As if they needed to make it any easier to get a cup of their coffee, Starbucks has just released a new iPhone App that lets you pay just by showing the cashier your screen. The free Starbucks Card Mobile App lets you enter the number of any Starbucks Card into your phone and then throw the plastic away. Instead of swiping the card, the App displays a barcode that can be easily scanned. You can also reload your card or access your Starbucks account. Originally you could only pay with the Starbucks Card Mobile App in select stores in Seattle and Silicon Valley. Now though, the system is also accepted at the 1000 or so Target stores with Starbucks inside. Watch out, people, this is just the first of many Apps that will transform your smart phone into the only form of payment you need to carry.
Starbucks already had an online system dedicated to tracking and updating their gift cards, so switching from plastic to iPhone (or iPod Touch) wasn’t such a big leap forward. It’s all just digital information. By partnering with another major retailer (Target), Starbucks is attempting a huge roll out of this program. There’s no telling if consumers will actually want the new system. The App may cut down on the amount of plastic you carry, but it isn’t dramatically easier to handle. There is some added security (you can password protect your cards and/or your phone) and you’re less likely to misplace a smart phone. Is that enough incentive to get you to switch? Either way, if the Starbucks Card Mobile App succeeds, expect other major companies to follow soon thereafter. I suspect that other companies with similar card databases (Jamba Juice, Best Buy, etc) could follow suit very easily, and maybe even credit card companies could get in on the action. You wouldn’t need your wallet anymore. Who knows, we may eventually lose the electronics all together and just pay for food with our fingerprints.