Starbucks Expanding Pay-By-Phone To All Stores

Just days after unleashing the bladder-busting, 31-ounce “trenta” size on America, Starbucks has announced that users of iPhones and Blackberries will be able to pay for their caffeine fix with their smartphones.

S’bucks tested the system in a handful of markets, including NYC, during the last half of 2010. Now the java giant is set to roll it out to all 6,800 company-run stores and the 1,000+ Starbucks counters set up in various Target stores around the country.

To use the pay-by-phone system, customers must download a free app to their iPhone (or iPod Touch) or suitable Blackberry (an Android version is in the offing). The app effectively replaces the customer’s plastic Starbucks Card, allowing them to pay by waving their phone’s screen in front of a scanner.

The app also allows customers to monitor the amount available on their card and add cash if needed.

The question is: Does this actually make the process faster than swiping a credit card or paying in cash?

If you’ve tried the Starbucks mobile-pay system, give us your feedback in the comments.

Starbucks: Mobile payments coming to stores [Forbes]


Edit Your Comment

  1. cromartie says:

    Here’s a comment. Why is it that I can now pay for my order once I get there, yet I can’t use the app to order in advance and have it ready for me so I can skip the line. Chipotle does this and gets a lot of my business because of it.

    Maybe Starbucks should walk before they run on this.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I think drinks can cool faster than food, especially at Chipotle where it’s wrapped in foil.

      • cromartie says:

        That’s a fair point, (and there are logistical arrangements that can overcome it) but the line is the real problem, not the payment part of the process.

        If you are really serious about leveraging smartphone technology for a more efficient purchasing experience, you address the line issue, which is more important than the payment convenience issue.

        Fandango exists because people are willing to pay a premium to skip the line at the theater. Chipotle allows me to enter an order, save it for reordering later, pay for that order in advance, and schedule a pickup time for the order. Starbucks should do the same. So should pizza delivery apps, for that matter.

        A similar problem exists with hotels as with Starbucks. It’s nice that the frequent traveler program to which I belong stores my credit card and room preferences, so I don’t have to break out ID and a credit card to pay, however it would be nicer if I could check in without having to deal with the line in front of the front desk clerk to begin with. (Though to their credit they solve the check out portion of the process with this info, so I’m at least not waiting in line twice.)

        To the same end, an app that doesn’t allow me to pre-order (for lack of a better term), store that order, and pay for that order in the same manner that Chipotle does still isn’t very useful to me. Putting payment information on my phone doesn’t save me any time (I’m male, so, no purse to rummage through) allowing me to skip the line entirely saves me a great deal of time and wins my loyalty.

        • nbs2 says:

          I’d be satisfied if the system would let me create my drink on my phone and then transmit my order to their systems as soon as the bar code is scanned (or embed the order and have it display for them). That would at least save some time.

          Heck, they could have a separate line for electronic orders, that way you wouldn’t need to wait in the longer line.

          • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

            If they did that in addition to the current pay-by-phone system, they could just have a self-serve scanner; walk up, scan, and your order is placed and paid for all with one scan. Now THAT would be cool. Although I have to agree with cromartie, I love Chipotle’s ordering app, and conveniences like that do affect where I spend my money.

      • regis-s says:

        Totally agree. I can see a lot of picky customers demanding do overs because the drink wasn’t exactly right or they arrived a few minutes later than they expected.

    • Go4EVA says:

      There is an app called Splick-it for iPhone and Android that lets you order and pay on your phone. It stores your CC info and everything so it’s super easy once set up. Unfortunately they are mostly based out of Colorado but hopefully they will get more national chains signed up. Every time I go into Starbucks to see 15 people waiting around I think that I should have gone to a local coffee shop and used the Splick-it app instead.

  2. alana0j says: now if you’re over-paying AT&T/Verizon/whoever for your data plan each month, you can use said data to over-pay for coffee. Hooray!

    That being said, if they made an app for the Droid where I could pre-pay for my groceries, dragging my 3 year old to Wal-Mart then fighting her to not touch the buttons on the card machine would no longer be an issue :)

    • Gramin says:

      Peapod FTW!

