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CurrentC

Want to use your phone to pay for your groceries at the checkout? Hope you like paying full price!

Largely touted as the next big thing in retail, mobile wallets are convenient, for sure. But for savvy shoppers, they come with an unfortunate hitch – mobile wallets don’t support coupons.

Until now, that is.

Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) has announced that its CurrentC mobile payment platform will become the first mobile wallet to integrate digital manufacturer’s coupons. MCX has partnered with digital coupon provider Inmar, to allow users to digitally clip grocery coupons within the CurrentC app.

So why is this a big deal? It could help mobile wallets make the leap from a newfangled niche product, to a must-have.

If you’re handy with your smartphone, you may already be familiar with mobile payment systems offered by stores like Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and Chipotle. To pay, all you have to do is scan a bar code on your phone – no more fumbling for cash, checks or credit cards.

But each of those platforms operates through the retailer’s own app. So while your pockets or purse may be a little lighter without having to carry your wallet around, your phone may end up cluttered with apps from every store you visit.

That’s where platforms like Apple Pay, Google Wallet and CurrentC come in. They’re just a few of several mobile wallets that are designed to be used anywhere you shop. All you have to do is link your payment method, and your store loyalty program information, and you’ll be able to use your phone to check out anywhere your preferred payment method is accepted, without having to carry cash, checks, debit or credit cards.

If you like to use coupons, though – hold the phone. You’ll still have to carry around those little slips of paper and stand there as your cashier scans them, or log on to your store’s website or app to load digital coupons to your loyalty card. That detracts from the convenience, speed and seamlessness that mobile wallets promise. Plus, with many retailers, if you use a mobile wallet to pay for online pickup or delivery, you can’t use coupons at all.

MCX hopes its platform will help solve that problem. “This partnership will enable CurrentC users to effortlessly access savings from many of the country’s largest and most popular brands,” MCX announced this week. “Access to individual brand offers that are redeemable through a mobile payment app at multiple retailers will distinguish CurrentC from other platforms currently in the marketplace.”

And there are a whole lot of other platforms in the marketplace. Apple, Google, PayPal and many others are competing to dominate the mobile wallet world. So far, none of them works across the board with every retailer, or every financial institution. And until now, none offered the ability to clip digital coupons within the mobile wallet application itself.

That’s largely because MCX was formed and is owned by a consortium of retailers. Most mobile wallets only know how much you owe at the end of your transaction, not what individual items you purchased. And without knowing what you bought, they can’t apply coupons. CurrentC is fully integrated into its retailers’ point of sale, so it knows what you bought and can apply coupons seamlessly.

Independent of CurrentC, some MCX partner stores like CVS and Meijer already offer digital coupons via their own websites and apps, and Target plans to make digital coupons available soon. But MCX partner Walmart has long been a digital coupon holdout. So CurrentC could ultimately represent a backdoor way for digital coupon fans to get their fix at the country’s largest retailer.

If you’re itching to give it a try, you’ll have to wait a while, unless you live in Columbus, Ohio. That’s the only place CurrentC is in use just yet, as it operates an invitation-only pilot program. Rivals like Apple Pay and Google Wallet are in use much more widely, but they don’t have what CurrentC hopes will be its secret to success.

“Digital coupons are becoming the primary promotion method for reaching an increasingly mobile shopper base,” MCX said in its announcement this week. And if CurrentC’s coupon-ready platform succeeds, paying with your phone will not only save you time and trouble – but could end up saving you money, too.

Image source: MCX

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