Lycos Backs Bank of the Future

In an effort to add yet another reason for online consumers to start their Web surfing at the popular portal, Lycos, Inc. (Nasdaq: LCOS) is putting its money behind what it believes is the bank of the future.

The Internet’s fastest growing Web portal announced a deal Thursday with, an Internet-only bank that claims to provide faster service and better financial offers than today’s brick-and-mortar banks.

WingspanBank, a subsidiary of Bank One Corp. (NYSE: ONE), launched late last month with a variety of offers to entice Internet-savvy consumers to do all their financial transactions online. The bank offers its own Visa credit card with up to 5 percent cash back on purchases, loans with instant online confirmation and, like standard banks, interest-bearing checking accounts.

Ironically, in this age of “electronic everything,” the bank relies on snail mail as one of the few ways customers can put money into their online checking accounts. Customers can also transfer money from other banks or other Wingspan accounts or enable direct-deposit for recurring checks such as paychecks. Any other deposits must be mailed the old fashioned way, because WingspanBank has no local branches.

During an unspecified grand opening period, WingspanBank is also offering new customers cash incentives. The first 10,000 new account holders will each receive $100 (US$), while the first 500 credit card recipients whose names include a money-related word — such as Bill, Gold, etc. — will get $500 each.

Lycos Brings Eyeballs

Before WingspanBank can tell potential customers about the cash offers or other benefits of doing all their banking online, it must first get their attention. That’s where Lycos comes in. The portal inked a multi-year promotional contract with WingspanBank that could generate $135 million in revenues for Lycos.

Though details of the arrangement were not disclosed, WingspanBank is calling it an e-commerce deal. That suggests Lycos will be able to offer some or all of WingspanBank’s services directly to Lycos customers, with WingspanBank paying Lycos some kind of referral fee or commission on the transactions.

The two companies said they plan to launch a co-branded Lycos / WingspanBank site, which was not online at press time. “We think online banking is going to be an indispensable part of the modern lifestyle, and this agreement with will allow us to jointly offer powerful banking and financial tools to our users and communities, helping to build an even stronger affinity for Lycos going forward,” Lycos President Bob Davis said.

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