The pharmacy chain revives support for mobile-payments services from both Apple and Google after blocking both last October.
Lance WhitneyContributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Apple Pay and Google Wallet are once again welcome at Rite Aid stores.
The pharmacy chain announced on Tuesday that all of its almost 4,600 stores in the US will start accepting mobile payments as of August 15, including Apple Pay and Google Wallet. Further, the company will also accept Google's upcoming Android Pay. Rite Aid added that its stores will also support tap and pay credit and debit cards.
Apple has been working to expand Apple Pay support among credit card companies, banks and retailers. The company has won over all the major US credit card providers and more than 400 banks and credit unions, but signing up retailers has proven more challenging. Apple Pay is currently accepted at 71 US retail chains with 27 more coming. But those are just a fraction of all the retailers in the country. And not every individual store at a supported retailer can handle Apple Pay. In order to use Apple Pay, a store's point-of-sale system must be equipped with the necessary near-field communication, or NFC, technology.
Google Wallet also requires an NFC-equipped phone to pay for items at retailers, though the payments service does let owners of non-NFC phones to send money to other people. However, Google Wallet has failed to catch on with consumers since its launch in 2011. In May, Google introduced its new payments platform, Android Pay, as an alternative and more formidable opponent for Apple Pay. Like Apple Pay, Android Pay also relies on NFC for users to pay for items on the go.
The move by Rite Aid brings Apple and Google back into the fold after being persona non grata since late last year. Last October, both Rite Aid and CVS disabled the sensors that allowed customers to use Apple Pay and Google Wallet. Why did the company cut off the support? At the time, Rite Aid was still evaluating different types of mobile payment systems to make the best decision for its customers and the company, Rite Aid spokeswoman Ashley Flower said.
And why add support for Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Android Pay at this point?
"Rite Aid made the decision to begin accepting mobile payments because it is in the best interest of our customers to have a variety of payment options," Flower said. "Consumers are actively seeking out and using mobile technology while shopping. By accepting mobile payments, we're able to offer Rite Aid customers an easy and convenient checkout process that we know is increasingly important to them."
Rite Aid is part of a group of merchants known as Merchant Customer Exchange, or MCX. The group has been readying a payments system known as CurrentC, designed as a rival to such services as Apple Pay and Android Pay. The company is still part of MCX and remains a strong supporter of CurrentC, Flower said. Rite Aid plans to accept CurrentC when it becomes available on a national basis, Flower added.
Update, 12:45 p.m. PT: Adds comments from a Rite Aid spokeswoman.