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Walmart Pay Makes Checking Out Needlessly Difficult

Attention Walmart shoppers! Mobile payments just got harder. Today the mega-retailer introduced Walmart Pay, a new feature being added to the existing Walmart app that "is like no other mobile payments solution available today," according to the press release. And that's part of the problem.

Walmart Pay is being rolled out in select stores beginning this month, and the idea is to use it when you're in the checkout lane. You can easily add any major credit, debit or prepaid card, as well as Walmart gift cards, to the app. Too bad using it requires so many steps.

Here's what you need to do every time you use it:

  1. Turn on your phone and unlock it.
  2. Open the Walmart app.
  3. Activate your phone's camera.
  4. Scan the QR code displayed at the register.
  5. Wait for an eReceipt to be sent to your phone via the mobile app.

For those scoring at home, this is not progress. Apple Pay, which uses NFC, is as simple as placing your phone near the payment terminal, then pressing your finger on the Touch ID sensor. You don't even need to unlock your phone.

Samsung Pay works similarly, but involves an extra step. You swipe up to launch the app, secure the transaction with the fingerprint reader on your Samsung phone, and hover your phone over the card reader to pay.

Android Pay is a little more involved, but still simpler than Walmart Pay. You need to unlock your phone, place it near a contactless terminal and then enter a PIN to check out. Fingerprint support is coming later.

On the plus side, more than 22 million customers already use the Walmart app every month, so there's a built-in audience. The app also lets you store shopping lists and refill prescriptions. Walmart Pay will let you use your iPhone's Touch ID sensor to sign into the Walmart app instead of your password, but you can't use your fingerprint to check out.

Walmart doesn't currently support any other mobile payment service, but the company said during a conference call that is in talks with various mobile wallet developers. Walmart has also been working with CurrentC, an Apple Pay rival that's backed by a consortium of retailers. It beta-launched in August, but has gained little to no traction.

It's good that Walmart has finally jumped on the mobile-payment bandwagon, but scanning a QR code in 2015 seems like a step backwards.