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For $45 per month, all the coffee you can drink

New York java junkies can use an app's prepaid plan to quaff as much coffee as they want, for a monthly rate.

By Money Staff Apr 16, 2014 11:47AM

This post comes from Caroline Winter at partner site Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek on MSN MoneyNew York caffeine junkies, look alive: A new app called CUPS allows subscribers to pay $45 per month for unlimited coffee from almost 40 independent coffee shops around the city.

Designed by a small team from Israel, the app is intended as an alternative to the smartphone loyalty cards offered by the likes of Starbucks. "It’s a similar service," says Gilad Rotem, a co-founder of the startup, which is also called CUPS. "We’re offering a mobile app, prepaid plan, but it's for independent, higher-quality coffee."

 Coffee © HD Connelly, Getty ImagesNew Yorkers will pay $45 a month for brewed, drip, pour-over, or filtered coffee (or tea).

Latte drinkers will pay more: The unlimited espresso subscription costs $85 a month. Rotem says the prices are equivalent to about 22 cups, or roughly one java beverage per workday per month. On average, Americans consume 1.7 cups of coffee a day, according to Studylogic, which means a CUPS subscription may not be a bad deal. For coffee drinkers with a lower caffeine tolerance, CUPS also offers prepaid package deals for 5, 10, or 20 drinks per month.

The startup, which is hosting a free open beta this week, hopes to expand into at least 200 NYC coffee shops within the next months. "It’s not a number we pulled out of a hat," says Rotem. "It happens to be [about] the number of Starbucks that are in Manhattan." So far, participating coffee shops include the likes of Madman Espresso, The Bean, Pushcart Coffee, Bleecker Kitchen & Co., and Wild. All but a few are in Manhattan.

To use the app, subscribers pick a coffee shop from a list, choose a drink, and retrieve a code, which the barista then uses to record the transaction. CUPS later reimburses the coffee shop for each beverage, at a discount. If the customer buys more than $45 worth of coffee per month, he comes out ahead; if he spends less, CUPS keeps the change. The coffee shops don't pay anything to participate, so in their worst-case scenario, either no one comes in or they sell a lot of discounted drinks.

CUPS already runs a similar service in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with more than 100 coffee shops. According to Rotem, participating cafes report that the app is bringing in more business. Unsurprisingly, subscribers take full advantage of the unlimited caffeine. "They say they're drinking more coffee than before, about 20 percent more," says Rotem (who, by the way, drinks four to six cups on a bad day). "Our users save around 30 percent on coffee."

For whatever it's worth, fiendish subscribers must adhere to at least one limitation: They must wait 30 minutes before ordering another coffee.

More from Bloomberg BusinessWeek

Apr 16, 2014 12:37PM
What stops people from pulling a Netflix and sharing their codes with their friends? Even if they can only order a coffee every 30 minutes, a person could still easily grab a dozen coffees each day for themselves and their friends.
Apr 16, 2014 12:29PM
Because swiping your credit card is too much of a damn hassle. 
Apr 16, 2014 2:44PM
Apps like this seem to assume that there are no abusers. I would be interesting to know how CUPS protects themselves from the coffee houses not adding a few cups to the billing or subscribers not figuring out how to reap cups for friends.
Apr 16, 2014 7:28PM

i buy a canister of coffee, and have a coffee maker. hmm, 8.00 for about a month worth of all I can drink and easily accessible. there is always some that will buy it.

I learned long time ago, if its food, you don't always have to have the best because it all ends up the same place... the commode (toilet for you non brits)

Apr 16, 2014 1:58PM
 It's not possible to improve on a loyalty card. You get it punched or now it's in the register 6,8,10 times, whatever the number and the next one is free. Otherwise it will be an all you can drink app.
Apr 16, 2014 5:05PM

I don't see the bargain in that? I drink coffee all day and don't spend no where near $45.

Apr 16, 2014 2:39PM
Because if you drink a lot of coffee and use your phone to pay this makes good business sense.
Apr 17, 2014 12:14AM
 45 x 12=$540.00
If you go everyday of your life that's a deal.But,it's still taste like hot brown water!
You americans buy anything.
Apr 16, 2014 6:39PM
Is this more personal info that is tossed out into the atmosphere? Don't know, don't care. I went back to using cash  a while back. I might spend $12-15/month.
Apr 17, 2014 3:16AM
For $45 a month, you can have your USD translated into Sheckles and recieve a membership for a product that doesn't cost nearly as much as it's worth.
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