The Hi-Tech Investor: Beenz means points - for loyal web users

Beenz is an electronic loyalty scheme for internet shoppers. Web users earn Beenz by ordering from internet stores, or even just by visiting websites. They can then use their Beenz to buy goods, services and information online or trade them in for a discount on sites that are part of the Beenz scheme.

The new currency is global, and is based around the Beenz bank. To start collecting Beenz, internet users need to open an account with Beenz on its website.

This is a pretty straightforward process as Beenz requires little more than an internet address and password to register. Visitors who sign up soon will be credited with 500 Beenz.

So far, the number of UK-specific merchants in the Beenz programme is limited. The main merchant is 21Store (www.21store.com), which sells electronic goods such as mobile phones and digital cameras.

Others include the Business Division, an internet service provider based in Belfast, and UK Student, a student information site.

Beenz has set a target of 10 million account holders by 2000, and 1 billion Beenz in circulation by May this year. The company will need to sign up more stores if it is to achieve this, but so far the idea looks promising.

www.beenz.com

Surf the net on an Egg

First it was Barclays Bank; then, last week, Egg, the financial services company owned by the Prudential, announced it would be providing free internet access to its customers.

Egg provides savings accounts, mortgages and loans over the phone and through its website. The bank wants to encourage more customers to deal with it over the internet.

Over the next few weeks, the company will add features such as on-line statements and balance enquiries to its website.

The Egg internet account is being provided by Virtual Internet Provider, which is part-owned by the computer company Fujitsu.

The Microsoft Network will be supplying content for the web service, including news, sport, travel and computing information.

In a related deal, Egg will also be offering discounted Fujitsu PCs - supplied with a modem, printer and financial management software - to customers. The company has not yet announced the prices for the Pentium III system, but it is likely to undercut high-street electronics stores.

www.egg.com

Insurance discounts

Insurer Norwich Union Direct is currently giving discounts to customers who arrange their cover over the net. The company is offering a pounds 25 cash- back for anyone who obtains an internet quotation, plus a 10 per cent discount on premiums.

www.norwich-union.co. uk/direct

Stephen Pritchard can be contacted by e-mail at hi-tech-investor@dial.pipex.com

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