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This 71-Year-Old Librarian Perfectly Describes What's Wrong With Mobile Payments Today

You're not the only one who freezes at the checkout counter over how to pay.

Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Despite all the action in mobile payments today, the industry is still a hot mess.

There’s Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay. And there’s CurrentC, Chase Pay and now Walmart Pay. Most of these systems work in some stores, but not others. Apple Pay is built into iPhones, but only new ones. Some are embedded in a phone’s operating system, while others require people to download an app. Some ask you to tap the phone to pay, while others require scanning a QR code.

On Saturday morning, I got an email from Sue Hugus, a 71-year-old librarian in Amherst, Mass., who read one of my articles about CurrentC, an app backed by a consortium of big retailers. Her email neatly summarized the confusion most people, who don’t spend their days glued to tech blogs, experience at the checkout counter. Hugus, who uses Android Pay when she can, agreed to let me include her thoughts in a story, so here are some of her points along with some relevant context:

“Being forced to choose all of these different payment system(s) for each business I might use is not something I want to do.”

The lack of ubiquity of these services is a real challenge for those people who don’t want to have to ask cashiers in each store whether their equipment supports tap-and-pay systems like Apple Pay and Android Pay, or don’t know what type of logo to look for on the equipment. I’d say most people fall into this camp.

Samsung Pay works in more stores than most, thanks to proprietary technology, but obviously only works on Samsung phones. And while more stores are working to support more systems, there’s still a long way to go.

“It takes more memory on our equipment and my data security seems to me to be at risk. Just look at Target and Home Depot.”

There are some people who believe that shoppers will be fine using different mobile payment services depending on which stores they patronize. They compare it to how people may be able to use a certain type of credit card in some stores, but not others, or have to carry cash to pay at cash-only businesses. I tend to think most people would agree with Hugus and would like to limit how many services they use, in part because of concerns over the security of their financial information.

“I will also stop using Chase products if I am forced to use only their system.”

Capital One and Chase are the first American banks to release their own phone-based payment services. Capital One built the feature into its existing Capital One Wallet app, while Chase is creating a separate Chase Pay app. But since both are arriving after Apple, Google and Samsung, some people may be confused as to how they fit into the landscape.

In time, winners will likely emerge in mobile payments and the confusion will subside. But for now, it’s pretty ugly.

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