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Walmart Pay Is Better Than You Might Expect

The Walmart-led MCX consortium and its Apple Pay competitor CurrentC may be dead in the water (see “CurrentC Out of Juice,” 17 May 2016), but the retail behemoth hasn’t abandoned the dream of running its own mobile payment system. Walmart Pay, in beta since December 2015, is now available throughout all 4600+ stores in the United States via the free Walmart app for the iPhone.

Unlike Apple Pay, which uses wireless NFC technology, Walmart Pay takes its cue from the CurrentC playbook, using QR codes that you scan at checkout with the iPhone’s camera. Surprisingly, this isn’t as clumsy as it sounds, and unlike CurrentC, which insisted on linking directly to your checking account, Walmart Pay connects with a credit card, debit card, or Walmart gift card.

Before I explain how to set up Walmart Pay, you might wonder why you’d want to use it. Here are a few reasons:

  • The Walmart app stores your receipts when you use Walmart Pay, which saves on paper and helps with record keeping.

  • It serves as a backup payment method in case you forget your wallet.

  • The slow scanning of chip-based credit cards gets on your nerves. Walmart Pay isn’t any faster overall, but you don’t have to wait to retrieve your card from the terminal.

Setting Up Walmart Pay -- Setting up Walmart Pay is straightforward, but you’ll want to do so before heading to the store.

Open the Walmart app, and tap the Walmart Pay square in the Shop tab. On the next screen, tap Set Up Walmart Pay. Then you’ll either need to log in to your account or create one. Here’s an impressive detail: the app integrates with 1Password, so 1Password users can tap an icon to autofill the Walmart login credentials.

Next, you’ll need to add a payment method. If you already have a payment method linked to, you can select it and tap Use This Card & Continue. Otherwise, you’ll need to enter your information from a credit or debit card. After that, you also have the option of adding a Walmart gift card. Agree to the terms and conditions, re-enter your Walmart password, and then set up a PIN for Walmart Pay. After adding a PIN, you’re prompted to use Touch ID with Walmart Pay, which makes things a bit smoother.

Using Walmart Pay -- Unlike Apple Pay or Apple’s Wallet app, Walmart Pay doesn’t notify you when you enter a Walmart store, so you’ll have to open the app manually. The app is location sensitive, though, so it will recognize the store, and at the top of the Shop tab, offer options for Walmart Pay, price checking, store search, and the weekly ad.

When you’re ready to check out, open the Walmart app and tap Walmart Pay. If your store is like mine, you’ll have more than enough time to do this while standing in line.

The actual Walmart Pay interface is a simple viewfinder. When you get to the register, the point-of-sale terminal displays a QR code. Center the QR code in the app’s viewfinder to link the two together and process your payment.

In theory, you can do this as soon as the clerk starts scanning your stuff. However, the QR code disappeared for a minute, and I had to press some buttons to get it back. Once I scanned the code, the process was pretty much seamless, if not quick. The transaction itself probably took at least as long as using a chip-based credit card, but it was a hands-off process.

Unlike Apple Pay, which seems to confuse every clerk I try it on, my Walmart Pay experience was relatively uneventful, though the cashier was baffled that a receipt didn’t print out. Instead, it’s sent to the Walmart app. Oddly, while you don’t receive a notification upon entering a store, you do receive one for your receipt.

Of course, like any of the mobile payment systems on the market, there are snags. Frequent TidBITS contributor Julio Ojeda-Zapata reported several problems in his tests, including failed transactions, delayed transactions, and repeat charges for the same item.

Unfortunately, the problem with Walmart Pay is much the same as Apple Pay: it’s more trouble than just using cash or a card for not much benefit. Factor in the potential embarrassment of the system not working, and you’re left with something that isn’t much more than a novelty.

However, if you shop at Walmart regularly, it’s probably a good idea to set up Walmart Pay, just in case you leave your wallet in the car.


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Comments about Walmart Pay Is Better Than You Might Expect
(Comments are closed.)

My only concern has nothing to do with the way it works, it's specific to fact that it's a Walmart app. Apple Pay is 100% compatible technology with Android Pay and Samsung Pay, and works in any enabled store.

With Walmart's methodology, I might need a Walmart app. A Target app. A Best Buy app. An app for my supermarket. I'd have to put my card info in over, and over again.

Apple Pay/Android Pay/Samsung Pay - load up your card and shop.
Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-07-18 15:37
If the trend continues, it'll be just like Apple TV!
Mac Carter  2016-07-18 20:03
The problem with Walmart is that once you create an account, they start sending you promo emails. And, if try to unsubscribe, they do not tell you that it takes up to one MONTH to process your request. And, in the meantime, if you re-submit your request to unsubscribe (because the emails keep coming), you have, unknowingly, reset your month long request process to ZERO.
gastropod  2016-07-18 21:37
This is why I use a separate email address for every business. (Easy to do if you get your own domain, and a lot of domain registrars will handle the email forwarding for free or cheap.) If too much spam comes, just kill the address. If you really want to shop there again, you can update the account with a new address, but usually I just take my business elsewhere.

