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Starbucks Gets Mobile Payment System 149

Ron writes "Starbucks has started accepting mobile payments. Customers can now 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."
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Starbucks Gets Mobile Payment System

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  • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @09:08AM (#34938422) Homepage
    Achievement unlocked: ability to be even more pretentious whilst in line at Starbucks
    • You beat me to the joke.

      But seriously though, this is "cash money" for the Starbucks market. As for a Windows phone, meh, that is like these people not driving a hybrid...

    • This'll never work. How are people going to annoyingly talk on their phones while ordering?
      • This'll never work. How are people going to annoyingly talk on their phones while ordering?

        With a blue tooth earpiece, and multi-tasking on the phone?

        Give it time, and they'll just text their order, pay, and collect their beverage all while talking on their phone and checking that important email that just arrived.

        Of course, I'm glad to see an increasing number of stores with signs up that say "we will be happy to serve you when you are done your phone conversation" ... there's nothing worse than seeing the

  • Is it me (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Thursday January 20, 2011 @09:09AM (#34938426)

    Or is this an incredibly stupid idea? Nothing says "hack/steal my phone" like turning into a cash machine.

    • Re:Is it me (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jo_ham ( 604554 ) <joham999@gmail.cTIGERom minus cat> on Thursday January 20, 2011 @09:41AM (#34938656)

      So, what? The thief buys 200 coffees on your account and sells them for cash to punters outside?

      I think it would just be easier to sell the phone itself if you're going to go to the trouble of stealing it.

      • Re:Is it me (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Thursday January 20, 2011 @09:55AM (#34938776)

        That's not it. Right now it's Starbucks, but soon it will be McDonalds and Wal Mart and the gas station, etc. Watch, you'll see.

        Now you could argue that there's no difference between this and a credit/debit card. However there is one huge difference. With a credit card the merchant obtains the equipment from the bank, and you obtain your card from the bank. They work together, the card never leaves your presence, the card reader never leaves the merchant's point of sale, and it's hard (but not impossible) for someone to get in between both of them.

        With a cell phone the "equipment" is partly in the hands of the public and relies on software and encryption to prevent hacking and "man in the middle" exploits. Well the first rule of security is never give someone physical access to your system... If the bank is assuming that the cell phone/reader combo is "safe" and does little checking (which is probably the case: banks are masters of "security by obscurity"), soon you'll be able to bill more than a coffee to someone else's account.

              Where's the defectivebydesign tag when I need it?

        • How would a "man in the middle" exploit be done with a barcode?
          • If it presents the same barcode every time, you just copy the barcode and it's just like a stolen credit card number from there. I hope the people behind this idea aren't so retarded, but based on what I've seen with other banking mechanisms, I wouldn't be surprised if it was that stupid.

            Instead it should get a piece of data specific to the transaction from another source (could be from a web server, or a code keyed/scanned into the phone, security isn't that important for this number) which it then hashes

        • by cgenman ( 325138 )

          The same realistically could be said of credit cards, though. You can clone them pretty easily, and once a swipe has gone through you no longer know what is approved.

          For each i-device user, you could generate 100,000 random codes on the server. When validating the transaction, you only validate against the first code on the stack, before popping it off. You could also require part of the transaction to be validated via SMS code to that particular phone, and a short user secret code. Now you know that th

        • I've left my debit card places. I've lost it before. Two big reasons to prefer the phone over the debit card are 1. phones can have a passcode while you can just swipe the card. and 2. Phones can often tell you where they are while cards won't.

          What they really need is a way for the phone owner to remotely disable the mobile payment apps.

      • Or the thief buys tons of starbucks gift cards, claiming they are for an office event or something if the cashier lifts a brow, and sells them back to people outside. Or some of the merch starbucks has--cups, books, board games, CDs. They sell far more than just coffee.
    • Or are credit cards an incredibly stupid idea? Nothing says "hack/steal my wallet" like turning into a cash machine.

      There, fixed it for ya.

      • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *

        See my reply to jo ham.

        But also - credit cards DO get forged and stolen, PIN get stolen, or people get a gun to their head and asked to enter the PIN at a cash machine.

        So what happens if you devise a means of payment where you don't need to show id and the cashier is just waiting for the machine to go "beep" or the green light to turn on?

        • So what happens if you devise a means of payment where you don't need to show id and the cashier is just waiting for the machine to go "beep" or the green light to turn on?

          Just a round number guess, but I think what happens is that 95+% of transactions that go through this way are faster, easier, and more convenient for customers.

          I'm not sure why you see more risk with this than there is with a credit card. When I go to the store and use a credit card today, the clerk just waits for the machine to go beep

      • "Or are *debit* cards and *cash* an incredibly stupid idea? Nothing says "hack/steal my wallet" like turning into a cash machine."

        There, fixed that for ya.

