Starbucks launches largest mobile payment program in the US

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Starbucks has started accepting mobile payments. Customers can use the Starbucks Card Mobile app on their iPhone, iPod touch, or BlackBerry at nearly 6,800 company-operated Starbucks stores in the US plus more than 1,000 outlets inside Target stores. To pay with their phone, app users simply select "touch to pay" and hold up the barcode on the screen to the 2D scanner at the register. The app also lets users manage Starbucks accounts and find nearby stores.

To start using your device as tender, you can download the app now for iOS and BlackBerry. An Android application is also said to be in the works, but the company has not yet given a release date, and there's no word yet on plans for a Windows Phone version.

The Starbucks Card Mobile payment program was piloted at Target stores and select San Francisco, Seattle, and New York Starbucks locations in September 2009. Starbucks Card Mobile lets users add their Starbucks Cards, track rewards, and reload cards as needed via PayPal or a credit card. In testing, Starbucks found that Starbucks Card Mobile was faster in application speed, transaction speed, and total customer wait time than all other ways of payment. After the coffee house realized that one in five transactions are made using a Starbucks Card, that its customers frequently use their smartphones while waiting in line and carry their mobile phones more often than a wallet or purse, it decided to put the two together.

Starbucks is using its own custom-built technology, choosing barcode scanning over near field communication technology (NFC) because the latter has limited availability. The company may go NFC once there are enough mobile customers using it, but in the meantime it wanted to roll out mobile payments. With the launch, Starbucks claims to be operating the largest mobile payment program in the US.


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