Mobile Commerce

CurrentC Soon To Get Its First Public Tests

Better late than never, they say.

After years of waiting, it seems that CurrentC — the mobile wallet by the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) — is finally ready to roll out. In a limited run. For testing purposes.

In the next several weeks, Walmart, Target and Darden Restaurants Inc. (parent company of Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse) will begin the first public tests of CurrentC at several member retailers and restaurants in Columbus, Ohio.

While this is good news for the long-delayed MCX mobile project, it comes at a less than perfect time. When the program to create a merchant-backed mobile payments platform was first conceived, partner retailers were required to sign an exclusivity agreement that blocked them from accepting other mobile payments platforms (like Apple Pay). Those deals, however, expire this week, according to Wall Street Journal reports.

And those once-exclusive partners are in some cases now gearing up to start seeing other mobile platforms. Rite Aid announced yesterday (Aug. 11) that it will begin taking the NFC-based payments platforms — Apple Pay and Android Pay — starting in August. Best Buy — a founding MCX member — announced in April they were also moving to accept Apple Pay.

Rite Aid will also be offering CurrentC when it launches. The goal, according to a spokesperson, is to offer their customers maximum payments choice. Unlike Apple and Android, which function by largely riding the credit/debit rails, MCX’s contribution — described as a “holy war against interchange fees” — is that it sidesteps credit cards and instead allows users to pay directly with a checking account, gift card or private-label debit or credit card directly. To make the payment happen, shoppers scan a code with their phones.

Walmart has not made the NFC upgrade necessary to take Android or Apple Pay. However, it claims it is “open to different payment options that would provide consumers with the greatest shopping experience,” said spokesman Randy Hargrove.

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