Starbucks turns your cell phone into a wallet

The company rolls out the largest U.S. mobile payment app, which lets customers pay with smart phones.

By Teresa Mears Jan 19, 2011 3:34PM

Starbucks has made a giant leap toward turning your smart phone into your wallet: You can now pay for coffee with your phone.


The Starbucks Mobile Card, which was tested starting last fall at select locations, has gone national and can now be used at the nearly 6,800 company-run stores and more than 1,000 locations at Target stores. The company has apps for iPhone and BlackBerry and is working on one for Android.


While the Starbucks Mobile Card isn't the first mobile payment app, it is likely to be the most widely used, at least for now. And the launch of a mobile payment system by a popular retailer may speed up the adoption of mobile payments by other businesses.


As Jefferson Graham explains at USA Today:

There are a handful of mobile payment experiments in operation now, including Bling Nation in Palo Alto, Calif., and Mocapay in Denver. But this is the biggest rollout to date for mobile payments, says Gwenn Bézard, analyst with the Aite Group, who follows mobile payments. Tech analysts expect substantial growth in mobile payments in coming years as more of us lead our daily lives on our phone.

Laurie Segall of CNN Money has a detailed update on the state of mobile payments.


Starbucks is a natural for the rollout of the largest mobile payment system to date in the United States. More than one-third of U.S. Starbucks customers use smart phones, according to the company, with 75% of those using iPhones or BlackBerrys.


The popularity of Starbucks' reloadable plastic cards led the company to develop the mobile version. Post continues after video.


"Today, one in five Starbucks transactions is made using a Starbucks Card, and mobile payment will extend the way our customers experience and use their Starbucks Card," Brady Brewer, a Starbucks vice president, said in a news release.


With the new system, customers pay by holding their phone in front of a scanner that reads an on-screen bar code.


In addition to paying with your phone, you can check your card balance, reload it from a credit card (and also PayPal if you have an iPhone), check your rewards and find a nearby Starbucks.


We can see how this would add to the temptation to stop by Starbucks when you're walking by without a wallet. But, like the card itself, the mobile app will provide a clear accounting of exactly how much you spend over time, something you might lose track of if you use cash.


Is the country ready for mobile payments? Are you? Just be sure you don't spend too much money on those new giant Trenta drinks.


More from MSN Money:


Jan 19, 2011 5:28PM
There's nothing Starbucks has that I would be willing to pay for. Or even get for free. I don't drink swill.
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