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Sooner or later, writing checks will seem as archaic as churning butter or hanging laundry on a clothesline. The question is when? Already, many major banks offer larger commercial customers limited electronic banking services, but for smaller companies, establishing a computerized banking system can be a headache--hardly worth the time and effort.

Citibank is seeking to change all that with Business Access, a full-service online banking product for small businesses that combines almost all the features of regular banking, with a few extras thrown in for good measure. Using Business Access, sole proprietors and owners of single-stockholder corporations can manage all their financial information--both personal and business--in one place. Of course, the biggest plus is the elimination of the middleman in everyday business banking transactions.

"Business Access' flexible design and unparalleled security and entitlement systems provide businesses, from sole proprietorships to those with hundreds of accounts, with an efficient and convenient tool for managing their resources," says Citibank vice president Gordon Kent.

Using a PC or Macintosh with Windows, DOS or Mac software and a modem, you become your own account manager--making far fewer phone calls and trips to the bank to check the statuses of your accounts. You get immediate access 24 hours a day to see which checks have cleared and how much money you have on hand at any given time. Each time you sign on, Business Access provides current account information that you can print out for recordkeeping, accounting and tax purposes.

You can also monitor and reconcile account information with up-to-the-minute "available" and ledger balances, and view projected funds availability up to 10 days in advance. The service lets you transfer funds between accounts; set up transfers for future dates; send domestic and international wire transfers; make payments or withdrawals for your business credit account; electronically pay bills or request stop payments; and download account information into spreadsheet software for money management forecasting.

The system also provides a security system that you can custom-design; it's available at no cost to business and professional customers. Additional information, including a downloadable demonstration of Business Access, is available at Citibank's Web site (http://www.citibank.com) or by calling (800) 967-2484.

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