In a move that sounds as incongruous as the plot of The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones, Deluxe Corp. is bringing the check into mobile payments.

The check and technology provider has launched a Mobile Checkbook app for iPhones, allowing small business owners to send and receive check payments from any location.

The app extends the Deluxe eCheck concept onto an Apple smartphone or tablet, using technology from VerifyValid. The app allows users to send a printed check without having to write one with ink and paper.

"It's facilitating the writing of a check, and we are not behind a bank firewall or linked in any way," says Chris Clausen, director of product management for payments and transactional solutions at St. Paul, Minn.-based Deluxe. "The payment rides the check clearing rails in the same way … the recipient retrieves the check and prints it, or they can remotely deposit if they have direct deposit set up with their bank."

In addition to sending payments, the mobile checkbook tracks payments and electronically sends remittance data, allowing a business to organize and manage its accounts payable and receivable records while reducing paper, Clausen says.

"That's a big expense to manually input all of that invoice data to make sure that the payment gets credited appropriately," Clausen says. "The nice thing about the eCheck is that data rides along with the payment electronically and the mobile app supports that."

Deluxe completed extensive research with its 4 million small business clients and 5,700 banks to determine how the eCheck process could fit their needs.

After a payee sends an e-check through the mobile app, the recipient receives an e-mail notification with a link to access the check. The sender needs to have an eCheck account set up with Deluxe, but the recipient does not.

Ultimately, Deluxe is working to help financial institutions keep payments relationships with businesses, Clausen says. "There are other solutions looking to keep the FIs from the process, and the e-checks keep that FI in the central relationship, which we believe is the right place for them," he adds.

Taking check payments to mobile devices is "a very good strategy" for Deluxe, says Maria Arminio, president of Avenue B Consulting Inc., a Redondo Beach, Calif.-based payments management-consulting firm.

Deluxe continues to find ways "to retain business and do so in a manner that is a logical extension of their current service offering in the marketplace," Arminio says.

"A lot of this service is in the back-office processing that's done to support the functionality that is there," Arminio adds. "That's always the secret sauce on these kinds of things."

The mobile app offers a lockbox option that operates as an aggregator of all eChecks the business receives.

"We recommend the lockbox, but a business does not have to sign up for it," Clausen adds. "If you are getting more than one eCheck, this is a nice centralized area where you can be sure you haven't missed one."

A business that downloads the mobile checkbook app without an eCheck account from Deluxe will be prompted to register for an account in another channel.

"They will get an e-mail with instructions on how to register, because it's a rigorous authentication process as a security protocol," Clausen says. "We can't allow just anyone to sign up for it."

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