It looks as if CurrentC, big retail's answer to Apple Pay, could soon be rolled out nationwide. For those of you unfamiliar with it, CurrentC is a payment app created by the Merchant Customer Exchange, or MCX, a consortium of big retailers.
Although CurrentC is available through Google Play, it can only currently be used in Columbus, Ohio, where the MCX is conducting a beta test of it. A beta test is an effort to see if a product works and to gather consumer information. Interestingly enough, the CurrentC website makes it look as if a nationwide rollout is imminent, but the Frequently Asked Questions page reveals that the Beta Rollout is underway.
It does provide this statement:
"CurrentC will soon be rolling out at many of America's leading merchants across the country. Our first stop during our beta rollout is Columbus, Ohio, with merchants including CVS/pharmacy, Giant Eagle, Kmart, Sears, Target and Wendy's."
On Google Play, it gets a rating of 1.1 stars and has attracted a lot of insults from users. According to Google Play, between 10,000 and 50,000 Android users have installed it, but it is unclear how many of them are actually using it.
Even though the CurrentC webpage does not say when the national rollout will take place, it is asking merchants to join the network. I imagine that means national rollout is imminent, perhaps in time for the holiday shopping season.
Major Retailers Committed to CurrentC
A number of big merchants, including Walmart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT), Target (NYSE: TGT), CVS Health (NYSE: CVS), Sears, Publix, Bed, Bath & Beyond and Lowe's, seem to be committed to CurrentC. These companies are so committed they've allowed their logos to appear on the CurrentC web page; noticeably absent are Kroger, Safeway and Costco, all of which are reportedly part of the Exchange.
One major problem with CurrentC is that the website does not mention which banks and credit cards accept it. That could be a real problem because it might indicate that banks are afraid to commit to this product.
Interestingly enough, one major retailer that also takes Apple Pay and Android Pay, the privately-held Meijer, is also listed as taking CurrentC. That could indicate that the MCX is more flexible than some media reports have indicated. Earlier stories claimed that MCX members were barred from participating in Apple Pay; Meijer proves that apparently is not true.
Unfortunately, neither Google Play nor the MCX website mention when CurrentC's national rollout will begin, although I imagine it will be fairly soon. One possibility is that the Exchange is waiting until CurrentC can be integrated with other solutions such as Android Pay and Apple Pay. Strangely enough, more information is available through Chase's website.
Chase to Launch Its Own Payment App with CurrentC's Help
Samsung Pay, Apple Pay and Android Pay are getting even more competition. JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM), one of the nation's largest banks, has rolled out its own solution, Chase Pay, that will support Current C.
Interestingly enough, I could not find Chase Pay when I searched Google Play, although several other Chase apps were available there, including Chase Mobile Checking and Chase Freedom. I imagine that this might be a variation of one of those solutions.
Chase's website does state it is partnering with MCX, which means that Chase Pay will support CurrentC. Here's where customers could be able to use Chase Pay and CurrentC in the near future:
· Sam's Club
· Cost Plus World Market
· Bed, Bath & Beyond
· Dick's Sporting Goods
· Old Navy
· Hobby Lobby
· Southwest Airlines
· Christmas Tree Shops
· Banana Republic
· True Runner
· Best Buy
· Golf Galaxy
· Field & Stream
· Rite Aid
· Acme Fresh Markets
· CVS Pharmacy
· Food City
· Giant Eagle supermarkets
· Long's Drugs
· Market District
· Price Rite
· Navarro Discount Pharmacy
· Sudbury Farms
· 76 convenience stores
· Alon convenience stores
· Conoco convenience stores
· Exxon gas stations
· GetGo gas stations
· Kum & Go
· Kwik Trip
· Mobil gas stations
· Quik Trip
· Phillips 66
· Shell gas stations
· Yard House Restaurants
· Olive Garden
· Maggiano's Little Italy
· Banana Breeze
· Longhorn Steak House
· Dunkin Donuts
· Seasons Fresh Grill
· The Capital Grill
· Eddie V's Prime Sea Food
Since this list overlaps with CurrentC's and the CurrentC logo appears on the Chase Pay website, I have to conclude that Chase Pay and CurrentC are essentially the same thing. One has to wonder if Chase will let other banks participate in it or not. My guess is it will have to open the solution to other banks and credit card companies in order to comply with the anti-trust laws.
It will also be interesting to see if Chase allows PayPal Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: PYPL) to participate in this solution or not. My guess is that MCX will have to allow PayPal to participate, and so will Chase, if just to avoid scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission.
I also have to wonder if other banks will start rolling out their own CurrentC-linked services. This could put Alphabet, the company formerly known as Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), in a bind because its Android Pay product is not supported by Chase. Strangely enough, Apple Pay is supported by Chase, but I have to wonder if that could change at some point.
Chase Pay could provide Apple Pay users a back door into CurrentC and vice versa. That means it could form the basis of a massive payments platform to compete with the likes of Visa and MasterCard, which seems to be the real goal of the Merchant Customers Exchange.
Is CurrentC Coming Next Year?
The Chase Pay website also states that the service is "coming to our customers in 2016." I imagine that means the national rollout will not occur until next year. I have to wonder if the MCX is planning to roll out CurrentC right after the holiday season. The best time to unveil and test such a product would be in retail's off season, namely January.
It looks as if CurrentC is almost here, folks. Chase and the MCX would not be making these announcements unless they were about to begin a rollout. My prediction is that rollout is coming sometime in January or February 2016.
Although it could occur in some areas earlier, I would not be surprised if MCX and Chase do more beta testing in other smaller or isolated metropolitan areas before the big rollout begins. A strong possibility is that they'll do more rollouts in Ohio or other Midwestern states near Columbus. One thing is certain though: They'd better start rolling these products out and fast because their competition has beaten them to the market.
Disclosure: I am/we are long KR.