7 failed payment ideas from successful companies

  • December 16 2016, 11:27am EST
The path to success is almost never smooth, and many well-known companies have made expensive mistakes along the way. Here are some of the ideas that are no longer around but may never be forgotten.

The path to success is almost never smooth, and many well-known companies have made expensive mistakes along the way. Here are some of the ideas that are no longer around but may never be forgotten.

Alipay Circles

When Alipay added a social networking element to its payment service this year, it likely didn't expect headlines like "New Update Turns Chinese App Alipay Into Soft Porn & Prostitution Hub," but that's what happened. The company quickly reversed course, but its example shows just how risky it is for payment companies to dabble in social media.

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Blocking Apple Pay

Prior to the launch of Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay, the there was a mega-retailer venture called The Merchant Customer Exchange that asked its merchants to commit to its own mobile wallet exclusively. But when those rival wallets started rolling out — and the MCX's CurrentC wallet remained stalled in the pilot phase — the agreement became more of a hindrance than a business coup. Ultimately the exclusivity period expired, allowing major MCX merchants like Best Buy and Rite Aid to start accepting Apple Pay and other mobile wallets.

Weird mascot

There's no question that AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile have built very successful businesses in the mobile phone arena, but their expertise did not translate well into mobile payments. The companies could be forgiven for their poor choice in naming their mobile wallet ISIS before the militant group rose to prominence. But as part of their rebranding effort, the companies enlisted a puppet named "Tappy" that was designed after a generic NFC payment terminal — as well as a conspicuously nonverbal performance by the normally loudmouthed wrestling superstar Rowdy Roddy Piper.

Amazon at the register

Seeking to bring its e-commerce expertise into the real world, Amazon released a mobile card reader called Local Register in mid-2014. Its aggressive pricing undercut Square's fees, but the product had little else going for it. Amazon's merchants immediately complained that the product's shortcomings did not make up for its reduced cost. Little over a year after Local Register's launch, Amazon announced it would stop selling its device.

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Overpowered in-app purchases

Apple wanted to make it easy for iPhone users to purchase digital items in games, so it allowed a single login to serve as authentication for subsequent purchases. This became problematic when parents handed the free Smurfs' Village game to their kids, not realizing that their kids could then spend up to $99.99 on batches of digital "Smurfberries" without having to enter an Apple password for a short amount of time. Apple fixed this security flaw in 2011, and agreed to refund about $32 million to consumers in a 2014 settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.

Google Wallet 1.0

The original Google Wallet expected that banks would jump through hoops to add their brands to Google's payment app. Only one issuer (Citigroup) agreed to go through its enrollment process to access smartphones' secure element, but even then most carriers would not allow Google to have that level of access on their phones. A year later, Google retooled the process to work through software, and the company ultimately scrapped its original idea in favor of the more streamlined Android Pay.

Chase 'blink'

When contactless cards began their rollout in the U.S. a decade ago, JPMorgan Chase rushed to put its own branding at the forefront. The issuer's "blink" label was arguably more prominent than the card networks' own branding, but few consumers warmed to the technology. In 2011, Chase dropped the brand, and like many banks it began shifting its focus to supporting the same technology for mobile payments.