Cingular launches mobile banking with U.S. banks

AT&T said on Tuesday it had taken a step toward the long-promised notion of phones replacing credit cards, checks and cash by signing agreements with Wachovia and several other banks.

The agreements will allow customers of its Cingular Wireless arm, which is being rebranded as AT&T, and participating banks to manage their accounts and pay bills electronically by using an application on their cell phone.

AT&T said customers could download the software from privately held Firethorn Holdings LLC onto their phones.

Along with Wachovia, U.S. banks such as BancorpSouth, Regions Financial and SunTrust Banks are offering mobile banking to AT&T customers.

AT&T, having tested the service since last year, has said it will not charge extra for mobile banking but expects it to attract more users to its wireless Internet service and potentially help it add new users and keep existing ones.

AT&T plans to include Firethorn software in new handsets in the second half of this year and is planning a multi-million-dollar ad campaign to promote the service.

Firethorn is also acting as an intermediary between AT&T and the banks.

AT&T said most BancorpSouth customers who tried mobile banking said they would use it to check their balance, and about three quarters said it would help them make better spending decisions.

Wachovia operates in 21 U.S. states, while Regions operates in 16 states in the Midwest and South, including Texas. SunTrust provides banking in Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states and BancorpSouth operates in eight U.S. states.

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