Begun, the payment wars have.
Yoda used the Force, he didn’t need Apple Pay. If the Jedi Master walked into a CVS or a Rite Aid today, he would not be able to use the Apple Pay even if he wanted to. Nor could he use Google Wallet or Soft Card (formerly ISIS). The Force would probably work and also has next to zero chance of your bank information falling into the hands of the darkside, but none of the major retailers have embraced this form of payment.
When Apple Pay launched last week, I was optimistic that Apple’s marketing power and partnerships with banks and retailers, would open up a whole new world of places to use my Google Wallet. I wrote about this when Apple Pay was announced in Sept. NFC is NFC. Any place of business accepting Apple Pay would also accept Google Wallet and smartphone users would all be happy. I viewed this as a victory for the underutilized Google Wallet payment system I have been using at major retailers for years now. Sure, iPhone fanatics would feel like they are using something shiny and brand new that was thought up by Tim Cook in a dream one night, but I know NFC payments are not new.
Now just over a week after Apple Pay launched and iPhone 6 users flooded into places like McDonalds, Wegmans, and Walgreens to experience this new payment system, we are seeing several large retailers disable NFC payments altogether. I did not see this coming. I also was not aware of CurrentC and their existing partnerships with retailers such as CVS, Rite Aid, Wal-Mart, and Best Buy. It turns out these retailers have their own plans for a new payment system. One that eliminates the credit card fees retailers face and also mines data from their customer’s purchase trends. Both of which are things these retailers should have an interest in.
Retailers want you to keep coming back and the offers they offer need to be relevant to the customer receiving it. I for one have no problem with this at all. I would much rather receive relevant offers and ads that cater to my interested and needs. CurrentC does not use NFC technology so they don’t need this to work in their stores. It does require the customer to download and install an app to use it. We can expect retailers that are backing CurrentC to continue this behavior…but for how long? How long can they avoid the growing popularity of Apple Pay and other NFC based payment systems?
This may tell the story of just how strong Apple’s influence can be. I just hope Jar Jar Binks is nowhere to be found.