Even weeks after Apple Pay went live, it continues to make headlines, and not just in financial news outlets.

Apple has long been a media darling, so it's no wonder that all eyes have been on its mobile payments offering, much more so than some of the other electronic wallets already out there and others still in the works.

And there are, of course, others in the works. One in particular, is starting to make headlines of its own, in part as a result of all the previous headlines about Apple Pay. Several of the big merchants that jumped on board Apple Pay are now jumping ship (and some refused to embark in the first place).

A number of reasons for this are being cited, not the least of which is that some of these merchants are part of the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), which is working on its own mobile payments solution, CurrentC.

There's also some bad blood to be found historically going back to the decades-long battle over interchange and swipe fees between merchants and the payments industry. Then there's the difference in technological philosophies — NFC, QR codes, etc.

You can read all about all of these different factors in all kinds of erudite, insider publications that cover financial services and payments (including, of course, Credit Union Journal), but sometimes you never know when you just might pick up an important nugget from a source that is anything but an industry insider.

As I was driving my son to school the other day, he asked me to turn on the radio. Typical, annoying drive-time deejay blather ensued, but my ears pricked up when I heard one of the deejays reading a 30-second news segment about why several big retailers wanted no part of Apple Pay: they are hungry for the consumer data they are able to collect every time someone swipes a card, and Apple Pay doesn't allow merchants to do that.

Who Will Keep Me Safe?

With data breaches becoming so commonplace as to be an expected cost of making a purchase with anything but cash, it would seem that this might be one of those things that ought to be jumping out at consumers: some of my favorite stores don't want to play nice with my iPhone because Apple won't let them grab my data — that same data that keeps getting released to all the wrong people because my favorite stores can't be trusted to keep it safe.

And data — even when it's not sensitive — is a hot commodity, and not just to would-be identity thieves. Years ago, not long after my mother got her master's degree in marketing, we were on a family vacation in Disney World when a Disney "cast member" came up to us asking us to participate in a survey.

My mother, newly minted marketing maven that she was, immediately asked what Disney was prepared to give us for our participation. The cast member said it would help Disney to serve its guests — including us — better.

Not good enough, my mom said, and quickly shepherded us away.

I assumed she took issue with the fact that they would be taking up our precious vacation time, but that wasn't her primary concern at all. "They have some nerve asking us to share valuable information with them and offering us nothing in return," she said. "They're going to make money off of that information. If they want it, the least they can do is make it worth my while to give it to them."

Of course, the data that Disney was collecting that day wasn't the kind of data that can be used to steal someone's identity. Most consumers, when they are worried about their personal data, they're worried about the security of it, not so much the value it represents in terms of target marketing potential. But the fact remains, this stuff is valuable.

Credit unions may be in a unique position to sell themselves not only as the group most likely to have their members' backs, but also to reward members for trusting them with their valuable data in the first place.


Managing Editor Lisa Freeman can be reached at lisa.freeman@sourcemedia.com.