Updated on December 10, 2021
Apple’s recently launched Apple Pay, a means of using NFC (near-field communication) tech built into smartphones to pay for purchases at stores. Google’s had the similar Google Wallet for years; there’s also been a few other third party systems, such as Softcard (renamed recently from “Isis,” for obvious reasons). Despite being around for awhile, NFC-based payments haven’t caught on with the public yet. Of course, Apple’s hoping to change this; the recent security breaches with credit cards and Target, etc. might help push Apple Pay (and maybe also Google Wallet) as a secure alternate means of payment.
Unfortunately, major drug store chains Rite Aid and CVS, along with some other retailers, have just yanked support for NFC-based payments from their stores. The reason? They want to push their own not-yet-launched payment system, “CurrentC.” CurrentC is a more convoluted payment system involving QC codes. Besides being complicated, CurrentC also involves handing over a bank account number in setting it up, and has already had an email address security breach. There’s about this move in this New York Times article.
Some think CurrentC is just a way for said stores to avoid paying credit card processing fees, and they’re probably right. Either way, it sounds rather foolish to restrict payment means just to coerce customers into using an inferior payment system. Frankly, CurrentC sounds dead on arrival—and there’s the concern it might slow down the rate smartphone-based payments catch on.
Despite Target, Best Buy, and Wal-Mart also among retailers supporting CurrentC/refusing to take Apple Pay, at least one CurrentC retailer plans to still take Apple Pay: Meijer, a midwestern “big box” store chain. (As someone originally from the midwest, Meijer’s a lot nicer than Wal-Mart, frankly.)
One factor in Apple Pay and Google Wallet’s favor is the upcoming mass scale retailer switch to pin-and-chip based credit card terminals, similar to what the rest of the world uses. As long as stores are upgrading, they’re going to want to throw in NFC support for the millions of Android/iOS phones out there. So in the long run, Apple Pay and Google Wallet might catch on.