Visa’s (s v) digital wallet and PayPal (s ebay) competitor V.me is now ready to go prime-time after debuting in beta a year ago. The credit card company is officially launching the service today and announcing 50 banking partners and two dozen merchants who will support the wallet initiative.
V.me is Visa’s attempt at creating a digital wallet that makes transactions easier. It allows users to pay online with a Visa or other credit card using a user name and password instead of entering a 16-digit card number and their address. V.me is available online and on mobile and will roll out to in-store point of sale next year.
Visa is relying on banking partners to help sell V.me to their 50 million customers. It has signed up deals with PNC and U.S. Bank along with about 50 other smaller banks, who will offer V.me directly to their customers. Some like PNC will offer a preloaded V.me wallet while other banks will send users to sign-up through the V.me site. Many banks will market the service through their own banking site.
V.me also has about two dozen merchants partners, including 1-800-Flowers and Shoebuy.com, Cooking.com, Rakuten Buy.com, Blue Nile and others. It’s looking to eventually target the top 250 online retailers. That would pit it against PayPal (s ebay) as well as other credit card rivals like American Express (s axp) and MasterCard (s ma), which are also creating or building out digital wallets to make it easier to pay online.
The bigger challenge and opportunity will be in 2013, when V.me goes in store. Jennifer Schulz, global head of eCommerce for Visa, said the company is looking at employing near field communication (NFC) in certain geographies though it’s also looking at other technologies to facilitate payments. She said V.me could easily plug in other tools at the point of sale like QR codes.
V.me represents a way for Visa to go multi-channel, selling online and offline. That’s especially helpful in mobile commerce, where completing transactions can be hard. But if Visa can expand its share of in-store sales, that’s an even bigger opportunity though it will have to go up against a lot of competitors including Google Wallet (s goog), Isis, Square and many others. Visa hasn’t shared any numbers from V.me’s beta so it’s unclear how well consumers are taking to the wallet so far.