In 2011 Google launched NFC payments in their Google Wallet service. It was easily the most geeky way to pay, but also had the potential to be the most efficient. The convience of pulling out your phone and tapping it to the terminal just made sense, but it never really caught on. Google never pushed the service like they should have and not enough retailers adopted the service. It never fully went away, but it never got as big as we hoped. Other apps like ISIS Wallet (now known as SoftCard) also implemented the functionality, but still, it didn’t catch on. Part of the reason for this was the iPhone. Apple’s phones never adopted the service until just recently, but that’s when things changed, but not for the better.
Apple Pay launched just about a week ago to the excitement of Apple fans everywhere. Finally mobile payments would be possible on their devices of choice. As an Android user I was also excited for this, but for a different reason. I thought that since Apple finally supported NFC payments, retailers would finally take them seriously and support would be found everywhere. I was excited to finally start using NFC payments through Google Wallet more often and almost exclusively use Google Wallet through NFC and the physical card. Instead, I woke up Sunday morning to hear about something new that changed everything. CurrentC.
CurrentC is a new form of mobile payments created by big retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy and more. Their goal is to avoid the 2% to 3% credit card fees associated with customers using those cards. MCX started working on CurrentC back in 2011 funded by big retailers. So how does it work?
CurrentC uses a complex system of, and I am dead serious, QR codes to accomplish mobile payments. A QR codes is displayed on the cashier’s display and then scanned by the customer. The system is designed to automatically use any discounts, coupons, loyalty payments and more. Customers financial data however won’t ever be shared with the merchant. This is a really good thing since CurrentC is designed to be directly tied into your bank account. This is the method these retailers are using to avoid those credit card fees.
As I’ve mentioned a few times, CurrentC is a payment system created by the big retailers. So who is on board for this? The list is shockingly and irritatingly long. Wal-Mart, Target, Lowe’s, Best Buy, K-Mart, Kohl’s, 7-Eleven, Dunkin’ Donuts, Wendy’s, Sheetz and many many more. One that especially dissapoints me is CVS Pharmacy. Their stores have always been one place I would almost always find an NFC terminal. Instead the company has stated that they plan to get rid of those terminals in support of CurrentC.
This new system seems pretty complicated to me. So why would anyone use it? I honestly don’t think they will. The system simply takes too much work for the average person to do. Yes it will work with more devices than what Google Wallet and Apple Pay work with, but at the same time it may not be as desirable. NFC payments are usually pretty simple to do and don’t require your bank info. In effect, CurrentC is not only killing NFC payments at their partnered stores, but also mobile payments in general. The sheer number of stores partnered in this movement makes me scared for the future of mobile payments. What do you think? Should CurrentC exist? Would you ever use it? How do you think it will effect NFC payments? Let us know in the comments.