Visa's digital wallet V.me now available for 55 million US customers

V.me allows users to link several credit cards to a digital wallet

Visa said Tuesday that it has expanded its digital wallet service V.me to an additional 53 banks and 23 merchant partners.

About 55 million cardholders now can use V.me for their online shopping. V.me is a wallet service that aims to make it easier to pay for goods online. Users are able to link several credit cards to a V.me account by filling out their personal card info and shipping and billing information just once.

"Account holders will be able to make payments online using V.me and check out simply by entering a username and password," Visa said.

The new deals with banks and merchants allow account holders to link their Visa and U.S.-issued credit cards like MasterCard, American Express, or Discover cards to their V.me accounts to shop online using a mobile phone, PC or tablet. The service is only available in the U.S., Visa said.

Visa announced partnerships with financial institutions like the U.S. Bank, Bank of Tennessee, the Greater Texas Federal Credit Union, PNC, the America First Credit Union, among others. Online merchant partners include Bidz.com, MovieTickets.com and Shoebuy.com, Visa said.

V.me is one of the many providers that want to make online payments easier. Google wallet, for example, offers a similar service to store information for credit and debit cards and link them to one account that can be used for paying online. Google's service can also be used for in-store purchases anywhere contactless payments are accepted. And in the U.S., Square and Paypal have been offering similar services.

"What Paypal has done is very similar to what Visa wants to achieve with V.me," said Digantam Gurung, industry analyst at CCS Insight, who added that Visa has very big plans for online payments as well as mobile and NFC (near field communication) payments.

Getting merchants and financial institutions on board is important to stay on top of online and mobile payment developments, Gurung added. Tuesday's announcement is a "very big step forward" for Visa, he said.

"V.me is vital to stay in the game. They got to get in there as soon as possible," said Gurung. Traditional players are being forced to do so. "It is questionable how relevant players like Visa and MasterCard are going to be in a couple of years," he said, adding that there are many newcomers in the online payments market who want a piece of the pie.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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