Visa Advances Toward a Digital Wallet

Visa is taking another big step in its continuing efforts to create a universal digital wallet. Last week, the company announced plans to introduce a one-click payment system that will allow Visa customers to sign up for a set of credentials that will allow them to pay for items online with a single click. Jim McCarthy, the head of global products at Visa, said that the company was trying to simplify the process of buying items online or on a mobile site, which can require the same tedious and repetitive data entry each time a consumer wants to make a purchase online.

  People can buy things with one click at a particular site, say Amazon.com, but they can’t yet do it across the Web. Visa’s new feature reduces the multitude of ways a consumer might want to pay for an item — whether with a Visa check card, a PayPal account or some other means — into a single log-in and password. All of the information is stored in Visa’s secured servers so that users only have to sign in to pay for their purchase. Mr. McCarthy said the service would be introduced to consumers in the United States and Canada by the year-end holiday shopping season.

  Visa has also been testing a system that lets users pay for items with an application that uses “near-field communication” technology on a mobile device to process a payment. This one-click system will also be wrapped into that service when it is introduced more broadly, the company said. The company says that a customer’s entire financial history could be securely stored in one spot, along with frequent-flier accounts, medical benefits, even appliance warranty information from Best Buy, replacing the jumble of account information that most people have stored in different locations – on and offline.

  The one-click service will be introduced in social and online games and then be provided more broadly to e-commerce merchants, mobile and social commerce developers who will allow consumers to check out of a site with a single click. Visa even plans to make the underlying code, or A.P.I., available to third-party developers who want to install the features on their payment Web sites.

  The plan has been greatly enabled by two recent Visa acquisitions: PlaySpan, a start-up that lets people pay for virtual goods in games; and CyberSource, an e-payments company. Although several (unnamed) banking partners are already involved in the project, Visa faces stiff competition in this long-coveted arena from American Express and other credit card issuers. Mobile carriers have also struggled to bring their own solutions to market, but it is not yet clear when or if, they will debut. “We’re trying to get ahead of the curve here,” Mr. McCarthy said.