MCX CurrentC Postponed Failed Dead Mobile Payment NFC

NFC Future Bright As Mobile Payment Provider CurrentC “Postpones” Launch Again

MCX CurrentC Postponed Failed Failure Dead Mobile Payment NFC Walmart Apple Pay Android Pay

Way back in 2012, the world of mobile payments was new, exciting, and largely uncharted. Companies were posturing to figure out what the future of the payments would look like. NFC tech in phones was a fledgling technology and was far from a sure bet for payment tech. It was during this time that a collection of merchants called the Merchant Payment Consortium (MCX) was formed to create their ideal payment system. Paramount for the new system was the ability to collect user data and avoid credit card processing fees. Based on QR codes, the sharing of data between merchants, and direct withdrawals from the user’s checking account, the CurrentC mobile payment system was created. Four years later and still struggling to come to market, MCX finds CurrentC the odd man out.

MCX has just announced that it will postpone the launch of CurrentC. The postponement feels rather permanent as no timeline or next step was provided by MCX. In fact the Consortium simultaneously announced layoffs and a change of business direction. The layoffs appear to be significant, involving around 30 people which seemingly represents around 1/3 of the company’s staff. Looking through the double-talk and corporate jargon of the press release, CurrentC essentially has one foot in the grave. According to the company, the decision was made “utilizing unique feedback from the marketplace and [the] Columbus pilot.” Not sure what this “unique” feedback was, but the “marketplace” has been decidedly vocal against the payment system for some time. The QR system was overly complex, the lack of privacy concerning, and the ability for merchants (or hackers) to draw directly from a bank account scary. By contrast, competing mobile payment systems almost universally rely on contactless NFC tech that hides user data and tokenizes credit card information, valuing privacy above all else.  

Continue reading

Chase Teams Up With CurrentC To Launch QR Based Chase Pay

Chase Pay CurrentC MCX

Just when we though the mobile payment space was starting to get its ducks in a row and align behind NFC technology, Chase has announced a QR based service. Chase’s Chase Pay platform runs on the much beleaguered CurrentC platform. Unlike competing mobile payment systems, which utilize wireless technology triggered by your fingerprint, CurrentC requires the scanning of QR codes. For businesses that make up MCX consortium, Chase’s involvement is great news and must feel like a lifeline. Besides being the first real vote of confidence for the platform, prior to Chase’s announcement users were stuck using either a store credit card to make purchases or connect the app directly to their checking account. Thanks to Chase Pay, CurrentC users will be able to charge to a Chase branded credit or debit card. Chase expect the service to launch in early to mid 2016, around the same time CurrentC is expected to launch.

But 2016 is a ways off and, if MCX’s previous CurrentC timelines are any indication, I would not hold my breathe for a launch in the early part of the year. MCX was formed in 2012 to create retailer buy-in for the CurrentC technology; if it does actually launch in 2016, it will already be 4 years behind the times. The original idea of CurrentC was to offer a payment system that every phone had the technology to use. But nearly all phones currently being sold include NFC payment technology and every day more people own phones with the tech. Relying on a multi-step process utilizing a phone’s camera and screen to scan and display codes is only becoming more needless and cumbersome over time. And let’s not forget the rise of wearable devices, which won’t work the CurrentC QR system. All told, the CurrentC service was slow to launch and has probably missed its window. The delay was likely due to decisions needing to satisfy all the companies which paid to join MCX; they all wanted a say in creating a payment service that benefited them. While CurrentC does offer much better store loyalty program integration versus other mobile payment systems, this is truly a side product of one of the primary CurrentC purposes: data capture. MCX designed their technology to capturing users’ buying habits across retailers and to share that information with member businesses. The other primary purpose of CurrentC was to eliminate credit card transaction fees charged to retailers (former Walmart CEO Lee Scott once said “I don’t know that MCX will succeed, and I don’t care. As long as Visa suffers.”).

If all of this sounds bad for the consumer compared to the high level of privacy, card choice, and convince offered by Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay, you are right! Consumer sentiment is overwhelmingly negative towards CurrentC and retailers are listening. Over the past few months several MCX members (including Rite Aid and Best Buy), who had been stuck in a very penalizing exclusivity clause, began offering NFC based mobile payments as soon as they were legally able to. Given the momentum, it is surprising (and disappointing) that Chase, a strong Apple Pay supporter, would have spent the time and resources to develop Chase Pay.

Continue reading

CurrentC Exclusivity Expires As Rite Aid Accepts Apple Pay

Rite Aid CurrentC Apple Pay

Things seem to continue to look bleak for CurrentC. We have covered the technology in the past and have made no secret that we do not understand how it is a viable alternative to payment solutions such as Apple Pay and Android Pay. As a refresher, the CurrentC system was designed by a consortium of merchants through a joint venture called MCX, formed in 2012. After significant delays, the, now antiquated, QR based service is finally beginning public trials in the coming weeks. This sounds like it could be good news, right, better late than never? Problem is, the 3 year exclusivity contract that MCX required for CurrentC is set to expire this week; that’s right, the exclusivity contract is ending before CurrentC has even begun public testing. In fact, while MCX expects to soft launch the payment system in Columbus, OH in the coming weeks, it doesn’t expect a roll out of the technology nationwide until 2016.

