It looks as if you can finally make Apple Pay payments with the Discover Card. Although the media has done a poor job of covering it, the Discover card apparently went live on Apple Pay on September 16, not coincidently, about the same time that Google’s Android Pay, which allows users to make payments with Discover, appeared.
Unfortunately, I only discovered this when Katie Hull from Golin Communications, Discover Financial Services’ (NYSE: DFS) public relations firm, was kind enough to contact me and point it out. Strangely enough, Apple Pay’s website does not yet mention Discover. I did a great deal of poking around at the Apple Pay website, and I could not find Discover mentioned. Instead, all I could find was the words “major credit cards” and “use your favorite credit cards.”
However, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) has added a pretty extensive list of British and American banks and credit unions that let you pay with Apple Pay. Strangely enough, American Express (NYSE: AXP) appears on the list, but Discover does not. Yet Discover’s website highlights Apple Pay fairly prominently.
It looks as if the banks and credit card companies are doing a much better job of promoting Apple Pay than Apple itself. Although, that might be the plan—why waste money on advertising and public relations when others will do the job for you? If that’s the case, it’s a pretty shrewd move on Apple’s part.
Many Banks and Credit Unions Now Accepting Apple Pay
One big advantage that Apple seems to have is the number of institutions taking it: all of the big banks, including Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citi, USBank and Wells Fargo, which should help its acceptance. That gives Apple tens of millions of potential customers. The participation of hundreds of credit unions in Apple Pay will also push its acceptance because millions of Americans have abandoned banks for credit unions in the past few years.
This means Apple Pay is already available to a large number of Americans. Apple has a huge start on Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) in the payments sector that will be hard to breach.
The banking and financial systems are being disrupted before our eyes as all the credit cards and bank accounts are being merged into one fluid payment solution. That’s going to wreak major havoc, especially on major banks that are notorious for poor customer service and high fees.
The list of financial institutions that utilize Apple Pay in the United Kingdom is shorter, but we must remember that the banking system in that country is more centralized.
List of British banks that accept Apple Pay:
- American Express
- Bank of Scotland
- First Direct
- M&S Bank
- Nationwide Building Society
- Royal Bank of Scotland
- Ulster Bank
Centralizing and Disrupting the U.S. Banking System
One interesting result of Apple Pay will be to centralize the convoluted American system and make it easier to regulate. This will probably lead to some sort of conflict between Apple and/or Android Pay and the Federal Reserve System and possibly the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Thrift Supervision at some point. That will become inevitable if Apple and Android Pay become central clearinghouses for payments.
An intriguing possibility is that the federal government will start using Apple Pay or Android Pay to disperse payments such as Social Security and veterans’ pensions at some point. Another option would be for the government to create its own payment app, which could eventually become an alternative to paper checks and direct deposit.
This could be a cheaper and easier way to reach the poor, a large portion of whom are unbanked and at the mercy of high-cost alternative finance solutions such as check cashing outlets. Bill Gates has already pointed this out.
How to Use PayPal to Pay with Apple Pay
There is, of course, one intriguing absence from both Apple Pay and Android Pay: PayPal Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: PYPL). It is currently impossible to directly access your PayPal balance using either app.
That does not mean you cannot access your PayPal balance through Apple Pay or Android Pay. I can think of at least two indirect methods of accomplishing that feat. The first would be to get a PayPal credit or debit card; since PayPal’s debit and credit cards are MasterCard products, it should be possibly to add them to Apple Pay or Android Pay. I have had one of these cards for years, and I’ve been able to use it every place that takes credit cards.
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The second would be to simply transfer money from PayPal into a bank or credit union account that is linked to Apple Pay. The only problem with this is that it usually takes about a business day for PayPal to move the money around; it can sometimes take longer.
A smarter solution would be for PayPal to simply join Apple Pay’s system. That may not occur simply because PayPal is offering its own payment app Venmo.
CurrentC Being Beta Tested in Columbus, Ohio
It looks as if Apple Pay is a success that’s going to put a lot of pressure on retailers like Walmart to start taking it. It is also going to raise the heat on the Merchant Customer Exchange, or MCX, the consortium of big U.S. retailers that is supposedly developing the Current C payment app.
Current C is currently being tested in a beta rollout in Columbus, Ohio, according to this website. Beta tested means that it is being used by a limited number of real people at real stores to see if it actually works. The rest of the U.S. is listed under coming soon, although the Current C website claims it can be downloaded from the AppStore or Google Play.
According to the CurrentC website it is being tested at select locations of these retailers in Columbus:
- CVS Pharmacy
- Giant Eagle supermarkets
- Giant Eagle’s Market District subsidiary
Several major retailers, including 7-11, Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, Walmart, Dillard’s, Kohl’s, Meijer, Publix supermarkets, Mobil gas stations, Exxon gas stations, Shell, Phillips 66, Old Navy, Lowe’s and Sam’s Club appear on the coming soon section. One major and intriguing absence is the nation’s largest grocer, Kroger Inc., which is headquartered in Ohio at Cincinnati.
CurrentC seems to have some advantages if it works as advertised. According to the website, it can supposedly be integrated with loyalty card and other discount programs offered by retailers. There could also be a pay at pump feature; either of those features would make it very popular with average people if they work.
One way CurrentC could get a quick boost would be to offer access to PayPal and Venmo balances from the start. Another would be to offer direct integration with Apple Pay and Android Pay. Even if that does not happen CurrentC will be a huge player in the app payment world because it has some giant retailers such as Walmart behind it.
It looks as if payment apps are about to become a big part of our lives. One has to wonder which one will emerge as the gold standard.
Disclosure: The blogger owns shares of PayPal, Bank of America and Kroger.