One Mobile Payment for Another—Refill Starbucks Cards With Google Pay

August 6, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

It’s a strange sort of move made by Starbucks recently, but this poster child for mobile payments technology has once again put them to use. It’s done so in bizarre fashion, but done so nonetheless; with the release of the Starbucks 4.1.1 app for Android devices, users can now reload their Starbucks cards with Google Pay, effectively allowing customers to use a mobile payments mechanism to top up a completely separate yet equally mobile mobile payments mechanism.

The down side is that not only is this a somewhat redundant step, but it’s also somewhat limited. This payment system will only work for one-time reloads, meaning you won’t be able to make your Starbucks card effectively bottomless. The cards can be loaded up to $500, at last report, so it’s possible to just stuff the card so full that even the most hardcore coffee drinker would take a few months to burn through it. Users can also turn to credit cards or to PayPal for reloading.

Here’s where it gets weird. A quick check at Starbucks says that Starbucks takes its own cards, the mobile app, Chase Pay, Apple Pay and PayPal as payment methods. Note who’s not on that list? Google Pay, that’s who. Samsung Pay is likely there by implication; it’s commonly accepted anywhere a credit card is.

So why is Google Pay on hand here in only the most roundabout of fashions? Why not cut out the middleman and allow Google Pay as a payment method? Maybe it’s just too untested as of right now, or maybe there’s not enough use to justify it. After all, Google’s biggest problem is convincing users that are probably already turning to their original equipment manufacturer (OEM) payments systems of choice. Samsung users aren’t using Google Pay, but rather Samsung Pay, and so on. So Google has to not only break into an already crowded market, but it has to do so on its own devices.

It’s good to see Google Pay making some kind of move forward, but it’s likely going to take more than this to make it a real presence in the market.