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Best Buy adopts Chase Pay, putting another nail in CurrentC’s coffin

Best Buy has signed a multiyear agreement to begin accepting Chase Pay in its retail locations, online and within its mobile application.

Best Buy is just one of many merchants that have signed up to accept Chase Pay since it debuted last year. Chase is the largest credit-card issuer in the country and its entry into the mobile payments world was a major shakeup to the young industry.

“Mobile payments provide consumers with an additional choice when they pay merchants,” said Edward Kozmor, a spokesman for Chase Bank. “Mobile payments are as, if not more, secure than chip payments. And, in some ways, it can be more convenient to use your phone to pay, instead of carrying multiple pieces of plastic in your wallet.”

CurrentC controversy
That Best Buy is accepting a new form of mobile payment is surprising given the company’s ties to another mobile payment service, CurrentC.

Best Buy is a member of the Merchant Customer Exchange, or MCX, a consortium of large merchants that includes CVS, Lowe’s, Walmart, Target and many others. The consortium was founded in 2012 to create a joint merchant-owned mobile payment service called CurrentC.

The initiative was met with controversy and accusations of collusion. Critics claimed that a group of some of the largest merchants in the country gathering together to stamp out the use of other mobile payment platforms such as Apple Pay was anti-competitive in nature.

Other concerns about security also arose. In 2014, MCX revealed that some email addresses of those participating in a pilot program for CurrentC had been accessed in a security breach.

The rising sentiment against MCX and CurrentC took its toll. More than four years later, CurrentC has still never been released.

Future of MCX
Things looked grim for the consortium’s hopes of a unified Apple Pay and Google Wallet rival. Last year, MCX members such as Rite Aid and Best Buy seemed to lose faith in CurrentC and began accepting Apple Pay and other competitors (see story).

In May, MCX announced that it would postpone the launch of CurrentC indefinitely to focus on partnerships with financial services such as the one it currently enjoys with Chase Bank (see story). That MCX members such as Best Buy are willing to accept outside payment options and that MCX itself is partnering with other payment providers seems pessimistic for the release of CurrentC.

Chase, MCX and Best Buy’s partnership could signal that the dream of a unified mobile payment platform still lives on through MCX facilitating between banks and merchants. It is even possible that CurrentC might still be brought back sometime in the future.

“In observing what has worked well in terms of mobile payment adoption, it’s clear that the most successful programs build loyalty into the payment experience,” Mr. Kozmor said. “Loyalty and merchant marketing will be core components of our app experience. Merchant loyalty programs come in many forms – merchandise coupons, transaction discounts, and loyalty currency.

“Our approach is to integrate our clients’ loyalty programs into the Chase Pay payment experience.”