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Apple Pay competitor CurrentC is the disaster everyone thought it would be

Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover.

CurrentC via The Verge
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.

Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover.

When Walmart and other big retailers said in 2012 that they were creating a consortium called MCX to build a payments app, a lot of people laughed. The idea of a bunch of retailers collaborating effectively on a joint venture seemed far-fetched, let alone one where technology would play a critical role.

Then there was the motivation for the venture, which seemed shortsighted: Get customers to pay with anything but traditional credit cards, since they cost Walmart and other retailers higher transaction fees than other forms of payment.

Turns out there was good reason for these red flags. On Tuesday, the company notified beta users of its payments app, CurrentC, that the test was ending and their accounts were being deleted. This news followed MCX layoffs in May. It finally looks like game over for CurrentC.

There were plenty of other signs along the way spelling out trouble. Just a sampling: Customers who signed up for the app had their email addresses leaked in a hack in 2014, and the new CEO who arrived in 2015 said the launch likely wouldn't happen until 2016.

In the meantime, some big MCX partners like Best Buy said they would start accepting Apple Pay. Finally, Walmart — perhaps MCX's biggest initial backer — announced its own app, Walmart Pay. Some Walmart insiders were obviously tired of waiting for CurrentC to become a reality.

A few weeks ago, I told MCX that I planned to report that the app was dead for good, based on my sources, and not that the launch had simply been "postponed" as MCX had stated when announcing layoffs.

"That’s absolutely false," a spokesperson told me at the time.

At this point, though, I would be absolutely flabbergasted if CurrentC ever sees the light of day going forward. Why the company continues to try to say different is confounding to me. As is the question of why MCX members ever thought this would work in the first place.

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