Visa U.S.A., BankAmerica Corp., and First Union Corp. will collaborate on pilots of the Secure Electronic Transactions protocol for Internet payments, the companies will announce today.

The open industry standard, known as SET, was developed last year by Visa and MasterCard International.

The standard provides an extra layer of security for on-line credit card purchases.

With these pilots, "we're really beginning down the path of broad adoption of SET in the U.S.," said David Cohen, Visa's vice president of new products and services.

Bank of America plans to have 500 employee cardholders test SET at five merchants' Web sites this fall.

SET-compliant software and digital certificates for the pilots will be provided by International Business Machines Corp., Open Market Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Verifone division, and Verisign Inc.

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