Visa announced it will release a digital wallet in Australia this year that lets customers pay online merchants with any debit or credit card.
The V.me digital wallet, which launched last year in the United States, is a service that can be accessed on any PC, smartphone and tablet. Visa did not give an official release date for V.me in Australia, but said it would be ready in time for the Christmas shopping season.
Consumers enrol once for V.me through their financial institutions. After registering, they can add any card that is already accepted by e-commerce merchants. When buying from a website, the consumer logs into V.me, then selects the card they want to use and shipping information that they have saved in the digital wallet.
There are no fees for consumers to enrol or make purchases using V.me. However, online merchants must pay their financial institutions to support V.me.
The wallet can hold more cards than just Visa, including MasterCard, Visa officials said at the service’s launch announcement today in Sydney. The digital wallet also works for international purchases, assuming the merchant ships to Australia. In the future it could support merchant loyalty programs, too.
“It’s critical for us that we don’t make it a Visa-centric app,” said Vipin Kalra, Visa country manager for Australia.
Visa has already signed 40 financial institutions to support the V.me wallet, including all the major Australian banks except Commonwealth Bank. Visa is still in talks with e-commerce merchants but said it already has signed JB Hi-Fi, Cotton On, City Beach and Lorna Jane.
“We are continuing to talk with and work with a number of other financial institutions,” Kalra said. “At the same time, we are also starting to work with a number of merchants ... who are testing the environment with us."
“We want to make sure that V.me is available to all Australian e-commerce merchants,” said Greg Storey, Visa head of V.me for Asia Pacific, Central Europe, Middle East and Africa.
When asked about CommBank’s absence, Storey said "there are plenty who are considering and assessing what it takes to get involved, and we’re comfortable that there’s plenty of opportunities for all financial institutions to participate before Christmas".
Visa did not launch in Australia at the same time as the US because it needed more time to gain a “critical mass” of merchants and financial institutions, said Kalra.
Storey said the company modified its approach to enrolment after lessons learned in the American experience. Consumers wanted the financial institution to explain and promote the digital wallet service, he said. As a result, Australian financial institutions will be “very active in enrolment".
Visa is one of many companies that offers or has plans to offer a digital wallet. Banks, telcos, payment providers and technology companies like Google are all circling the space.
“We have a distinct competitive advantage,” said Storey. “We have a very simple and easy way for the consumer to purchase.”
He added that Visa has gained the support of many financial institutions.
V.me provides better security than other forms of online payment, Storey said. The wallet uses “strong authentication” and device identification to better prevent payment fraud. Also, while the merchant continues to provide the checkout experience, it no longer gains access to credit card information, which is kept securely at Visa.
While the V.me digital wallet can hold cards that are not Visa, Visa will still only be able to view transactions made with Visa cards, Kalra said.
With V.me, Visa chose not to make a mobile app but instead allow integration of the service into mobile websites and third-party apps. “We’re not in the business of developing mobile apps,” said Kalra.
While V.me is just for e-commerce, Visa officials said the service is complementary to Visa payWave, the company’s payment technology using near field communication (NFC) chips in plastic cards and mobile devices.
Visa and Vodafone last year revealed an Android app for NFC payments.
“PayWave will move from a piece of plastic to a mobile device, and that’s starting to happen already” Kalra said. “At the same time, V.me will come from a PC world to a more mobile world. And the two things will come together in a financial institution’s application.”
Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam