Visa to launch digital wallet this fall

Visa Paywave

Credit card company Visa has announced it plans to roll out its own digital wallet this fall in the U.S. and Canada that will offer “click-to-buy” payments for online purchases, as well as mobile purchases based on Near-Field Communications (NFC) being built into an increasing number of spartphones. The goal of the system will be to offer a “Visa-quality” experience in both online and mobile commerce, providing consumers with the same sense of security and reliability they get from existing Visa account offerings and point-of-sale service.

“Our new solutions deliver greater consumer choice, convenience, and control while helping our clients grow their businesses,” said Visa chairman and CEO Joseph Saunders, in a statement. “By helping to reduce abandoned online shopping carts and bringing new account holders into the Visa network, we create a win-win-win for merchants, consumers, and financial institutions.”

Visa intends to localize the mobile wallet service by working with financial institutions and mobile operators in a wide number of countries, particularly emerging economies where mobile subscriptions—and credit card issuance—are on the rise.

Visa’s says its digital wallet will handle both Visa and non-Visa payments accounts and be able to handle a variety of transaction scenarios, including online and mobile commerce, as well as transactions conducted via social networks, person-to-person payments, and micropayments—say, for digital or virtual goods. Visa will also be supporting NFC transactions via its own Visa payWave mobile applications. Visa’s click-to-buy functionality will require users merely enter an email address or online ID with a password: no account numbers, expiration dates, or security codes will be required. Visa pledges it is exploring “dynamic authentication technologies” to add security to online purchases. The digital wallets will offer users privacy settings as well as controls to enable customers to control which accounts are accessed depending on merchant or purchase amount. And, of course, Visa will be looking to further monetize the service by pushing special offers from merchants: users will be able to opt-in to receive “money-saving discounts and promotions from participating merchants.”

For Visa’s digital wallet to gain traction, the company will have to convince Web sites and online retailers to adopt its click-to-buy functionality. And while the company seems optimistic about the potential for mobile purchases, industry watchers think it’s more likely that mobile customers will conduct online transactions using their devices’ built-in Web browsers rather than by using special apps or NFC communications—at least in the near term, since many smartphones, tablets, and other devices do not yet have NFC hardware.

Visa is not alone in trying to develop online purchasing and mobile solutions for credit card customers: MasterCard, American Express, and Discover are all working on their own systems to enable mobile customers to make in-store purchases via their phones. However, the Isis mobile wallet system—backed by Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile—has just announced plans to work with both Visa and MasterCard on their mobile wallet systems.

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