The company behind TurboTax and Mint wants to take over mobile bill pay, too

Intuit, the company that already helps us file our taxes and keep track of our money online, is making a play for the mobile bill-paying market. On Tuesday, Intuit announced it will acquire the Israeli maker of Check for $360 million.

Like Intuit's online money organizer Mint, Check lets users keep an eye on all their financial accounts from their mobile devices and draws revenues by displaying advertisements on its app. But it also creates automatic reminders for upcoming bills and allows users to pay them from within the app — a feature Mint doesn't currently support.

With this deal, Intuit, which also owns Quicken and TurboTax, moves further into the personal finance space. The company is also interested in the small-business sector: Last year, it snapped up a host of technology companies focused on document management, scheduling and inventory tracking.

"Adding bill payment capabilities is a key element of Intuit’s growth strategy," Intuit spokeswoman Diane Carlini said in a statement. "This acquisition will accelerate Intuit’s ability to offer bill pay across personal finance and small business products and create opportunities to retain, attract and serve additional customers."

It's not hard to imagine that most of our financial lives might soon be overseen, directly or indirectly, by Intuit. With its growing collection of third-party money management apps, Intuit could cut out bank-operated Web sites altogether, according to someone familiar with the transaction who was not authorized to speak with the media.

Apps like the six-year-old Check already allow people to pay their bills without visiting their financial institutions. Relying on the same principle, other apps — such as PayPal or Venmo — let users send cash to each other digitally. While these technologies still require users to link their bank accounts to the apps, the on-time process means customers can effectively circumvent their banks' Web sites.

Eventually, these third-party apps may even come to support other ways of using money — or even alternative currencies like Bitcoin.

"Mobile is a key driver of bill pay opportunities," said Check chief executive Guy Goldstein. “We look forward to merging our talent, mobile mindset and spirit of innovation with Intuit to build products that delight consumers and become a part of their everyday financial lives.”

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on telecom, broadband and digital politics. Before joining the Post, he was the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic.
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Brian Fung · May 27, 2014