Citibank, the US group, is to offer UK customers free Internet access as a result of a new deal with Virgin Net.
From July, new current account holders at Citibank will receive a year’s free subscription to Virgin Net, which since launch in November 1996 claims to have attracted 115,000 subscribers.
The move by the bank, which has only three branches in the UK, all in London, is intended to enhance the distribution channel for its high interest current account, aimed at high net-worth UK customers.
Citibank launched consumer banking services in the UK in 1995, and has recently launched an aggressive marketing drive to build its consumer banking business worldwide.
But the free Net access offer comes with a series of restrictive clauses.
Customers for Citibank’s Internet banking must maintain an opening balance of 2,000 for a month, and be able to prove a minimum gross annual income of 30,000. “This is the first time any major institution in the UK has offered a full Internet package free of all charges to customers,” says Peter Wilkes, marketing director of Citibank International. “Online and Internet accounts can reduce banking transaction costs to a fraction of their traditional level. This has given Citibank the opportunity to pass these savings on to customers.”
David Clarke, chief executive of Virgin Net, says the deal reflects growing demand from customers who “want to manage their financial affairs online”.