Intuit acquires Paytrust customers

Customers of the PayTrust online bill pay service are now customers of Intuit, publisher of the popular Quicken, Quickbooks, and TurboTax personal and small-business finance software packages.

Intuit purchased Paytrust's customer base from Metavante--a banking and bill-pay technology company owned by Wisconsin-based Marshall & Ilsley--at the end of 2004, Metavante spokesman Chip Swearngan said. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but Swearngan said Metavante's Bill Manager V6 software will continue to power the site.

"The intent is to make this a positive thing for Paytrust customers," said Ed McLaughlin, one of Paytrust's founders, adding that as a major provider of consumer services, Intuit would be able to grow the business in a way the more corporate-focused Metavante couldn't.

Earlier in the year, Intuit and Metavante had reached an agreement to migrate Quicken Bill Pay customers to the same Metavante software.

The sale of Paytrust's customer base to Intuit was not announced publicly, and customers only learned they had a new bill-pay provider this week, either by e-mail or by logging in to the service and being asked to consent to Intuit's privacy policy. Intuit spokesman Chris Repetto said the Paytrust name would likely eventually disappear from the Web site, to be replaced by Quicken branding.

Benefits to Users

Repetto said that Intuit would be able to provide free phone support around the clock; Paytrust's phone service, while free, was only available 16 hours a day.

Intuit's default privacy policy allows Intuit to market products and services to customers, as did Metavante's--but Metavante didn't have a whole suite of other consumer products to market, the way Intuit does.

However, Repetto said, customers could opt out of receiving offers. Paytrust customers can find a link to a page where they can opt out of receiving offers from Intuit marketing partners toward the end of the new Paytrust privacy policy statement.

With its acquisition of PayMyBills.com in 2000, Paytrust became one of the most prominent online bill pay services of the dot-com era. Neither Intuit nor Metavante would disclose how many clients Paytrust has, but analyst Jim Van Dyke of Javelin Strategy & Research estimated the number falls between 100,000 and 200,000.

Van Dyke said that from the companies' standpoint, the deal made sense because both Paytrust and Intuit's Quicken line "are two products that I would call interface-heavy." Also, neither has been attracting new customers lately, and the partnership might help grow both the businesses, he said.

TowerGroup analyst Beth Robertson concurred, adding that she couldn't imagine that the service would change in a way that would alienate users. "The core functionality is still being run by Metavante, so you'll still have the same level of service," she said.

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