Mobile payment misstep: CVS and RiteAid disable NFC, Apple Pay, Google Wallet

Just as mobile payments in the U.S. are gaining more momentum, some retailers are still jockeying for position with their own ideas.

Take, for instance, CVS and RiteAid: According to MacRumors, both companies shut down the NFC payment terminals they already had installed in their stores that accept contactless credit cards, Apple Pay and Google Wallet.

Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces Apple Pay.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces Apple Pay. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Why did they do this? Because they, along with others, have an alternative mobile wallet system in the works, of course.

That wallet system reportedly works with QR codes in an app called CurrenC, with the customer having to scan one while the cashier has to scan another. My understanding is that CurrenC is linked directly to a bank account, not a credit card, and if that’s correct, it’s going to be a non-starter for many.

For a mobile payment system to be appealing — and therefore build up a large user base — it needs to either be simpler than worrying if you have your physical credit card or cash with you, or it needs to add some other value. Opening a specific app and then scanning QR codes with a camera isn’t easier than either [company]Apple[/company] Pay or [company]Google[/company] Wallet, in my experience. I don’t see any benefit to the customer here, nor as much speed in the transaction.

Even worse, by shutting down NFC terminals just to oppose the newer Apple Pay and Google Wallet systems disables the older contactless cards. I’ve been using one for nearly a decade: My AMEX card has a small RFID chip that I simply tap to the terminal. Sure I can still swipe the card but we use the card so much — we charge nearly everything to maximize the cash rewards program benefit — that the stripe often goes “bad” long before the card expires.

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My hope is that [company]CVS[/company] and [company]RiteAid[/company] rethink their policy and re-enable the NFC terminals. If for no other reason, they already paid for those terminals and the NFC capabilities. Why not let them be used by customers who want to use them to pay for something with a credit card the two retailers still accept with a swipe?