Tesco announces online banking plan

Website will let you transfer funds, handle mortgages as well as buy radishes

Tesco Personal Finance, the joint venture between the supermarket chain and Royal Bank of Scotland, Wednesday launched its entry into the online-banking world. The service will be available by the end of November.

Tesco has been steadily moving into the market of financial tools, with features such as insurance, loans, savings accounts and pensions, but has not previously allowed customers to complete transactions online. The new feature allows users to, for example, transfer funds between accounts, transfer money to or from accounts at other banks.

Internet banking has boomed in recent months as financial institutions such as Prudential and Co-operative Bank and startups such as Enba have made use of the Net to offer low-cost, high-return accounts. Banking offered through supermarkets also has the added benefit of a low-cost marketing venue.

Tesco Personal Finance (TPF) did not forecast its target number of Internet customers, though the CEO said it could reach 400,000 in the coming year. The company claims to have over one million customers. It said that one in 10 of the 78,000 monthly hits to Tesco's Web site go to the personal finance area. Upcoming features include online mortage transactions, TPF said.

The chain recently announced it will sell books online to boost its Internet presence, and also plans to introduce in-store cyber-terminals .

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