clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Apple Pay Competitor CurrentC May Not Launch Until Next Year

"This is a long game," the CEO said. "Certainly going faster is always better -- that's not necessarily a debatable point. But we’re going to do it right."

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.

Google and Samsung are gearing up to join Apple Pay in the battle to replace your wallet later this year, but another payments app backed by big retailers like Walmart may wait a little longer before entering primetime.

CurrentC, the payments app being created by a consortium of big retailers known as MCX, may not launch widely this year as originally planned, MCX CEO Brian Mooney told Re/code in an interview on Tuesday. The company will begin a public pilot of its app in Columbus, Ohio, in a few weeks and will not rush a wider rollout if the product is not ready, he said.

“This is a long game,” Mooney said. “Certainly going faster is always better — that’s not necessarily a debatable point. But we’re going to do it right.”

CurrentC — backed by several dozen big merchants including Walmart, Target, Kohl’s, Dunkin’ Donuts and Exxon — is designed to work on all types of smartphones and let shoppers pay with the app instead of a physical payment card or cash. But while Apple Pay and soon-to-launch services Android Pay and Samsung Pay let users pay using account information from traditional credit cards like Visa, MasterCard and Amex, CurrentC does not.

Instead, CurrentC’s beta users can only pay using one of three options: Gift cards, a store’s private-label payment card or direct hookups with their checking accounts. Mainstream credit cards carry higher transaction fees than these options, which is a big reason why they aren’t currently part of the offering. Mooney said CurrentC could add support for mainstream cards in the future, but wouldn’t say when or which ones.

MCX attracted a bunch of attention last year when two of its member merchants, CVS and Rite Aid, shut down support for Apple Pay after briefly accepting it as a payment option. On Tuesday, though, Rite Aid said it would start accepting Apple Pay later this month, and other MCX merchants such as Best Buy have announced plans to accept Apple Pay later this year. MCX members had signed exclusivity agreements which prevented them from accepting competitive wallets, but those expire this month — so it’s quite possible we will hear about other MCX retailers choosing to accept mobile wallets other than CurrentC.

Mooney said this turn of events is not surprising, but it’s clear the group hoped to have CurrentC live and able to get some “breathing room” before the exclusivity ended. Still, Mooney said he believes CurrentC will be one of the “great competitors” in the space. He cited the large footprint of the participating merchant group as one of the advantages the app may have. He also pointed to the inclusion of coupons and loyalty cards in the app and the likelihood the member merchants will put real marketing dollars behind the app, since they have a financial stake in its success.

Big hurdles remain. For starters, there are not a ton of high-profile success stories in the tech world that are a result of joint ventures. Plus, the company is going up against competitors in Apple, Google and Samsung that are strong technology organizations, each with its own advantages. One advantage they all have over CurrentC: They will be preloaded on millions of new phones over the next few years, while CurrentC will have to get people to download its app. And, like its competitors, CurrentC still has to create enough value to get people to ditch regular cards and cash in the first place.

Either way, none of this matters until CurrentC gets to market.

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.