Internet Banking

16.3.2002 Internet Navigator Monthly

How to manage your money online?

One of Internet's biggest advantages is that it considerably facilitates many routine operations, such as mailing, finding information, access to the latest news, etc. The Net is constantly growing and services, such as online shopping, video conference calls and easy flow of information are now a fact. Users love Internet as it saves time and efforts. Activities for which many hours on end, even days were needed in the past, can nowadays be done with just a few clicks. This is particularly true for online banking.

What are the advantages?

Just imagine how simple everything is – instead of walking round banks, queuing here and there, filling in a number of forms and applications - you just sit in front of your computer and do all you need to do within a minute. Internet gives you the capability to use the bank's services and have access to the most update information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from anywhere - your home or office.  

Is it secure?

Absolutely. Banks use special software and encryption systems. After filling in a special application form from the website, you will have to go in person to the nearest branch, where to present the necessary documents and receive a personal digital certificate that needs to be installed in your browser.   

All that sounds fabulous. The only problem so far is that the number of banks in Bulgaria offering sophisticated online access and online transactions, are just a few. Here we present you the best among them. 

ING Bulgaria

In the middle of last year ING Bulgaria (www.ing.bg) offered a package of online products and services, which to date include: online banking, mortgage loans, application for VISA cards, as well as online subscription for ING Voluntary and Universal Pension Funds.  

The first product launched online in August 2001 was subscription to  ING Universal Pension Fund. In the  “Pension Insurance”  section of the site you will find three calculators, with which easily and conveniently you can check: How much income tax can you save? How do funds accrue in personal accounts and What amount of pension can one expect? 

ING was also the first bank to offer its Clients mortgage loans online. One of the biggest advantages is the short administration period - 19 days. During that time one is able to follow  through a personal mini portal on the website at what stage his/her application is and what is ahead.  The Mortgage Loans Calculator  gives you at a glance all the necessary information on repayment schedules, comparison under different types of repayment schedules, etc.

ING offers VISA Electron and VISA Classic cards, as application for both cards is available online.

ING Online/WAP Banking has been on for several months now.  ING Bank's clients have the opportunity to access via Internet or WAP telephone information on: account balances and movements, deposits; and loans, current exchange and interest rates. Recently the active Internet transaction service was launched, that is payments, term deposits and FX deals via Internet. 

First Investment Bank (FIB)

Registration with the first virtual branch of FIB is free-of-charge. At www.fibank.bg/bg/html/Services/issue_virtual_branch0.html you may find full description of all of FIB's online services. In order to use them you have to have Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000 or Linux with Cyrillic. You need a browser Internet Explorer 4.0 (or higher version) or  Netscape 4.0 with SSL. With FIB's Internet Home Banking you can open and manage a current account, apply for a debit card, open a term deposit (in BGN or in foreign currency), make payments in the country and abroad, obtain statements and information on interest rates, charges, exchange rates, etc. The charges and fees you will pay are the same as the ones in FIB's Standard Tariff.  

You should carefully read the conditions prior to registration at e-fibank.bg/enroll. FIB imposes no limitations on their clients online - clients can be both individual clients and companies. Registration will take you some time, as you will have to visit the nearest bank's branch in order to present the respective documents (you can find the list of the needed documents at www.fibank.bg/bg/html/Services/issue_virtual_branch_docs.html). Your security is guaranteed by a personal digital certificate (or a secret key), which you will have to install in your browser.  If you wish you can export the key from one PC and import it on another, as this act is protected by a password, chosen by you.

United Bulgarian Bank (UBB)

Internet banking is part of  UBB's  “Electronic Banking” package (www.ubb.bg/bg/bnk_invest/index.html). The other options you have with UBB are: GSM, PC, Telephone, ÀÒÌ and POS banking. Here we will dwell on the Internet options only. PC banking runs under Windows 95/98/NT and Internet Explorer 5.0 (or higher versions) and from there you can make payments, transfers, monitor UBB's exchange rates, etc. With UBB you can pay your utility payments, such as electricity, water, telephone bills, etc. It is very useful, as besides paying those services, you can also monitor your forthcoming debts on them.

Following a free-of-charge registration at  www.ubb.bg/bg/bnk_invest/index.html, you will be provided with a unique Client's number. Then there follows approval of your application. If everything is OK you will be provided with a certificate to be installed in your browser. You can try UBB's demo version at: www.ubb.bg/bg/bnk_invest/internet_demo/index.htm.

From UBB's site you can order Maestro/Cirrus and VISA Electron debit cards. Click on the 'Åuro' link, where you will find all major European currencies calculator. 

Other Banks

Unfortunately above banks are the only ones that offer sophisticated online banking services. Shortly “Nasarchitelna Banka” AD (www.nasbank.bg) and SG Expressbank (www.sgexpressbank.bg) are expected to launch similar services on their websites. 

Another similar service offered by Bulgarian banks is the so called  'electronic banking'. To use this you do not need an Internet connection. The capabilities 'electronic banking' offers are considerably less - information on account balances and movements, exchange rates, charges and others. You can also make payments and transfers.  All you will need is a computer, modem and a telephone line. Banks that offer this service will provide you with a special software and guarantees for protection of the information. This service is offered by CB “Biochim” (www.biochim.com), “Rosseximbank” (www.roseximbank.bg), “Unionbank” (www.unionbank.bg) and the PC banking section of UBB's website (www.ubb.bg/bg/bnk_invest/index.html).

The Balcard Project

The future promises much more. As of 1st February the first stage of development of the Balcard project started. The project is on international card transactions via Internet, said Alexander Matrozov, Executive Director of the National Card Operator BORIKA. Balcard (Balkan prepaid card for secure cross border Internet Transactions) is part of the European Union's programme for funding of projects related to the development of the Information community.

The project will include primarily micro payments with cards with preset value, based on the international standard for electronic portfolio. Balcard is a pilot project for development of technologies, protected mechanisms for access and regulations for international transactions via Internet between EU and non-EU countries. Balcard will be developed by a consortium, including the companies Mellon Technologies (Greece), BORIKA (Bulgaria), SchlumbergerSåìà (France) and the banks Eurobank (Greece) and Post Bank (Bulgaria). Mellon Technologies is the project's coordinator. The project will be developed in 24 months, as its pilot testing and introduction in Bulgaria and Greece will start in 2003. 

At the end of last year Belgium, Holland, France and Spain, jointly with 'Europay International' completed the DUCATO project. DUCATO is a pilot testing of international transactions with electronic portfolio, based on CEPS standard, which is used for payments within the above countries.

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