There's another benefit too--it makes it much easier to detect phishing. If something comes 'from' my bank, but not to the address I use for my bank, it's obviously fake no matter how careful the phishers are to get the spelling and graphics right.
Jolin Warren  An apple icon for a TidBITS Supporter 2016-07-27 07:48
Even easier is to use Spamgourmet. Excellent service, and means that you don't have to manually setup a new email address each time you need one.

It also has a quick, clean interface for managing them. Have been a user for years (and I own my own domains), can't recommend highly enough.
robertkehrer  2016-07-18 20:25
I don't get this line in the summary: "Unfortunately, the problem with Walmart Pay is much the same as Apple Pay: it’s more trouble than just using cash or a card for not much benefit."

I use ApplePay daily and it is unbelievably simple and elegant. The clerk tells me the total, I put my phone near the terminal with my thumb on the home button and in 1/10 of a second I've paid. People get whiplash at how fast it is. I pull my phone out a 1000 times a day and that takes no time. Pulling out a wallet and fishing out the right card or cash is slow and painful.

As far as benefits, the security is huge. The store never gets my credit card number into one of the their databases and I never have to fish out a card so no one can photograph it or anything.

That line sort of reduces the credibility of the article.
gastropod  2016-07-18 21:51
Yeah, the only thing wrong with Apple Pay is that not enough merchants accept it, especially big grocery chains. I agree with the security issues too--if walmart software quality control is on a par with their product quality control, I wouldn't touch a payment app from them with a 12 foot pole. (Not that I'd shop there anyway. The company is actively evil, and they aren't even cheaper than other vendors on average.)
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-07-19 10:40
It's great that you've had that experience with Apple Pay, but it's far from universal. For instance, if I want to use Apple Pay at the local grocery store, I have to swipe my store loyalty card to get the discount pricing on some items, then I have to use Apple Pay (which requires finding the Wallet app, since the double-press shortcut is annoying if you can't use it regularly), then I have to sign the screen with a pen. Apple Pay is thus even more work than just swiping a second card from my wallet, and I have to juggle my phone and wallet.

And the other main store where I could theoretically use Apple Pay doesn't accept it if the card behind it is Discover, but Discover is the only card we have that supports Apple Pay at all.

If Apple Pay could handle the store loyalty cards and eliminated the need to sign after the transaction, it would be more convenient, and I'm sure that many merchants have it set up that way. But far from all, unfortunately.
Dennis B. Swaney  2016-07-19 11:23
All my MasterCard and Visa cards work with Pay and they are from credit union, brick-and-mortar bank, and online bank issuers.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-07-19 13:22
We have AT&T Universal Card MasterCards that don't support Apple Pay, and we're fairly fond of them because they've been "free for life" since we signed up for them in college back in 1986 or so. :-)
That's been my experience, too. I have one local merchant where I still need to sign the receipt, but pretty much everywhere else I can pay with Apple Pay in a few seconds - put my watch or phone by the reader, and boom, that's it. The only thing that slows me down is answering questions from people around me, asking what just happened. If more businesses and more people used it, Apple Pay and Android Pay could rid the world of lines (I'm only exaggerating a little bit).
Duane Williams  2016-07-18 21:35
Who could possibly be happy with having a separate way to pay at each and every store? I don't care how good Walmart's payment system is. It isn't a universal system. I want to be able to pay with Apple Pay everywhere I shop. I don't want my phone full of payment apps and I want to empty my wallet of credit and debit cards. Getting rid of my driver's license and library card would be good too.

Apple Pay is extremely simple. People behind me in line who see me pay with Apple Pay often marvel at it. I've been asked, "How did you do that?" I've got cards with the new chip tech and they take forever to process everywhere I have to use them. Apple Pay is way faster.
T Findwall  2016-07-18 21:51
"You might wonder why you'd want to use it." For me, the main reason NOT to use it is that it means shopping at Walmart, which I consider a very, very bad idea.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-07-19 10:36
That makes the decision to avoid Walmart Pay easy then! :-)
Robert Morgan  2016-07-19 15:48
I agree with all of the other comments. I would rather swipe a credit card for the few times I shop at Walmart than have to deal with a merchant-specific app.
Jolin Warren  An apple icon for a TidBITS Supporter 2016-07-27 07:56
Does the Walmart app require an internet data connection to process the payment? That to me would seem to be another disadvantage of the system. Not that I'm in the US, but I limit my mobile data use and wouldn't use a payment system that relied on it (whereas Apple Pay just transfers credit card information to the payment terminal using RFID).

I also can't imagine a system being successful in the UK that required scanning a QR code. So many people now use contactless cards that it would seem very regressive and slow. Apple/Google Pay have got this right by using the existing widespread, and fast/easy, contactless infrastructure.

Seems like a lot of effort for Walmart to put into what must be a stopgap technology. Surely the US will move to contactless as well so this is something for maybe 3-4 years? It would be interesting to know what the uptake is. Maybe a follow-up TidBITS article at the beginning of next year? :-)