One of the persistent issues for mobile payments is the complex nature of the ecosystem needed to support it, ranging from end user smartphones and willingness to use mobile payment apps; retailer and credit or debit card provider support; as well as participation by clearing networks.
With the launch of Apple Pay, we have seen a rather significant degree of retailer resistance growing. A group of retailers that are creating their own mobile payment system are disabling the near-field communications function of their retail checkout systems, to prevent use of Apple Pay, now viewed as a rival system.
The big battle, though, is not between Apple and the retailer consortium, but between the retailers and the credit card and debit card issuers (a.k.a., banks).
Banks and credit card companies have enthusiastically supported Apple Pay, seeing it as a way to increase the number of purchases people make with their credit cards.
Conversely, Apple has struggled to get merchants to join.
On the other hand, not a single bank backs “CurrentC,” the retailer service that intends to cut out the use of credit and debit cards, thus saving retailers the card-processing fees.
The CurrentC app, when it launches in 2015, will not link the smartphone apps with a user’s credit card.
Instead, it will withdraw funds directly from a CurrentC user checking account.
CurrentC also plans to support its own retailer gift cards, use of which likewise will avoid payment of the credit or debit card fees.
Among those that say they will support CurrentC are retailers The Gap, Old Navy, 7-Eleven, Best Buy, CVS Pharmacy, Kohl’s, Lowes, Dunkin’ Donuts, Publix Super Markets, Shell Oil, and many others.
Apple Pay, on the other hand, has signed up Bloomingdales, Macy’s, Duane Reade, McDonald’s, Sephora, Petco, Panera Bread, Staples, Nike, Walgreens, Subway and Whole Foods.
You can see the problem: the mobile market, already fragmented, is going to get more fragmented. Softcard (the AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile US consortium) and Google Pay already are in the market.
And one cannot help but think Amazon and PayPal could be key contenders as well.
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