After about two months of not accepting mobile wallets, J.C. Penney Co. Inc. this month quietly resumed accepting them, apparently by firing up its old contactless-payment acceptance system.
The Plano, Texas-based department-store chain with about 860 locations had turned off its contactless system that used an older technology known as magnetic-stripe data (MSD), which supported the first generation of mag-stripe contactless credit and debit cards and can accept mobile wallets such as Apple Pay and Google Pay.
MSD transactions, however, are less secure than contactless transactions from the growing number of dual-interface payment cards that rely on the newer EMV standard. Visa Inc. had set an April 13 deadline for MSD to be retired. JCPenney wasn’t ready at that time, so it suspended all contactless options until an unspecified later date.
The news that the retailer was accepting contactless payments again came in a mid-June reply by an employee to a consumer’s complaint on Twitter about not accepting Apple Pay. The reply, on @askJCP, said “we are working to reactivate contactless payment options and therefore mobile-wallet transactions will be accepted in all of our stores by June 19th.”
The exchange attracted little notice in the payments world until Thursday, when the MacRumors blog, which tracks Apple Inc.’s products and services, picked it up.
A JCPenney spokesperson did not specifically answer emailed questions from Digital Transactions News about whether the company has installed an EMV-based contactless-acceptance system. But a statement the spokesperson sent suggests JCPenney has temporarily resumed using its old MSD system.
“In order to make the shopping experience at JCPenney as seamless and convenient as possible, we worked with [a] third-party provider to reactivate the existing contactless-payment technology in our stores, and we plan to implement the new technology at a later date,” the statement says.
In addition to their chips for contact EMV transactions, dual-interface cards use EMV-compliant near-field communication radio technology for contactless transactions. EMV POS terminals, meanwhile, read an EMV card’s chip when the card is inserted in the terminal, and they typically are equipped to process NFC contactless transactions with mobile phones or dual-interface cards. It’s up to the merchant or merchant acquirer, however, to turn the NFC functionality on, and that choice can mean dealing with operational issues and extra expense.