserve's nationwide electronic-funds-transfer network to move the funds from your checking account to the receiver's account. Columbus (Ohio)-based Checkfree Corp. has been offering a similar $9.95 monthly service for nearly three years and has an estimated 100,000 customers. Prodigy is testing its service in 10 states but expects to roll it out nationally later this year.

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