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Visa Launches Checkout, Another Play for Digital Payments

Visa wants you to know it gets that the future is about more than just plastic.

Visa

The company on Tuesday took the wraps off Visa Checkout, its latest effort to make itself relevant in a world of digital payments. Checkout is designed to allow consumers to pay from mobile devices and PCs with only a couple of clicks.

"It's your Visa card for the digital world," CEO Charlie Scharf told reporters on Wednesday. Initial partners include Neiman Marcus, Pizza Hut, Staples and United Airlines.

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But this is not the first time Visa has made this pitch. Checkout replaces an earlier effort, V.me, that launched with similar promises (and its own set of partners) back in 2011.

Visa is looking to both protect its existing payments business and expand into new areas, where it faces a host of competitors including MasterPass from familiar rival MasterCard, as well as digital-born companies such as Amazon and PayPal.

While online shopping is huge, many customers still leave items in their cart because the payment process remains difficult. Among the key selling points of Checkout is that it can be built directly into e-commerce sites without forcing users to go to another site or leave the transaction process as can be the case with PayPal and some of Visa's earlier efforts.

This time around, Visa said it isn't trying to be a destination site, but rather just to speed up online transactions. With Checkout, Visa says that transactions can take as little as five seconds.

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"This is not a wallet," said senior VP Sam Shrauger. "It is a digital form of the card you love."

As for competing with PayPal, Scharf noted that lots of PayPal transactions actually use Visa. But, he said, while they are an important partner, Scharf said: "We shouldn't have to rely on anyone else."

For its part, Pizza Hut said the promise of faster transactions is key. When people are ordering a pizza, "it is usually because they are really hungry," said Baron Concors, the eatery's chief digital officer.

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Visa pitched Checkout as part of a broader company effort to remake itself for a new era. The company opened up a new San Francisco office designed to work with a broader array of partners including technology companies large and small.

"We are a very different Visa than we have been in the past," Scharf said.

By Ina Fried, Re/code.net.

CNBC's parent NBC Universal is an investor in Re/code's parent Revere Digital, and the companies have a content-sharing arrangement.

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