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Innovations and Payment Systems

Starbucks gift cards are now just a text away

The coffee chain has rolled out a feature that allows coffee drinkers and caffeine enablers to send gift cards via text message


Starbucks recently rolled out a feature that allows coffee drinkers and caffeine enablers to send gift cards via text message. Here’s how it works.

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Do you have a Starbucks addiction?

Do you know someone with a Starbucks addiction?

Do you have an iPhone with the latest update?

If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, boy, are you in for a (whip cream or foam-topped) treat. Starbucks rolled out a feature at the beginning of April that allows coffee drinkers and caffeine enablers to send gift cards via iMessage. All you have to do is enable mobile payments on your iPhone.

The feature, which works in conjunction with the Starbucks app, is available right in iMessage, next to the little space typically used for finding the perfect reaction GIF, or animated image.

I sent one to a habitual drinker to brighten their day – vanilla cream cold brew, black. Once the feature is set up, it’s easy (almost too easy) to use. (Step-by-step setup instructions can be found on Starbucks’ website.)

The catch? I had to put my credit card into Apple Pay, which I hadn’t yet because apparently, I am behind the curve on that. (I didn’t really see a use for Apple Pay and still don’t know where and why to use it outside of this gift card.) Once I finished inputting my credentials for Apple Pay, I just chose which gift card design I wanted and sent it like any other message.

My habitual coffee drinker said it was really easy to redeem as well. