Apple Pay or CurrentC? The Payment App That Big Retailers Don't Accept or the One That Got Hacked? - TheStreet

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Americans are sick of hearing about credit card hacks. In fact, it’s the crime we worry about most – more than the fear of having our homes burglarized or our car stolen or broken into, according to a recent Gallup poll. Using our smartphones as a payment device is supposed to put an end to those cybercrime concerns and offer the added benefit of extraordinary convenience.

Or so the experts say.

But Americans aren’t buying it. More than half (57%) of consumers surveyed by GfK say they are concerned about the security of mobile payment apps, like the recently introduced Apple Pay for the iPhone 6. Even two-thirds (67%) of tech-savvy and early-adopting Gen Yers worry about smartphone payment security, according to the poll.

And beyond security concerns – what about convenience? Sure, waving your phone or stylish smart watch in front of a wireless payment reader in your favorite retailer’s checkout line sounds great. No fumbling through your purse or wallet for a credit card or counting out cash. But will your favorite retailer accept Apple Pay? Not if you shop at Old Navy, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Walmart or any of the 50 or so other major retailers who belong to the Merchant Customer Exchange network (MCX). You see, these monster merchants have developed their own mobile payment app, called CurrentC, that’s set to rollout next year. They are contractually obligated to refuse to accept any other mobile payment system.

Unfortunately, CurrentC has its own problems. Still in pre-launch beta testing, the system has already been hacked. Saturday MCX admitted that "unauthorized third parties" obtained the email addresses of participants in their pilot program. The payment system itself wasn’t breached, the company says, but it’s still a kick in the gut for the pay-on-the-go app industry.

Worse yet, this system’s default operational mode is built to draw payments directly from your bank account rather than from a credit card, so participating merchants can avoid paying the "discount" fees. And the system stores users’ payment information in a "secure cloud-hosted network."

Show of hands: who’s willing to sign up for that?

--Hal M. Bundrick is a Certified Financial Planner and contributor to MainStreet. Follow him on Twitter: @HalMBundrick