There’s still no such thing as a merchant taking or blocking only Apple Pay or only Google Pay
When J.C. Penney quietly stopped taking contactless payments in its stores in April and described that in a tweet as a “decision to remove Apple Pay,” you could easily have concluded that the financially strapped retailer only blocked iPhone mobile payments. And when Google announced May 23 that the New York City subway was about to “enable Google Pay,” you might think that iPhones would be shut out.
But neither is so. Apple Pay and Google Pay are just specific brand names for NFC (near field communication) wireless payments, and a retailer can’t accept only one or block only the other. Contrary to what corporate blog posts and news coverage devoid of the word “NFC” suggest, a merchant can accept NFC payments from every device–including Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, some smartwatches and some newer credit cards that embed their own NFC circuitry–or block all of them.
Forget what you heard: It’s all the same
To an NFC-capable card reader, every one of those things looks the same. And for you the customer, the benefits are also about the same: a faster transaction that offers better security than standard-issue credit cards.
Nitin Bhas, head of research at Juniper Research, could not recall any cases of only some NFC payment platforms working in a store.
Some retailers may see Apple Pay as different from other NFC systems due to Apple’s attempts to keep its customers’ purchase details private.
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“It couldn’t have been by mistake that they first and foremost pointed to Apple Pay,” said Rivka Little, research director for global payment strategies at IDC, of J.C. Penney’s April 20 tweet. (The retailer later used the correct phrase “all contactless payment options” in tweets to shoppers.) “We know that there’s a beef with Apple to try to get payment and purchase data.”
A privacy stance
Apple, for its part, has been happy to emphasize that privacy advantage–as it did during its March event.
But that same event saw Apple CEO Tim Cook suggest that Apple Pay users would only now be able to pay for some U.S. transit fares when he said “I’m excited to tell you that we’re bringing Apple Pay to transit in major cities in the U.S.”
As Apple’s own list of Apple Pay-compatible transit systems confirms, you didn’t need Cook’s invitation: You’ve been able to pay your fare with your phone, even if it’s not an iPhone, in Chicago and Portland for years. As of May 31, New York joins that list with the introduction of NFC payments on the 4, 5 and 6 trains as well as Staten Island buses.
This sort of confusion over what is and isn’t a mobile payment can’t possibly help with the slow adoption of mobile payments in the U.S.
As IDC’s Little said, “Only about 39 percent of consumers say they use contactless apps. That’s dismal.”