Best Buy remains in MCX group despite move toward Apple Pay

It’s not clear whether the retailer will ever adopt CurrentC mobile payments

mobile payments

Best Buy explained Tuesday that it will support Apple Pay mobile payments, while also remaining a member of the MCX group of retailers that has promoted an alternative payment system called CurrentC.

"We want to give our customers as many options as possible in how they pay for goods and services at Best Buy," said a Best Buy spokesman.

Best Buy used similar language in its announcement of Apple Pay support yesterday, but it wasn't clear whether the firm would abandon MCX or its CurrentC payment approach.

Asked whether its support for Apple indicated Best Buy won't back MCX and CurrentC, the spokesman said only, "We remain a member in MCX." It isn't clear that remaining an MCX member means Best Buy will ever launch CurrentC.

Playing Switzerland does make the most sense for Best Buy, as Apple Pay has steadily gained prominence, with 67 retailers and more than 700,000 merchant locations, with 14 more retailers on the way.

And, Best Buy evidently wants to continue its allegiance in some form as a founding member of Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), which is comprised of 62 retail chains. The founders, including retail giant WalMart, have been opposed to paying swipe fees of 2% or more to banks that use credit cards. (Apple Pay relies on Visa, MasterCard, American Express and, as of yesterday, Discover as well as the banks associated with those cards.)

Apple Pay relies on Near Field Communications (NFC) technology for mobile payments at both point-of-sale terminals and in its iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S phones as well as the new Apple Watch.

CurrentC could eventually use NFC, but trials of the technology have relied on QR codes and Bluetooth. MCX now plans to launch an early version of its CurrentC mobile payment app mid-year in an unnamed, mid-size market.

CurrentC MCX


Best Buy has not turned on NFC payments in newer payment terminals in any of its stores since 2011, the spokesman said Tuesday. "We will have NFC terminals at all 1,400 US stores when we roll out Apple Pay in stores later this year," he explained. He refused to discuss Best Buy's position regarding swipe fees.

In reaction to the move, MCX Chief Operating Officer Scott Rankin said via email that "Best Buy remains a strong MCX partner and supporter of the CurrentC initiative.... We understand, and strongly support, our merchant partners' quest to do what's best for their customers."

Rankin suggested CurrentC can co-exist with Apple Pay, stating, "We are of the firm belief that there needs to be at least two to three major players within the mobile payments ecosystem for it to succeed. We remain steadfast and passionate about CurrentC."

Rankin said that all MCX merchants agree to use CurrentC exclusively, but said those provisions include expiration dates and "are limited in both time and scope."

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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