        (Debit card and cash: once the money is gone, it's gone, bank won't care, it wasn't their money. Credit card: it's not your money in the first place and the credit card company will care because it was their money.)

        • You're mistaken about debit cards. So long as you report them within two business days after realizing the card is lost, your liability is limited by federal law [] to $50, same as a credit card. And you're not responsible for any unauthorized transfers (not involving the loss of the card) so long as you report them within 60 days.

          And that's just what the law requires. In practice, I think every Visa or Mastercard debit or credit card has stronger protections than that - I've had unauthorized charges show

          • And if your debit card is cloned and not lost? You'd probably never notice those charges in the whole two days you get. Two days is pretty short even for physically losing the card if you don't use it all that often.

            • Like I said, if the card is cloned and not lost, you have 60 days to notice and report the charges (actually it's longer - 60 days from when the bank sends out the paper statement on which the charge appears).

              Even if you physically lose the card, the two business days is from when you notice it. That's how the regulation is written.

    • It's no worse than carrying around a credit card.

      Also this should be harder to hack than NFC, and doesn't require any hardware changes. Any old phone could do this.

  • by rhsanborn ( 773855 ) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @09:09AM (#34938430)
    This sounds very similar to the boarding pass system being used at some airports. They send you a copy of a barcode which acts as your boarding pass. The only trouble I ever had was with a blackberry screen not being big enough for the scanner to pick it up. After I got a Droid, I preferred the digital pass to finding a printer every time I needed a boarding pass.

    Likewise, this may be a nice way to manage one's coffee addiction. The only problem is that seeing all your past purchases might not be good for Starbucks. People may finally realize how much money they're spending.
    • by Thing 1 ( 178996 )

      People may finally realize how much money they're spending.

      One could only hope; but, if they treat it anything like their credit card receipts/statements, they won't.

    • by uncanny ( 954868 )
      I think people who spend $4+ for a cup of coffee know how much money they are wasting anyways.
      • The coffee from the crappy stand near the subway stop next to my house, or the bodega down the street: Both $1

        The better coffee from the bakery near my house: $1.25 (though they're raising it to $1.50 this week apparently)

        Starbucks, somewhere between crappy stand and bakery in quality: $1.70

        Point is: It's only slightly more expensive, and perhaps not quite as high quality, but it's not *ludicrous* if all you want is a cup of joe. Now when you start getting into the half-cafe soy latte with the bari
        • Not a coffee drinker, but I am a regular at Starbucks... I go there for other drinks that you don't usually find anywhere other than specialty coffee shops. I would be amused to see the expression on the face of the person at the bakery if you asked them to make you a London Fog, for example.... (since Wikipedia is somewhat lacking, it's basically a cappuccino made with Earl Grey tea, instead of coffee). Even something a little more common than that like a

          The thing is, for the kinds of drinks that you only

  • by MrDoh! ( 71235 ) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @09:10AM (#34938440) Homepage Journal

    The stakes to get phone payments working everywhere are so incredibly high. Can see why they'd want to get this in quickly.

    Though... I actually like the idea of a barcode, something I have to select on the phone and hit 'display' (after entering my pin or something first to display it so that if it's stolen, just having the phone to tap against nfc contacts isn't enough to clear my account out). Then swipe/display the barcode as normal. Seems a more flexible way to handle it than embedding NFC stuff in hardware.

    • by cbope ( 130292 )

      Yeah, like we really need another thing that can be used to pay for overpriced Starbucks coffee... like cash, credit cards, debit cards and the like are completely useless.

      I'd also like to state that "cash" means paper money, mainly large denomination bills of course, not coins. You'd need a pack donkey to carry enough coins around to pay for Starbucks coffee.

      • by Macrat ( 638047 )

        Yeah, like we really need another thing that can be used to pay for overpriced Starbucks coffee... like cash, credit cards, debit cards and the like are completely useless.

        It's not "another thing" for buying at Starbucks.

        It simply lets you deduct the purchase from your existing Starbucks account by using the app instead of the Starbucks account card.

    • by Tim C ( 15259 )

      That sounds great for fraud prevention, but a lot more effort than just shoving my card in the reader and tapping in my PIN.

      (YMMV according to availability of "chip and PIN" payment systems in your country, of course, but that's how it works here in the UK and much of the rest of Europe)

  • All that trouble to get overpriced weak coffee.

    A toony at Timmy's gets you good strong coffee and change, without interrupting your call.

    Can you tell I'm Canadian?

    • by jspayne ( 98716 )
      Sorry friend, I can and do say a lot of good things about Timmy's, but it is definitely not stronger than Starbucks.
      • My Canadian fiends rave at the quality of Tim Horton's coffee, but I don't get it. To me it tastes pretty much like the *old* McDonalds or QuikTrip coffee did. Now the doughnuts I did like.
        • My Canadian fiends rave at the quality of Tim Horton's coffee, but I don't get it.

