What is the MCX?
The MCX , or Merchant Customer Exchange, is a consortium of U.S. retailers founded in 2012. The group created a a merchant-owned mobile payment app, now known as CurrentC.
The MCX website currently lists 63 merchants in the consortium, including many of the largest retailers across various sectors,including 7-11, Bed Bath and Beyond, Kmart, Exxon Mobile, Walmart, Gap, and Olive Garden.
Why was the MCX created?
Depends who you ask. Some would say CurrentC was created for customers. As retailers release their own proprietary mobile payment apps, consumers don’t want to download multiple payments apps, so CurrentC was created to simply things. The aspiration is that the app will work at all retail locations.
Another popular theory is that the MCX was created by merchants to combat interchange fees and third party mobile wallets. Merchants and banks are stuck in an endless battle over the fees banks charge merchants for card processing, known as interchange fees. CurrentC utilizes gift cards and ACH to fund accounts, circumventing credit card companies and removing interchange fees from the equation.
The technology powering CurrentC provides further evidence of merchants trying to eliminate all outside payment sources. CurrentC uses QR codes for payments, not the newer NFC technology. Mobile wallets like Apple and Android Pay utilize NFC technology and are powered by credit card APIs, cementing card interchange fees into a merchant’s daily life.
Its been a few years now…why hasn’t CurrentC been released?
There has been beta testing of CurrentC, but the MCX’s mobile payment app is in a rough place now. CurrentC got hacked in October of 2014, and there have been some concerns over privacy issues. Not being able to get it together pushed a few retailers to jump ship and create their own mobile apps or open up their systems to mobile wallets like Apple and Android Pay. Walmart, CVS, and Kohl’s are only a few of the retailers that have created their own mobile payment products.
MCX has gotten some bad press since its founding. Trying to passively cut out mobile wallets like Apple Pay and create a merchant-exclusive mobile payment app has rubbed some customers the wrong way.
Some would argue CurrentC was doomed from the start, and was only a power play against banks and third party wallets. It’s difficult enough to create a mobile payment app for one store with a good user interface. But creating a single app that fills the needs of over 60 retailers, ranging from restaurants to gas stations to big box stores, seems damn near impossible.