Starbucks mobile phone payments going live in all US stores

Starbucks Card

Starbucks cards may soon be a thing of the physical past - the Starbucks Card mobile app can now be used for payment. Image: Flickr / hyku / CC-BY

In a move initially tested over the last year, Starbucks mobile phone payments are going live. This iPhone and Blackberry app, which will soon be added to Android, is connected to Starbucks cards. The app relies on bar code scanning to transfer payments.

Starbucks mobile phone apps

The Starbucks mobile phone payment system relies on a mobile application. The Starbucks Card Mobile App is currently available on iPhone and Blackberry smart phones, and the company has said that they are moving to get it on Android phones. The app is connected to the user’s Starbucks Card, which is a prepaid gift and rewards card. The app displays a bar code on the phone screen, which can be scanned. Once scanned, the money is deducted from the Starbucks Card account.

Growth of the Starbucks mobile payment system

The mobile payments system based on the Starbucks Card Mobile App builds on the re-loadable card. About one in five transactions at Starbucks is paid for with the re-loadable card. Starbucks estimates that about one in three Starbucks customers have smart phones. The mobile app allows customers to re-load their Starbucks card using Paypal or a major credit card. This barcode-based mobile payment system circumvents many of the equipment and adoption problems that have plagued RFID and proximity-based payments chips necessary for PayPass-style systems. Google, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile are all supporting NFC mobile payment systems, but that system requires separate chips and readers.

Security problems with the Starbucks mobile phone payment

Though the Starbucks mobile phone payment system avoids security concerns by using bar codes, it is not a perfectly secure system. While Blackberry phones are legendary for their security, they are opening some of their algorithms up to the government of India. Public wi-fi, available in places such as Starbucks, is particularly susceptible to hacking and “sidejacking.” Adding money to your Starbucks payment account using a major credit card via your mobile phone could very well be opening yourself up to problems. Are you worried about using the Starbucks mobile payment app, or are you excited?


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