Apple Pay scores RiteAid, a CurrentC digital payment member

After blocking both Apple Pay and contactless card transactions, the drugstore chain has reversed its stance, following in Best Buy's footsteps. Will CurrentC continue or wither away?

Starting August 15, you'll be able to pay for items at RiteAid using an Apple iPhone or Apple Watch with Apple Pay.

The drugstore chain announced the news on Tuesday, making an about face from previous efforts to block Apple Pay in its retail locations, which total 4,600 stores.

Credit: WSJ

RiteAid hasn't accepted Apple Pay since the service launched last year because the company is part of a group called the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), which backs CurrentC, a different mobile payment system that was announced in 2012 and uses QR Codes. Other MCE members that support CurrentC include Best Buy, WalMart, CVS and target to name a few.

To participate in the CurrentC system, MCX merchants reportedly agreed to only accept CurrentC payments exclusively, which explains why its members don't work with Apple Pay or other systems.

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However, fighting against Apple, Google and others is an uphill battle that retailers are finding out: Best Buy changed its stance this past April and has started accepting Apple Pay in its online store with retail support coming later this year.

RiteAid appears to be giving in as well; not only will it accept Apple Pay in stores, but it has also announced support for Android Pay after Google launches it this year. And the chain is giving up on its ban of tap-to-pay credit and debit cards.

The lesson here that MCX partners are slow in learning is that exclusive payment methods aren't favored by consumers. They want the convenience and flexibility to pay with whatever device or card they carry.

I can personally vouch for that, having passed by RiteAids a number of times in the past year only to make purchases at Walgreens, which accepts Apple Pay, Google Wallet and my chip-enabled American Express card, depending on which device or cards I have with me.