          And a lot of Canadians don't get Starbucks, though it's definitely increasing in popularity. To me, they burned it when they roasted it, and then brewed it at too high of a temperature to finish ruining it. It tastes like bad diner coffee that has been sitting on the warmer for 3 hours.

          Tim's tastes more like what the coffee that comes out of my coffee maker tastes like, which is what I want, not some designer beverage.

          And, t

    • I live in a small town where someone built a building for Starbucks and two other businesses. Well Starbucks did not last even one year so now the building is empty so I have very little faith in anything Starbucks does.
    • Tim's coffee is pretty revolting, actually. They're probably the worst coffee I've ever tasted. Even McD's coffee is better, and it's cheaper.

      But you don't go to Starbucks for an XL double-double. You go to Starbucks for a whole milk chai latte with a vanilla shot. Ever tried ordering something other than a plain cup of joe at Timmy's? If it isn't coffee, hot chocolate, or orange pekoe tea, then don't bother. And if it *is* one of the above, go to McDonald's... they're better on every front, and they have a

    • by Macrat ( 638047 )

      All that trouble to get overpriced weak coffee.

      Actually, bringing up the app is easier than trying to find the Starbucks account card in your wallet.

  • Just curious - I'm in the UK and have a bank card that I can just sort of wave at a payment terminal for transactions = £15 - handy when buying lunch. This seems a more elegant solution - do you have these in the US?
    • Yes, but not all the bank cards and card readers / sales terminals have that feature.
    • We have those in limited numbers. However this payment system is IMO a pain the ass. I have to unlock my phone and start the app, as opposed to just getting a card out of my wallet. It's not elegant at all, and I'm sick of hearing the media have a wet dream thinking this is revolutionary. It's just a reduced version of those apps that combine your discount card barcodes into one program.
      • Actually, this is probably an improvement. Half the people in line already have their damn iPhones out anyway, paying more attention to someone's inane tweet than to actually ordering or paying for their coffee.
    • by Tim C ( 15259 )

      I assume by "=" you actually mean "<=", right?

      • by Whalou ( 721698 )
        I'd say "==".
        It would be awesome if it were really an "=". Buy a car, wave the card and get a huge discount. Kind of a card version of a Jedi mind trick.
    • How does this compare to contactless bank cards?

      This has bar codes ... and smart phones.

      A bank card is just passee -- the chav's and WAGs will never go for it. ;-)

  • So I get to waste time putting money on that special card so that the app can act as the card at the register.

    Anyone else think this is incredibly dumb? I can whip out my debit/credit card faster than you can load your starbucks app.

    • by Macrat ( 638047 )

      So I get to waste time putting money on that special card so that the app can act as the card at the register.

      Anyone who buys coffee at Starbucks on a regular basis already has a card for the free "extras" associated with using it.

      In my case, I have a card from back when it allowed you to get access to their wifi. Now the wifi is free to anyone.

  • "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"

    and hope no one has a camera phone pointed in your direction at the time?
    • Thank FSM no one can take a picture of my credit card when I'm using it. Or take a video of me inputting my PIN at the ATM. Or just take my wallet. How does this raise any more security concerns than what you're currently using?
    • and hope no one has a camera phone pointed in your direction at the time?

      What the hell would that have to do with anything?

      You phone scans the barcode, and then presumably does some form of exchange with the server, which then causes the register to beep and indicate you've paid. If I take a picture while it's decrypting something, it's not like I can get the cipher key from that.

      I'm betting the bar code for the same beverage looks the same over and over.

    • My apologies, sir. Upon re-reading the description of this, the bar code is on the phone.

      You raise a valid point, please disregard my previous post. I am apparently having a stupid day. :-P

    • A camera phone is not going to take a readable picture of a 2d barcode from any appreciable distance.

      In any case, I am sure they are one-time codes, or at least time limited.

  • Uhh, old news? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Striikerr ( 798526 ) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @10:08AM (#34938914)

    I've been using my iPhone app to pay for my Starbucks purchases for a few months now in Florida (so this is hardly new). It has been in the Target stores for a while and in many (but not all) standalone Starbucks stores. It works quite well and I prefer it to using my Starbucks card. I always have my iPhone with me and it's more convenient to use it. Also, it's great because I can reload my card from the same app (which I have done while waiting in line). I'm not concerned about someone stealing my phone and retrieving anything. My phoen is password protected, I can easily wipe the phone if it is stolen and can contact Starbucks to report the lost / stolen cards so that transactions are blocked.
    I had originally thought it to be a waste of time and pointless until I decided to try it out. It's actually quite nice.