It is therefore not surprising that we now know who the first MCX member planning to accept Apple Pay is (and later Android Pay and Samsung Pay): Rite Aid. The company made headlines last Fall when both it and CVS turned off the ability to accept Apple Pay hours after the service’s launch. After making a point to honor the MCX exclusivity, it is interesting that Rite Aid is now leading that charge of MCX members to accept NFC based mobile payments. It was announced earlier this year that fellow members Best Buy will also begin accepting Apple Pay, but not until later this fall. None of this can be surprising to anyone who has been watching the mobile payment space; there was nothing consumer friendly about CurrentC and even if it launched earlier this year, as promised, it still would have been too late to market. It will be interesting to see what some of the other major merchants who are part of MCX do over the coming months. These include 7-Eleven, CVS, Hy-Vee, Lowe’s, Michaels, Publix, Dunkin’ Donuts, Shell, Sunoco, and Walmart.

Continue reading
Is CurrentC Against The Ropes - Featured

Is CurrentC Against The Ropes Before It Launches?

CurrentC Against The Ropes

It is rare for consumers to want a new technology to die, but every now and then a tech emerges that everyone can smell a mile away as being bad for the consumer. One of the clearest examples of this over the past 20 years was Divx. No, Millennials, we are not referring to the video codec, but instead a self destructing DVD developed by now-defunct Circuit City. The $4/disc product was clearly aimed to capitalize on the ignorant and ill-informed.

Last year consumers found a new technology to loath. Called CurrentC, the mobile payment system was designed by a consortium of retailers (MCX) to answer all of their needs and seemingly none of the consumers’. The system was designed from the ground up to minimize hardware investment, increase data capture of the consumer (including personal details, i.e. weight), and reduce processing fees. In case you need a quick refresh, here is how it works.  

Continue reading

Mobile Wallet Update: Apple, Google, Samsung, CurrentC

Mobile Payments Summary June2015 Samsung Android Apple CurrentC

The march towards making mobile payments part of our normal lives continues at a slow pace. Given expense of the required infrastructure updates, it is not surprising. But the good news for the end user is that things are continuing to improve and move forward.

Both Google and Samsung have announced new / improved mobile payment systems, unimaginatively called Android Pay and Samsung Pay. At Google’s I/O conference the other week, the company detailed their new Android Pay platform, superseding Google Wallet for most mobile payments. While Google Wallet requires a virtual debit card which is refilled, Android Pay works similarly to Apple Pay; Google has worked with credit card issuers to allow the cards to be loaded onto the device and then charges are made anonymously with a tokenized card number. Android Pay is expected to launch this Fall with the Android M update. Having Apple and Google utilize a similar system is great news for the consumer as it will likely push the adoption of NFC terminals at retailers.

Samsung announced their Samsung Pay system this Spring as part of the Galaxy S6 unveiling.  

Continue reading

Whole Foods & Apple Pay, MCX On The Defensive

Mobile Payment NewsUp unit a month ago, mobile payments was a fairly quiet topic. Google Wallet had been out for a while but wasn’t moving the industry forward. Since the October launch of Apple Pay there has been press on mobile payments every few days, some good, some bad.

• This week the grocery store chain Whole Foods announced that it had processed 150,000 payments via Apple Pay in the 3 weeks since the service went live. According to Mike Dudas (former mobile payment lead at Google and PayPal) this represents around 1% of Whole Foods’ transactions.

• Google Wallet appears to be benefitting from the publicity of Apple Pay. Since the announcement of Apple’s mobile payment service, the number of Google Wallet users has almost doubled. According to arsTechnica, Google Wallet has also seen a 50% increase in weekly transactions.

Re/code offered some insight into CurrentC and Walmart, stating that Walmart “will never accept Apple Pay” because of the transactions fees.  

Continue reading

Bad Press Continues For MCX As User Email Addresses Accessed (UPDATED)


UPDATE: MCX has gone on the defensive, hosting a conference call with members of the press. The company claims they are a target of attacks for trying to “challenge the status-quo” and that CVS’s and Rite Aid’s decision to cease NFC payments was because those merchants were making choices they felt were best for the consumer.


What a difference a week makes.  Last week at this time very few people had even heard of CurrentC, the QR passed payment system being launched by MCX. But since CurrentC forced its retail partners to shut off NFC payments over the weekend, the payment system has received nothing but negative press. CurrentC was designed by retailers to allow them to harvest customer information and avoid processing fees by not allowing the use of credit cards. This morning the New York Time wrote about MCX’s strong arm business practices including requiring merchants to pay $30,000 to view MCX’s presentation on CurrentC and requiring partners to utilize CurrentC exclusively for mobile payments. MCX later confirmed the exclusivity clause via a blog post and stated that the safest way to conduct mobile payments was not device to device but via the cloud. Those words have bitten MCX as their bad press seems to have culminated this afternoon with news that a third party has gained access to email addresses associated with CurrentC.

Continue reading