Coffee lovers with overstuffed wallets rejoice: You can now pay for your Starbucks (s sbux) coffee with your Starbucks Card without actually using a physical card. There’s a catch — you’ll need an iPhone. But if you have one, you can now pay with Starbucks Card Mobile (iTunes link), a new app now available as a free download from the App Store.
Before you head out the door with your iPhone in hand to try this out, check a map and make sure you’re currently located in Cupertino, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, or San Jose in California, or Seattle in Washington. If you’re anywhere else, you’re going to be disappointed, since those are the locations of the stores participating in the pilot test program of the new payment method.
In the 16 stores that are accepting payment via iPhone in the cities I just mentioned, it works like this: You add a Starbucks card to the app’s database using the card number and code, after which point the app will display a barcode (QR code, I think?) on the iPhone’s screen that the barista taking your order can scan in order to process payment.
It’s not a unique payment scheme, but for some reason Americans are lagging behind many of their international neighbors in the pay-for-stuff-with-your-mobile department. This Starbucks test pilot should be a good indicator of just how deep the resistance goes, since many people already use a Starbucks card, and I’m willing to bet the test areas include a high density of iPhone users.
Paying isn’t the only thing the new app can do. It can also let you check your Starbucks Card balance, reload your card with any major credit card, and see a transaction history so you can see just how much you actually spend on your overpriced fancy-pants coffee. The card management features are available across the U.S., and don’t require you to be in one of the test markets for the purchasing features. You must be using a U.S. card, though, and Duetto and Starbucks Store Credit cards aren’t supported.
Additionally, each card can only be loaded on one device at one time, in order to provide more tighter security around their usage. It’s a good feature, but it means you and your partner can’t just split one card between you on two separate iPhones. Also, if you want to check out the menu and get your orders straight before heading to Starbucks, there’s another app called myStarbucks (iTunes link) that allows you to do just that, also released today.
Let’s hope this works, because if it does, it’s possible more mobile payment and points programs will follow suit. I’d love to be able to ditch my Best Buy Rewards, Safeway, Staples, etc. cards and get a new, much slimmer wallet.