As Starbucks Reopens, It’s Dropping Cash All Together To Protect Customers and Staff

Why we can all expect more contactless experiences soon.

BY DON REISINGER, TECHNOLOGY AND BUSINESS WRITER@DONREISINGER

Starbucks has been growing one of the more powerful contactless payment services in the industry. And now it’s planning to reduce its reliance on cash to keep employees and customers safe in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

In a letter to Starbucks employees and customers this week, CEO Kevin Johnson said Starbucks is planning to expand the number of cash-less options available to customers.

“We will also shift toward more cashless experiences, knowing that the handling of cash creates consumer concerns about the spread of viruses,” Johnson said. “We predict the mobile app will become the dominant form of payment.”

The news came alongside Johnson’s announcement that Starbucks plans to reopen 85 percent of its cafes across the U.S. by the end of this week. It also highlights how important Starbucks’ contactless payment service has become.

Competing with Apple Pay, Google Pay, and others, Starbucks has its own contactless service, allowing users to load cash onto their accounts and pay with a bar code scanned by Starbucks employees. It’s one of the fastest-growing contactless apps in the industry and now has 20 million users — far more than many competitors.

While Starbucks has always encouraged customers to use the app for rewards and other perks, it could take on a new importance now.

Starbucks, like other companies, is cognizant that customers may worry about using cash and the possibility of spreading coronavirus from it. With its contactless app, Starbucks can sidestep those concerns and make customers (and employees) feel more comfortable.

It’s a lesson other businesses may want to pay attention to as parts of the U.S. reopen. From retailers to cafes to restaurants, limiting the exchange of cash may be the best move. And accepting contactless payment options like Apple Pay and others could go a long way toward protecting customers.

Of course, for small businesses, there’s a cost associated with upgrading payment systems to contactless support. And at a time when coronavirus is negatively impacting businesses, that cost may be too much of a burden for some.

Either way, Starbucks is making one thing abundantly clear: Cash is dying. And companies need to be ready for that death sooner than later.

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