To understand the future of credit-based transactions, credit unions need only look to the staples of American culture: coffee and donuts.

Since rolling out mobile payments in 2011, Starbucks accepts 15% of its payments via the chain's mobile app. Dunkin Donuts has also had success with mobile payments.

Mobile payments is growing at a 68% compound annual growth rate between 2010 and 2015—from $16 billion in 2010 to $214 billion in 2015, according to Aite Group. Paul Fiori, CU Wallet's Co-founder, says mobile payments offer credit unions a way to retain members—who could opt for other financial providers for the mobile opportunity alone—and realize significant revenue by partnering with retailers.

While transaction control should be the goal of credit unions, mobile payment can also increase a credit union’s overall value by building a member relationship management database where members are known and contactable before, during and after each payment.

Fiore said that with this aggregated information, credit unions can collect data to guide members toward better budgeting, spending, insurance and saving decisions; create new lines of business by providing aggregated data to merchants who enroll their private-label prepaid/gift accounts; execute prepaid promotional sales from traditional advertisements displaying QR codes (a two-dimension bar code); closing prepaid sales without the need for prepaid accounts; gain access to new sources of revenue from actionable offers and advertising from consumer packaged goods and other complementary businesses; sharpen member insight using mobile credentials to better track member preferences; implement cardless loyalty programs without disruptions to the point of sale (POS); and negotiate early-mover promotional incentives and discounts.

There is some pressure to act, since it’s only a matter of time before retailers officially square off against banks and credit unions in the mobile wallet arena.

PayPal and Google Wallet, for example, are working with Discover Card to couple mobile payments with a plastic card.

And the merchants are acting directly to leverage mobile payments. Target, Best Buy, Walmart, and several other national merchants, are teaming up in a joint venture: Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX). The hope is to develop a mobile payments platform that will enable the participants to operate their own payment system and avoid interchange fees.

John Best is founder, president and CEO of Best Innovation Group.