CurrentC (get it? "currency") has been developed by some of the biggest names in retail in the U.S. including Wal-Mart, Sears, and Target. It will be launched in early 2015 and, while many details are still unclear, appears designed to solve two problems for its backers. The first is the roughly 2 percent fee that credit card companies charge on each transaction. CurrentC will work with a customer's bank account, avoiding the fees although also losing the fraud protection offered on cards. Secondly, customers will be able to share personal information, like their name, birthday and contact details, with a store, presumably for incentives although quite how that will work is yet to be detailed.
A big difference lies in the technology used by CurrentC. Unlike Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Softcard, it doesn't use NFC but instead displays a barcode on a phone screen that is scanned by the cashier.
The system was under the radar until October when two CurrentC members, CVS and RiteAid, stopped accepting NFC payments right after the launch of Apple Pay. That brought a wave of negative publicity and eventually forced the company to divulge a little more about its plans. The CEO said additional forms of payment, including cards, might be supported and CurrentC could switch from a barcode to NFC or Bluetooth. But for now, we're just waiting to see what the retailers will come up with when it launches.
Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org