A practical system and method for the remote distribution of financial services (e.g., home banking and bill-paying) involves distributing portable terminals to a user base. The terminals include a multi-line display, keys "pointer to" lines on the display, and additional keys. Contact is established between the terminals and a central computer operated by a service provider, preferably over a dial-up telephone line and a packet data network. Information exchange between the central computer and the terminal solicits information from the terminal user related to requested financial services (e.g., for billpaying, the user provides payee selection and amount and his bank account PIN number). The central computer then transmits a message over a conventional ATM network debiting the user's bank account in real time, and may pay the specified payees the specified amount electronically or in other ways as appropriate. Payments and transfers may be scheduled in advance or on a periodic basis. Because the central computer interacts with the user's bank as a standard POS or ATM network node, no significant software changes are required at the banks' computers. The terminal interface is extremely user-friendly and incorporates some features of standard ATM user interfaces so as to reduce new user anxiety.