Retailers plan mobile payments app

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images - The Best Buy logo is seen on display at a Best Buy store Dec. 12, 2006 in San Francisco.

The mobile payments space is getting more crowded. Major retailers, including Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Target, have created a new mobile payment company called Merchant Customer Exchange. The service will provide coupons, rebates and loyalty programs on smartphones, the Associated Press reported.

The app will also let users buy things directly from their phones — the ultimate goal for mobile payments that’s been a tough nut to crack.

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Not that companies haven’t tried. As the Wall Street Journal reported, the move takes aim at Google’s plans for mobile payments through Google Wallet. It also, to a lesser extent, takes aim at Apple’s upcoming Passbook feature, which will pull together loyalty cards, tickets and other digital passes.

Thus far, there’s been a big industry push to mobile payments, but consumers haven’t seen much change as a result. Square and others such as Intuit have had success with credit card peripherals, which have made a particular splash at mall kiosks, food trucks and farmers markets. Some vendors have NFC-enabled registers that allow tap-to-pay or contactless payments, but phones with that technology are only beginning to take off.

Security issues lie at the heart of reluctance over adopting mobile payments. Retailers, credit card companies, hardware manufacturers and wireless carriers all have a part to play in every transaction, which makes the simple act of buying something more difficult than one might initially think.

Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy and their partners may be able to overcome any consumer wariness with the strength of their brands. But, as ABC News noted, while mobile payment companies have added features that make sure that financial information on a phone is very difficult to get to without permissions, a weakness in any company’s security drops the level of security of the whole system.

That includes your average smartphone user, who could easily lose his or her phone.

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