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Report Shows Diversity in Check-Image Archives at Major Banks’ Web Sites

Online check-image archives can help adoption of e-statements.

Though online check images are commonplace at all major online banking sites, there's a wide disparity in the availability and interactive capabilities of online check-image archives, according to Corporate Insight. In the second installment of the New York-based consultancy's report on online check images, the firm analyzed online archive capabilities based on criteria that included accessibility, viewing options and print/storage alternatives, according to Doug Miller, Corporate Insight's senior analyst for credit cards, who says that the functionality of online check-image archives can determine whether or not customers migrate away from paper-based statements.

Corporate Insight's first online check image report was conducted in August 2004, right before Check 21 was passed by Congress, relates Miller. The firm decided to conduct a second study to see what effects Check 21 has had on banks' online offerings, he explains.

At the time of the 2004 study, 10 of the 12 banks tracked by Corporate Insight offered online check images, Miller recalls. All 14 institutions that Corporate Insight currently tracks -- Bank of America, Chase, CitiBank, Citizens Bank, E*Trade Bank, Fifth Third, HSBC, KeyBank, National City, NetBank, U.S. Bank, Wachovia, Washington Mutual and Wells Fargo -- offer the archives, he notes. Among the new functionality added to some of the sites are keyword searching and zoom capabilities, Miller adds.

According to Miller, the easier it is for bank customers to view their check images and the longer archives are kept active, the more likely consumers are to switch to e-statements. However, the study revealed a wide range of functionality and length of archives at the banks' Web sites. Only a handful of the banks offer the ability to zoom in on a section of checks, rotate images or change colors for greater legibility, for example.

Time Is of the Essence

Further, while nine of the banks in the study provide check-image archives that stretch as far back in time as their general transaction archives, Corporate Insight noted a large disparity between the check and transaction archives offered by the remaining institutions in the study. One bank offered 18 months of account activity but just 75 days of check images, Miller relates. The availability of check-image archives ranged from a low of 45 days to a high of two years, he says; six firms offer archives of three months.

According to Virginia K. Johnston, managing director of bank operations for Alpharetta, Ga.-based NetBank ($3.9 billion in assets), which maintains its check-image archives for 18 months, most requests for check images are made during tax season, and 95 percent of customer requests for checks can be met with an 18-month archive. Johnston notes that the bank also maintains its transactional statements for 18 months. Customers are happy with the data range, she adds. * --Nancy Feig

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