The retailer-backed rival to Apple-Pay called 'CurrentC' that was developed by a consortium of retailers under the Merchant Customer Exchange is scheduled to be field tested in certain markets over the coming weeks. Stores like Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy are some of the biggest brands backing CurrentC.
MCX Chief Executive Officer Brian Mooney told Reuters that they're "currently in a beta with several of our merchants and employees, and we will now extend that beta to the public in the next few weeks." He didn't specify timing or the names of the participating retailers.
Although the testing could lead to a larger rollout during the holiday season, MCX's Mooney told re/code that they won't rush a wider rollout if the product isn't ready. He later added that "This is a long game. Certainly going faster is always better ... but we're going to do it right."
The Wall Street Journal first broke the story and notes that "CurrentC is taking a different approach from the other mobile payment options. It links to user's checking accounts, gift cards or private label debit or credit cards directly, to side-step credit cards and their costly fees. Shoppers scan a code at the register to pay with their phones."
They further noted that "Target employees have been using it in stores and the retailer plans to be part of a broader launch when the system becomes more widely available, said a Target spokeswoman. Darden, the owner of Olive Garden and other restaurant chains, will start testing CurrentC with its employees at one of its Orlando, Fla., locations soon, a spokesman said."
At the moment, customer demand for mobile wallets has been slow, and analysts agree that they are used for only a tiny percentage of U.S. retail transactions.
The big point being made by MCX is that their system saves the merchants money by eliminating the 1 percent to 3 percent fee that retailers pay every time they process a credit card transaction via the existing networks. MCX's 40 merchant partners operate nearly 110,000 retail locations and process about $1 trillion in purchases every year.
However, the vast majority of Apple fans using the iPhone and Apple Watch for purchases will be faithful to retailers supporting Apple. So the MCX position of saving 1% looks rather foolish on paper if they lose more than 1% of their customers who will shop elsewhere that supports Apple Pay. And at the moment, Androiders in general have failed to show that they're tech savvy enough to actually use their mobile devices for e-commerce. Will the retailers big gamble really pay off? Only time will tell.