May 31, 2011, 5:14 PM

Visa plans a web and mobile wallet, but consumers may prove skeptical

Visa is betting that consumer will flock to a new mobile digital payment wallet that will support in-store as well as online payments and marketing messages.

Its brand is ubiquitous among credit cards, but if Visa Inc. builds a digital wallet for online and mobile payments, will consumers flock to use it?

Visa is betting they will, and says it has lined up support from 14 financial institutions to launch a digital wallet that stores consumers' billing and shipping addresses as well as payment card account data to expedite payments on e-commerce and mobile commerce sites.

It will also support Near Field Communication-enabled payments. NFC is a wireless technology that lets shoppers make in-store purchases by waving their mobile phones past payment terminals; it also enables merchants to transmit marketing messages or digital coupons from a fixture such as an advertising poster to a consumer's mobile phone.

But will consumers use Visa's service—or any digital wallet?

"That remains to be seen," says Scott Strumello, an analyst at Auriemma Consulting Group Inc. "Others, including Citigroup's C2it, have not taken off and were ultimately discontinued."

And Visa already has an entrenched competitor in PayPal, the widely used online payments service owned by eBay Inc. PayPal can be used in both e-commerce and m-commerce settings, and last month acquired a mobile technology called Fig Card designed to facilitate mobile phone payments in physical stores.

To compete in online payments, Visa will have to prove it can respond quickly to consumer demands for payment features while also maintaining effective relationships with merchants, says Gwenn Bezard, research director at payments industry research and advisory firm Aite Group LLC.

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