Ever been to a Starbucks and wonder why people are flashing their phones at the baristas or cash register? If they’re like me, they’re using the Starbucks app to pay for their food and drinks. Whether you go to Starbucks occasionally or have a table named after you there, I highly recommend the app. I’ve been using it for a couple of years, and I find it easy to use and very convenient. For this app review, I’m going to look at how the app works, and give you some tips I’ve learned over the years on how to get the most out of it.

How the Starbucks app works

Starbucks app home screenBefore you download the Starbucks app from the App Store or Google Play, you’ll want to go to their website first and setup an account (if you don’t have one already). I know it sounds painful, and yes – you’ll have to manage yet another password, but in order to take full advantage of the app, you need to have an account.

Once you get your account setup, you’ll need to have a Starbucks card available to load into your account. Usually, you’re prompted to enter a card when you setup your account, but it’s pretty easy to do later if you don’t have one available. Once you have a card loaded into your account, you’re ready to head over to the App Store or Google Play to download the app.

After you have it installed and open, the app will ask you to login using the account you created on the Starbucks website. After the login is verified, the card you loaded at the website will show up with its current balance. (see picture right)

To use the app, you can go to any Starbucks. After placing your order, pull out your phone, open your Starbucks app, and press the “Pay Now” button at the bottom of the screen. Then show the barista the bar code that pops onto the screen. The barista will scan it (or have you point it at the scanner), and you’re on your merry way. Now you can look cool just like the rest of us – at least that’s how I like to think I look while I’m paying with my phone!

Other features of the app

In addition to paying for your coffee, the app also allows you to do the following:

  • Track your rewards
    I don’t go to Starbucks often enough to bother tracking my rewards, but the app makes it way too easy. Turns out, I went more than I thought and made gold status last year!
  • Find stores
    If you’re in an unfamiliar location on vacation or business, the app can help you find the closest store to get your fix. You can also see the hours of operation, what services are available, and get directions from your location to the store.
  • Card reload
    I know you’ll find this shocking, but Starbucks makes it easy to reload your card with the app. You can do it in manually or have it set to reload automatically when the balance gets low or hits zero.
  • Use offers, discounts and rewards
    Any special offers, discounts or reward drinks you earn are auto-magically transferred onto your card. No more searching around for emails or printing out coupons. Just show the barista the code in your app. In some cases you can just tell them you have a reward available and the app will do the rest!
  • See recent transactions
    If you’re curious just how addicted you are to Starbucks or how often you go, you can see a list of your recent transactions.

Starbucks app Store FinderStarbucks app My Rewards

A couple of tips and why I like it

Aside from being a cool way to pay for my drinks and track my rewards, here’s a couple of tips and why I like it:

  • It’s convenient
    It’s faster than paying with credit and even cash. Plus, no more fumbling for cards or loose change. Just “show-and-go” at the register.
  • You can aggregate old cards
    When I first loaded the app, I had a bunch of orphaned cards that I had received as gifts over the years. Each card had a balance of under $2 that basically made it useless. The app let me enter all of those cards and transfer the balance onto one card. I had enough spare change on my orphaned cards to buy almost 3 drinks!
  • You can control your habit
    It’s not a “feature” of the card, but here’s how it works. If you’re trying to tame your coffee habit or reduce your Starbucks spend, try this trick. Load a set amount on your card at the start of every week (or month, or day, depending on how severe your addiction has become). Once you spend your budget, no more Starbucks until the next week!

Summary

For Starbucks regulars, the app is an absolute must have. However, even if you only go to Starbucks once in a while, it’s still a great app given its convenience and effortless reward tracking capabilities. It has helped me to use up the remaining balances on a bunch of cards I had lying around, to make gold status even though I don’t go that often (2-3 times a month is all it takes), and to look super cool when checking out (or super-nerdy, depending on your point of view). In short, I highly recommend it.