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On-Call Banker

Banks make another go at service by cell phone.

Ever wish you could check your account balance at the restaurant, or pay bills you forgot to mail before going on vacation? Banking is now as close as your Internet-enabled cell phone. Citigroup, Bank of America and Wachovia are among the financial giants that have rolled out mobile banking in recent months. It's not the first attempt, but this one's likely to stick. Typically, there are no bank fees, but you'll use minutes or pay whatever your carrier charges for Internet time.

The easiest services to use require software (downloaded to your phone or pre-installed), such as Citi Mobile's or an option from Wachovia Mobile due later this year. They're also cheaper, consuming far less Internet data. If you pay as you go for Web access, figure as much as $14 a month for mobile banking via Web browser, versus $5 with the software, says tech consultant Celent.