A leading Mexican bank has become the first in Latin America to make a public commitment to the Secure Electronic Transaction, or SET, protocol.

Banamex, which claims 50% of the international credit card-acquiring business in Mexico, plans to create an on-line service that will let consumers make travel arrangements and pay for them electronically.

The service, which will use the SET standards adopted by Visa and MasterCard for on-line credit card transactions, will let travelers pay for car rentals, hotels, and travel tickets over the Internet.

"We're working with MasterCard to create a virtual mall" for travelers, said Marco Antonio Giardiello, director of business services for consumer credit and electronic banking at Banamex.

"The vast majority of people visiting Mexico are from North America, and a brand like MasterCard has international recognition," he said.

SET is being tested in three Latin American countries in addition to Mexico, but the participating banks are not ready to go public.

About 250,000 households in Mexico use the Internet, and the market for electronic commerce in Latin America is expected to grow dramatically over the next few years, experts predict.

Mr. Giardiello said as more consumers go on-line, the bank wants to be ready to provide them with appropriate services. The security provided by SET has made the bank "comfortable" in making on-line travel and entertainment services available to its customer base, he said.

Banamex expects to make its Internet-based service live in December. Mr. Giardiello projected that 100 merchants and 10,000 consumers would be using the service by the end of next year.

The Banamex announcement coincided with the conclusion of MasterCard's Global Electronic Commerce Advisory Group meeting in Greenwich, Conn., which was attended by representatives from 30 member banks.

At that meeting, Steve Mott, senior vice president of electronic commerce/new ventures at MasterCard, said the Banamex service is an example of how SET projects are moving from pilot stages into real-life applications.

"The testing is now over, and we're asking, 'How do we make money?' and 'How do we make it international?'" he said.

Of 90 pilots using SET in 32 countries, 67 have been activated by MasterCard, said Mr. Mott.

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