By Ingrid Lunden
Visa (V) is picking up steam quickly on its PayPal competitor, the V.me digital wallet service. Today it is adding another major U.S. bank, the Bank of America, to its existing list of 50 partners, and it has signed its second international deal, with the Royal Bank of Scotland in the UK, which also includes National Westminster bank.
The Bank of America deal is significant in that it is one of the largest banks in the U.S. with 30 million active users of its online banking service and 55 million overall. And Bank of America is also itself working on a mobile payments solution -- a Square-like mobile payment service called MobilePay on Demand, with a dongle that attaches to a smartphone and targeting smaller businesses. Bank of America's scale and suite of services could spur more retail deals for V.me as well.
"We believe that Bank of America’s decision to offer V.me to its vast customer base will accelerate merchant adoption and make this digital wallet even more valuable to consumers," said Jennifer Schulz, global head of eCommerce at Visa, in a statement.
V.me is now being piloted with Bank of America's online banking customers, Visa says. Customers of banks that have signed on with V.me can use the service as a shortcut to make quick online payments and provide other billing and shipping information securely with participating online retailers. The service is open, in that it works with Visa as well as MasterCard, American Express, and Discover cards -- essentially, whichever the customer chooses to upload into the service.
Participating merchants are on the way, too. Among the 23 that are already signed up are 1-800-Flowers, PacSun, Shoebuy.com, Buy.com, and MovieTickets.com.
As for RBS in the UK, this looks to be just step one in Visa's international ambitions, which will start to take more shape in 2013, the company told TechCrunch. The service, Visa says, is already being trialled with RBS and Natwest, and it will be rolled out fully in the spring of 2013. The trial, notes Mariano Dima, EVP of Product and Marketing Solutions at Visa Europe, has been "extremely positive" so far. "We will be announcing further V.me support from several major banks in the coming months." That will include a French bank to be announced before the end of this year.
It follows an earlier announcement of Visa’s first international partner for V.me, Spain’s BBVA bank. WorldPay is working on the back end in the UK implementation. And although they are coming later, we may see international implementations take the lead on how V.me develops. Schulz also told TechCrunch that "physical implementations" of V.me services -- most likely at point-of-sale or mobile-payment solutions -- will come in early 2013 "not necessarily in the U.S." What’s still unclear is how and if this would work with other investments that Visa has made in the area of mobile payments, specifically with Square.