Montmartre On The Potomac

Want to know immediately if someone just purchased a $5,000 flat-panel TV with your credit card? This is one of the new, high-tech features banks are adding to their menu of customer services. Using software developed by Adeptra of Norwalk, Conn., banks now can send automated alerts to customers by e-mail, fax, PDA, or phone. You can ask to be notified when a large credit-card purchase is made, specific checks clear, or a bank balance is running low. Bank One (ONE) lets its checking and credit-card customers choose from free e-mail or phone alerts; its sister bank, JPMorgan Chase (JPM), also sends reminders to PDAs and pagers. At Providian National Bank, you can get an e-mail message when you reach the credit limit on your charge card.

Coming this summer: A new service from "aggregation" technology developer Yodlee of Redwood City, Calif. that will allow fund transfers among a variety of linked bank and nonbank accounts. It would be available to such banks as Wachovia (WB), Citibank (C), and Bank of America (BAC), which allow clients to look at checking, loan, investment, credit-card, and 529 college-savings accounts all at once.

The skies have become more Fido- and Fluffy-friendly. United Airlines' frequent fliers can now earn 1,200 bonus miles when they fly with their pets. To qualify for United Pet Class, which ends on May 27, a pet must travel with a Mileage Plus member for at least one segment of a roundtrip flight. You can carry a small dog, cat, or bird onboard for $80 one-way on a domestic flight if the kennel fits under the seat. The other option is for the pet to travel as checked luggage in a heated cargo compartment for $100 to $200, depending on the animal's size. El Al offers pet points for its frequent fliers as well. Meanwhile, animal members of Midwest Airlines' Premier Pet Program can qualify for one free roundtrip for every three paid roundtrips they take with their owners.

Cross cut or strip cut? Come June 1, when a new federal identity-theft law takes effect, small employers may be pondering that question as they shop for a shredder. The law requires anyone who employs even one person to destroy credit-check and other employee records before tossing them. Cross-cut models, which make it harder to reassemble documents, are the best bet.

Dance-hall performers, absinthe drinkers, crowded markets -- the nightlife and street life of Paris' Montmartre district was the central theme of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's work at the end of the 19th century. The National Gallery of Art in Washington will highlight that teeming area in "Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre," Mar. 20 to June 12. More than 250 pieces -- including The Englishman at the Moulin Rouge, and works of Picasso, Van Gogh, and other contemporaries -- will be on display. The exhibit will open at the Art Institute of Chicago on July 16.

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