Rite Aid has reversed its previous refusal to accept Apple Pay and is now supporting the platform, along with Google Wallet, in what some industry watchers see as a troubling development for the mobile payments consortium known as MCX.
In a release Tuesday (Aug. 11), Rite Aid, the drugstore chain with 4,600 outlets nationwide, said it would be accepting mobile payments, including the Apple and Google options, in a rollout slated to begin Aug. 15. In addition, the company stated that it would accept Google’s Android Pay upon its debut and will also accept transactions that use “tap-and-pay” credit and debit cards.
The move comes after Rite Aid had previously shuttered support for NFC-based payments such as the ones just mentioned, in part tied to its contractual obligations with MCX. Rite Aid was not the only drugstore chain to opt out of taking on Apple Pay as an option for its consumers; CVS did the same.
The MCX consortium, led by retailing giant Walmart, has been in the midst of pilot trials tied to its own mobile payments app, CurrentC. As of yet, there have been no real strides made beyond beta tests of the technology, even three years after MCX’s formation. CurrentC has been rumored to be rolling out, at least via pilot program, in Ohio as early as this month. Late last year, CurrentC had been laid a bit bare in terms of strategy. The new mobile payments network would be available in app form, for both Apple and Android, driven by more than 110,000 merchant locations slated to be part of the fully deployed network. CurrentC also would operate in the cloud with the premise of additional security in place, as information would not be stored on mobile devices.
Post-pilot program, the “official” CurrentC rollout could take place as early as the third quarter, yet the app must still find its way toward acceptance with major credit card companies and bank-issued cards, where Apple and other rivals have made some inroads.
The MCX push into payments has been at least somewhat dependent on exclusivity pacts with members of MCX that look to keep out payment upstarts, among them Apple Pay and Google’s various payments iterations.
Earlier this year, in April, Best Buy said it would accept Apple Pay, a move slated to come when the electronics retailer’s (notably, a founding member of MCX group) own agreement with MCX expired this summer. Roughly around the same time, the CEO of MCX, Dekkers Davidson, said he would step down from that role.