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Visa's Digital Wallet, V.me, Launches with PNC

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Visa began offering its V.me digital wallet this week with PNC, the first of more than a dozen bank partners it has lined up.

PNC is offering V.me first to users of its own Virtual Wallet online banking product, which has a more tech-savvy userbase than its general population of online banking users.

Visa announced V.me nearly a year ago as a new digital wallet for shopping online, replacing an earlier product called Rightcliq. Since then, Visa has been testing the system with a small number of merchants and seeking issuer partners to help it enroll consumers.

Twenty-three merchants accept V.me today, including 1-800-Flowers.com, Shoebuy.com, Cooking.com, MovieTickets.com and Rakuten Buy.com. Consumers who shop with those merchants click a V.me payment button at checkout and enter an email address and password to access stored account details.

Issuers that work with Visa don't lose access to any customer data — V.me isn't a stored-value account like PayPal is and it doesn't pass payments through a virtual card like Google Wallet sometimes does.

"What we're providing for the issuers is the ability for the consumers to use the cards they have today," says Jennifer Schulz, Visa's global head of e-commerce.

A card linked to V.me is "the card that is going to be used," she says. "It won't be a funding mechanism for another card. You won't see steering to [alternative methods like automated clearing house payments]. All of this is core to the value proposition."

This is particularly important for PNC's Virtual Wallet account, a combination of three linked checking and savings accounts designed to help consumers with their budgeting.

"When you make those purchases [with V.me], the information is brought back to us and categorized. It can be part of your budget," says Mike Ley, PNC's vice president of e-business and payments. "It's the same information [PNC gets from normal card transactions] but it's a different way of shopping."

Unlike most online checkout pages, which present just the card network's brand, with V.me merchants "you actually see the branding of the issuer," Schulz says. "The card that's in your wallet will come up on screen."

This allows consumers to verify the use of a default card or shift spending to a different card, she says. Consumers can enroll non-Visa cards, which are treated the same as Visa cards.

"The wallet we've developed is an open wallet," Schulz says. "It will support Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover; and by that I mean the original payment cards, not a load function."

Over time, Visa plans to bring V.me to the point of sale, initially in regions of the world where mobile payments enabled by Near Field Communication technology are more commonplace, she says. V.me can also support mobile payment apps that use quick-response (QR) codes or bar codes to display payment data at the point of sale, though this would be a decision for the merchant to make, she says.

V.me's mobile-payment function can eventually come to the U.S. but there is not as much momentum here, Schulz says. "Swipe-and-go technology works very well and it's very fast, very secure and reliable," she says.

PNC will present all new Virtual Wallet customers with the option to sign up for V.me when they first open their accounts, Ley says. Existing Virtual Wallet customers can enroll by selecting an option within their online banking accounts.

PNC plans to engage its Virtual Wallet users on its blog for feedback before deciding its next move with V.me.

"We would love to roll it out to additional online banking customers as well," Ley says. PNC might also add tighter V.me integration for Virtual Wallet users, but Ley would not go into detail about what this would entail.

Overall, working with V.me "helps extend Virtual Wallet out into the shopping space," Ley says. "It's something that customers are looking for ... we're helping provide a streamlined, convenient and secure way of shopping online."

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