  • by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @10:26AM (#34939158) Homepage Journal

    Seems they are as common as coffee at Starbucks. I can't imagine that the workers will be pleased if this catches on as their chance of tips will decrease. In some stores it is almost a given if you don't dump the change you get back (at least the coins) you coffee cup won't be as full, let alone having a special drink

    • I couldn't agree more. I haven't tried the app yet but as a regular bux customer I only use cash so I can give them a tip. I always feel bad using a CC because there isn't any way to tip them when using plastic.

      It sure would be nice if they had some cool tipping options on the app. (Such as, "Round up to the nearest dollar", "25 cents", "50 cents", "75 cents" and a dollar.)

  • I mean, all you have to do is start up a $500 electronic device, log into a web service, and generate a bar code that has to be scanned at the register. In the past, i had to go through the painstaking hassle of quickly sliding a small piece of plastic across a device after audibly saying "I would like a coffee."
    • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

      you've obviously never been to Starbucks, if you order a 'coffee' there they'll say "huh? what kind of coffee".

      It's not about making it easier for you to buy a coffee, it's about reducing their CC transaction fees. If they can drop the fees a fraction of a percent, that's a huge win for them.

      I don't own any of the devices that they have the app for (iPhone, iPod, or Blackberry), but I don't have to *start up" my $500 Android device, at Starbucks I probably have it in my hand already after checking email, so

    • by vondo ( 303621 )

      Try it before you knock it. You don't have to log in to anything. You turn on your phone (which was probably on already), click once to start the app, click again to pay now. Scan it. The alternative is to pull your wallet out of your pocket, open it, pull out the card, swipe it, put it back. It's basically the same AND I get to have one less card in my wallet. (I have a Starbucks card for the 15 times a year I go there). The one less card is really the nice thing for me.

  • Automatic ordering? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @11:18AM (#34939816)

    This would be more interesting if it let you pre-enter your drink order in the app then when they scan it, it automatically prints out the drink label.

    That way, those people that order incredibly complicated drinks don't need to yell over the sound of the barista frothing milk 2 feet from the register.

    I even have a hard enough time getting them to hear my simple drink order "Tall coffee with room for cream. Ok Grande coffee, do you want room? No, I asked for a 'tall'! Sorry it's loud here, ok tall latte"

    I order the same thing every time I go in, there could be a single button click on the app that says "repeat last order".

    • If you're ordering plain coffee at Starbucks, you're doing it wrong. Their coffee is of lower quality and higher price than McDonald's, Dunkin Donuts, and a myriad of other major chains that almost certainly exist near you if you are American.

      • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

        Wow, you must have a vast knowledge of the entire united states to know what coffee is cheapest and closest to me. My nearest McDonalds is over a mile from me (which is a long way if you're not in a car), I don't know of a single Dunkin Donuts in this city. Are you available to tell me what else I'm doing wrong in my life?

        My train drops me off 10 feet from a Starbucks and I pass no other coffee shops on my way to work. I could walk an extra block out of the way to an independent shop, but they actually cha

      • by Macrat ( 638047 )

        If you're ordering plain coffee at Starbucks, you're doing it wrong. Their coffee is of lower quality and higher price than McDonald's,

        Especially when right now any size cup of coffee at McD's is only $1.

      • by adolf ( 21054 )

        As a coffee snob, I'd say that by ordering anything from Starbucks, you're doing it wrong.

        Perhaps this isn't an option for everyone, but where I'm from we don't have a Starbucks or a Dunkin' Donuts. We do have a few small, family-owned coffee houses which serve excellent coffee, and many of which even give you an explicit choice as to what sort of bean you'll be having today. (I'm partial to about anything from Ethiopia and Guatemala, it turns out.)

        In terms of consistency: The two of them that I most oft

  • They have the authentication backwards. All anyone ever needs to do is take a screenshot of your account screen and plaster it all over the Internet, and anyone can order coffee on your tab. (Unless of course your app generates a different unique QR code for each transaction, which is unlikely...) The way it should work is the cash register should display a QR code that contains the amount and the vendor account details to pay to, and you should scan it to initiate payment from your phone using some (not
    • I'm more worried that people can generate random barcodes and it'll charge to random accounts, including mine.
      • Are you also worried about people generating random credit card numbers? Do you know how much information can be encoded in a 2d barcode? The odds of someone successfully randomly generating one are pretty astronomical.

    • (Unless of course your app generates a different unique QR code for each transaction, which is unlikely...)

      Why is that unlikely? Seems pretty sensible to me. Otherwise, why use a phone? Why not just print the damn thing on a card?

  • by DirkDaring ( 91233 ) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @02:07PM (#34942146)

    When you use cash it hurts (taken from Dave Ramsey). Using a credit card diminishes that 'hurt'. He talked of a study that when McDonalds put in credit cards the average sale went up by 47% (Source:

    Waving or scanning your phone diminishes it even more.

    This is more about getting you to spend more than it is about just providing a new way to pay.

Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.