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Visa puts cat among the NFC pigeons with m-wallet launch

The latest trend in the fashionable m-payments sector is to turn the phone into a mobile wallet, making swipe-based NFC purchases using any of the use


Published: 12 May, 2011


The latest trend in the fashionable m-payments sector is to turn the phone into a mobile wallet, making swipe-based NFC purchases using any of the user’s bank cards. Sprint has an m-wallet scheme and Isis, the joint venture of its three main rivals, recently refocused its activities on this area too. Now the biggest payments player of all, Visa, has announced its own wallet strategy for north America, stealing a march on the online giants like PayPal and putting Isis – which once sought to sideline the plastic card giants – in the shade.

Its system will launch in the fall and is likely to be the blueprint for a global push. It will support ‘click to buy’ purchases using NFC phones, as well as enabling users to exchange funds by tapping their handsets together. The giant credit card processor plans to work with a wide range of banks, including Barclaycard (a founding member of Isis), Royal Bank of Canada, US Bank, PNC Bank and TD Bank Group.

The wallet will support payments from Visa and non-Visa cards and accounts, not just for physical purchases using NFC, but also online transactions via the mobile web or social networks. It will also support PayPal, eBay’s online payments network and the player Visa would most like to outwit with a big push in NFC.

The wallet technology and its back end platform leverages Visa’s acquisitions of PlaySpan and CyberSource, two online payment services, plus the giant’s own payWave application. Most recently, it invested in Square, the disruptive m-payments system created by Twitter inventor Jack Dorsey.

Features of the new wallet will include the ability to make payments using a user name and password, instead of typing in a credit card number, address and expiry date. Customers will be able to set preferences for which of their accounts should be used for different types of purchases. Like the Isis plan, the Visa wallet will also hold loyalty card information and offer coupons and special offers.

Bill Gajda, head of global mobile products at Visa, said the company was going through a broad transition from being a card processing network to a multifaceted payments platform – an effort where it may meet combined NFC/online initiatives from old rival MasterCard, but also newer challengers like PayPal, Google CheckOut, and rumored moves by Amazon, Apple and Facebook, not to mention the mobile operators. “People will use plastic for many years to come but increasingly, we’ll be talking about accounts not cards and Visa as a payment platform and provider as opposed to a physical card payment company,” Gajda said in an interview.

Confusion still reigns over the strategy of Isis, the mobile payments joint venture set up last year by US cellcos Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile. The group denounced as “profoundly misleading” reports that it was reversing its strategy of creating an alternative NFC-based system to those of the credit card giants. While it agreed it would no longer build its own network, it claimed that would accelerate its progress rather than the reverse.

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