CurrentC – why this mobile payment solution is everything but an Apple Pay competitor

Compared to Apple Pay, where you just approve the payment with your thumb while holding your mobile phone close to the payment terminal, CurrentC sounds like Carl Benz’s horseless carriage next to today’s formula 1 race cars. The clearing process for a regular credit card transaction takes about 2 seconds. The average time to enter your pin in order to fulfil step nr. 1 of the CurrentC process is 1.5 seconds. You can figure that the above-mentioned 5 steps are creating a problem to a solution that is already there. In today’s world, where everything is simplified to the max, this sounds like the 1980ies, when people also did odd things just because they were cool.
I guess that a regular user will try it out if he likes to try out new things, but then he’ll drop it once he’s used it a few times. Just from looking at the illustration you can see that CurrentC is artificially adding complexity.

Oh, and if you are at a gas station, you will see a code on the phone which can be entered into the pump’s display. So, here CurrentC is introducing another layer of complexity by asking from the user to change the way he used to perform purchases at the gas station.

2. The registration process from the customer’s perspective


In order to set up CurrentC on your phone, you have to download the app and add a bank account (ACH link to your checking account) or link existing retailers loyalty card/account (Target REDcard® Debit+Credit Card, Target GiftCard®).
According to the CurrentC Terms & Conditions, in order to set up a payment method, you need to provide personal information “which may include, but not be limited to, name, email address, date of birth, and social security number”.

3. What happens in the background when a customer registers?


CurrentC is also using tokens as proxies for the real customer’s data.
1. Open App // 2. enter 4 digit Passcode // 3. Add Account // 4. Select checking account //
5. Enter personal information and checking account information.
Checking account information, driver’s license data and social security number are not stored on the phone, but only used to confirm consumer’s identity.

According to the T&C the really sensitive data including driver’s license and social security number are only used to perform real-time checks in order to identify the consumer and to create a token. As I didn’t find any information on the exact process, I have to assume that the token is then linked to the App and will identify the consumer every time a purchase is initiated.

4. What happens in the background when a customer pays for something?


The terminal sends a token. The token gets converted by the financial institutions to process an ACH payment and charge the user’s bank account.

By not using NFC, BluetoothLE, but by relying on an own app using QR codes, CurrentC addresses a larger number of users, as this will also work on older smartphones with various operating systems.

Discounts and coupons are applied automatically to the purchase and receipts can be viewed in the app. Consumers highly loyal to loyalty programs may consider this a benefit that justifies the otherwise added complexity.
Another good thing that happens when using CurrentC is that your precise location is verified in order to make sure that you are at the right retailer’s.

So, while tech may not be the issue, user experience and _much_ better alternatives will be.

Most customers will not love CurrentC, because it makes the payment process unnecessarily clumsy, long and more complex than simply paying with cash or cards. The benefits are swallowed by the added complexity, and this will hurt adoption rates, especially in today’s time of simplification and easier user experience.

Privacy advocates are going to hate CurrentC as customer’s data (including health data) are shared with at least 3 parties – the device makers, the app store, and/or the developer tool makers.

MCX may love it, because they invented it. But they are paying too high a price for just avoiding interchange fees. The desire to do something differently shouldn’t be a driver for doing it half-heartedly. If CurrentC is supposed to be an answer to Apple Pay, then it is excellent advertising for Apple Pay and it might end up inducing people to buy an iPhone just so they can improve their payment experience.

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