Visa launches digital wallet beta with

While credit card rival MasterCard (s ma) announced its own digital wallet platform, Visa (s v) has some news of its own. It’s launching the first beta of its wallet service with online retailer’s 18 million customers will now see the option to enroll in on check-out and login pages. They will be able to create a account that’s funded from Visa, American Express (s axp), MasterCard and Discover cards (s dfs). Instead of entering in their credit card information to complete a transaction, users can enter in a user name and password. users can also receive alerts and near-real-time notification of transactions on their Visa accounts and will eventually get personalized offers through the wallet.

This is still an early step for, which got going with the launch of a developer center in November. The plan is to start in the U.S. with online commerce, with many more retailers set to support in the coming weeks and months.  Eventually will expand to mobile and in-store payments using near field communication. Visa Europe also announced last month that would debut this fall in the UK, France and Spain. seems to be getting off to a bit of a slower start than expected. In November, Visa announced that would launch in the U.S. in early 2012 after the holidays with in-store NFC payments coming later in the the year. It’s unclear when will be ready for a public launch for all online retailers. The NFC roll-out will be even more complicated and will pit Visa directly against Google Wallet (s goog) and Isis, the wireless carrier-led wallet initiative set to begin trials this summer in Austin and Salt Lake City. It’s also facing competition from MasterCard’s PayPass Wallet Services and American Express’ Serve platform, which will eventually both offer online, mobile and in-store payments.

This battle is starting to heat up but don’t expect this year to be decisive. There is still so much education and development that needs to happen and most consumers and merchants don’t have a clue as to which wallet they will want to use. Visa has the advantage of being the biggest credit card network and that trust will surely give it a boost in the new digital wallet wars. But there’s so much more game to be played, it’s still too early to say who will prevail.