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CurrentC vs. Apple Pay

April 8, 2015

Several large retailers including Rite Aid and CVS famously turned off their near-field communications scanners last year and announced that they would introduce their own mobile payment program to the market. That product is set to launch soon, which will signal the beginning of an Apple Pay versus CurrentC rivalry. 

Several large retailers including Rite Aid and CVS famously turned off their near-field communications scanners last year and announced that they would introduce their own mobile payment program to the market. That product is set to launch soon, which will signal the beginning of an Apple Pay versus CurrentC rivalry. It will be interesting to see if the new mobile payment application gains traction with consumers.

CurrentC is different from Apple Pay
AppleInsider discussed how CurrentC is unlike Apple Pay. It allows consumers to conduct credit and debit card-based transactions by taking pictures of QR codes generated at point of sale terminals. The mobile payment program, created by the Merchant Customer Exchange, represents efforts of several large retailers to avoid paying transaction fees to banks. Because payment amounts are directly deducted from users’ bank accounts, the retailers save the 2 to 3 percent they would normally pay to banks as processing fees. 

Trial versions of CurrentC will launch soon, but it is unclear whether consumers care all that much. The technology is less efficient than Apple Pay, because it uses old technology, and it is also a lot less secure. Apple Pay generates one-time tokens for each transaction to ensure payment data is not stolen. Even if hackers were to get their hands on transaction information, it would be useless to them. CurrentC, on the other hand, is likely to be more susceptible to hacking.

MCX CEO Dekkers Davidson indicated that POS terminals that offer support for CurrentC will also be compatible with NFC payments. While retailers outside the exchange will be able to accept payment from both products, retailers in the consortium have signed agreements that preclude them from accepting alternative forms of electronic payment. Best Buy and Wal-Mart, however, have also denied Apple Pay transactions.

CurrentC does not offer consumers the latest in technology
PCWorld reported that CurrentC is undergoing testing. Currently, employers of member retailers – such as the Gap, Exxon Mobil, Best Buy, Sears, Dunkin Donuts, 7-eleven and Wal-Mart – are the only ones who can use the service. The MCX announced that it plans to make the product available mid 2015, but that will be isolated to a single market at first. It seems the MCX is hesitant to unleash their product on an apathetic crowd just yet. 

“[The location] will be determined based on a number of factors, including retail support, infrastructure and consumer population,” the company said in a statement, according to the news source.

The media outlet also noted that according to MCX, QR barcodes are more common than NFC in smartphones. While this may be true, the fact is that mobile payments represent an evolution in the payments industry. It is unlikely that consumers will go for antiquated technology, instead of the latest that the world of software has to offer. CurrentC may be backed by a long list of retailers, but Apple Pay’s list is significantly longer. Apple’s product is now accepted at over 55,000 retailer locations as well as popular hotel chains, gas stations and Coca-Cola vending machines. It will be difficult for the MCX to compete with that. CurrentC is also unlikely to get many celebrity endorsements – it isn’t sexy enough. 

Ultimately, it remains to be seen how this situation will unfold, but it appears to be fairly obvious what will happen. Retailers and merchants across the country may stand to benefit by enabling their NFC-compatible equipment and forgetting about CurrentC altogether. What’s the point? It is not as secure and does not offer the same convenience as Apple Pay. Who would go for that?

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