V.me By Visa In Australia: Everything You Need To Know

Digital wallet options in Australia aren't exactly thick on the ground, so Visa's plan to launch its V.me service in Australia by the end of 2013 is welcome -- but which banks and stores will it work with? Find out in our comprehensive overview.

V.me offers the same functions as any other digital wallet concept: you can store details of your Visa and other payment cards in a single account, along with multiple shipping addresses, and pay by logging into that rather than having to retype and share all your account details every time you make a purchase. That's good for customers (who don't have to mess around with multiple passwords and who don't risk sharing their card details with unknown stores) and for merchants (since you're less likely to abandon your cart if it becomes too complex). The dominant provider to beat in that space is eBay-owned PayPal.

The service has been operational in the US since 2012, and will launch in Australia "before Christmas" (Visa officials wouldn't provide a more specific date). Here's what we learned at the Sydney launch event.

Which cards does it support Visa (credit and debit), MasterCard (credit and debit) and American Express. There's no option to add EFTPOS or regular bank accounts, however.

How much does it cost? There's no fee for customers to use the service. Sites will have to pay their regular merchant fees to provide credit card services, and may be charged extra for access by their acquirer. (Visa wouldn't provide any detail on the latter point.)

Which Australian banks are backing the concept? Visa has lined up more than 40 local banks to help promote the platform, including three of the 'Big Four' banks (ANZ, NAB and Westpac), several second tier providers (including Bendigo, Citigroup, ING and Suncorp) and numerous credit unions. Commonwealth Bank is conspicuous by its absence. Banks don't have to be actively promoting the scheme in order for their cards to be used with it, however.

Which stores will offer it? Local merchants who have already signed up and said they will use their services on the site include JB Hi-Fi, Cotton On, City Beach and Lorna Jane. Visa says additional stores will sign on before Christmas.

How does this relate to PayWave? PayWave, which offers contact-based payments, is a separate Visa service (and apparently a very popular one in Australia; more than 17 million transactions are processed through PayWave each month). The main point of intersection is that both can be connected to the same card. Other local Visa experiments include its SmartPass Android app, though that's restricted to Vodafone customers.

What about Verified by Visa? The Verified by Visa service, which is designed to minimise card fraud by asking for additional passwords or one-time codes, also continues to operate. In theory, you could be asked to use Verified by Visa even when using V.me, if a transaction was flagged as unusual. That's annoying, if only because Verified by Visa has a poor reputation for reliability and usefulness.

Are there any obvious benefits compared to PayPal? Hard to say at this point overall. There's no fee to sign up as a consumer, so it's low-risk to participate in both. One potentially useful extra: the ability to set transaction alerts on your Visa cards so you receive a warning if you spend more than a pre-defined limit. There's also potential for stores to send you sales alerts through V.me apps, though that sounds deeply annoying to us, and for banks and retailers to integrate V.me as a payment option in their own mobile apps.

Lifehacker's weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.


    Just to clarify; Verified by Visa is an authentication tool used by Visa and MasterCard card issuers. It's a protocol that allows issuers to screen transactions during the checkout process before the authorization is sent. Historically it's had some growing pains related to issuer deployment, consumer experience and static passwords. Visa and MasterCard have made significant improvements to the service globally in the past couple of years and have worked with issuers to redeploy. The biggest improvement is that issuers are instructed to no longer prompt every consumer for authentication. Instead issuers challenge risky transactions with dynamic forms of authentication(One time sms tokens, online banking like questions; 'what was the name of your first pet'). In theory it gives a card issuer a tool to authenticate a transaction they may have declined during authorization, therefore eliminating false positives while weeding out fraudsters.

    Sorry, MasterCard's program is called MasterCard SecureCode and operates on the same protocol.

    Any news on ANZ mobile wallet which was in testing since last October?

    Google Wallet was looking miiighty promising. I used it when you could do the $10 prepaid card thing, and it worked well at McDonalds (bought two coffees with it), but why is it still not here?

    PayWave (which, as I recall, not many local stores in my area had it because they didn't quite get how it worked, or feared that I could type a number into my phone and suck out all the credit card details in a 5 mile radius) has filled that void, but it's still cool to unlock your phone and wave to pay for crap.

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