(Bloomberg) — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will start letting shoppers in its stores pay with their smartphone using the company’s mobile app, a move that could challenge other mobile- payment methods such as Apple Pay and the Merchant Customer Exchange.

The world’s biggest retailer plans to offer the service on Thursday at a few stores near its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. The feature will then be available nationwide in the first half of 2016, said Daniel Eckert, senior vice president of services.

Wal-Mart looks to capitalize on the 22 million people who regularly use Wal-Mart’s mobile app, which provides discounts and helps locate items within stores. In all, more than 140 million Americans shop at a Wal-Mart each week.

The move thrusts Wal-Mart further into a battle to replace wallets with smartphones. Apple Inc., Alphabet Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. all offer their own ways for consumers to make mobilepurchases. The Merchant Customer Exchange — a consortium of retailers that includes Wal-Mart and Target Corp. — also is testing a mobile-payment app after years of discussions.

Open Design

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Wal-Mart said that it left the design of its payment app open so that it could work with other mobilepayment types in the future. But for now, Wal-Mart’s proprietary payment method will be the only way most customers can pay with their phones in its stores.

To use the system, shoppers will have to download the app and add in payment information. If they already have a Walmart.com account, the credit card information from there will be transferred into the app. At the checkout, customers will use their phone’s camera to scan a QR code displayed on the screen of the credit card reader. That code will then process the payment with the credit card they have on file.

Wal-Mart said the payment function can be used with almost all smartphones and payment cards. The company said it began developing the technology several months ago.

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