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      A grocery app would be practical unless your order was very simple. Someone would have to collect everything for you and the reason why I don’t use PeaPod or any of the other grocery delivery services is because I want to pick my own fruit vegetables.

      Also…you know, I’ll admit it. I don’t care that I “overpay” for my data plan. I like having a data plan, and it’s pretty awesome to have internet access wherever I have a connection, which is pretty much everywhere. And I like my Starbucks, and I drink regular coffee, which is $1.50 and if that means I’m overpaying, I’m okay with that too. Different strokes for different folks and all that stuff.

  3. Rebecca K-S says:

    Not a service I’d use as I don’t go to Starbucks, but I think it’s a great idea. I’m sure it’s faster than cash, but probably comparable to any other card payment.

  4. SofaMonster says:

    Too bad I’m still boycotting Starbucks.

  5. FuzzyWillow says:

    All of those hard fought protections we get from credit cards (50 liability limit, ability to dispute transactions and not get charged interest, etc.) go out the window when your phone company becomes your credit card company.

    I keep thinking about those people who got snookered into calling a pay-per-call service, or left their phone on during travel and got shockingly large phone bills – only to have the phone company tell them they need to pay it. Now we give retailers access to this billing system with no protections?!?!?

    Not for me.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      But if you read the post, it says it’s used for the Starbucks card. The Starbucks card isn’t a credit card, it’s just a points card. You load it with money and pay with it and each purchase gets you points toward free drinks.

    • nbs2 says:

      At most you are going to lose whatever you have on your card (I normally put $10-15 when I run out – I also only go once every few months). The system uses your data connection to interface between the POS system and your gift card information. With free WiFi at most locations, you never even need to deal with the phone company.

    • Mom says:

      Actually, I think you’re not understanding how it works. You connect the app to a starbucks card. Your liability is limited to the amount that’s on that card. No billing from the phone company at all.

      Having used the system, I’m not all that impressed. You can see what your balance is before you order, but otherwise, it isn’t really any different than using a starbucks card.

  6. AustinDan says:

    One less card making my wallet look like I”m George Costanza? Sure!

  7. lifeat24fps says:

    I have the app. I think the scanner was actually able to read the barcode off my phone once, maybe twice. Every other time they had to type in the card number, and one other time they couldn’t figure out how to do that and I just paid cash. Haven’t used it in months. So, no, it hasn’t saved any time.

    • lifeat24fps says:

      I should have specified, because the article doesn’t: The way the Starbucks “pay by mobile” app works is that you log into your Starbucks gift card account through the app, then it produces a bar code on your screen that they scan. It’s not really a “pay by mobile” in the sense that you, say, send a text or something to the Starbucks register. It’s a bit lame, really.

  8. SaltWater says:

    I have the ap on my Blackberry and I can say that using a gadget to pay for coffee is more cumbersome than retrieving your wallet and extracting your SB card and handing to the cashier.

  9. caveatemptor says:

    I have used it at a Target Starbucks – I have a (matte) screen protector on my phone, which seemed to make it hard to scan. It eventually worked, though.

  10. u1itn0w2day says:

    Uh, do you get a discount for doing a cashiers job?

    Just ANOTHER reason for me to avoid a Starbucks besides taste and PRICE.

  11. Kate20670 says:

    If only they offered home delivery…

  12. PsiCop says:

    So they “expanded” the program to all stores. But could not manage the feat of “expanding” it to Android. Yeah I know, “it’s coming.” Riiiight. Like I believe that. “It’s coming” is meaningless.

  13. gman863 says:

    So, after downloading the app, you have to spend a few minutes online and buy more “Star”-bucks for it after every few lattes?

    Wasting time to look cool: There’s an app for that.

    • nbs2 says:

      It makes sense since they tie certain benefits to the giftcard account – I usually get a steamed apple juice with a shot of vanilla (cinnamon if they have it). By paying with the giftcard (now the phone) instead of cash/cc, I save 40 cents. Maybe a couple of bucks over the course of a year, but that’s a free drink.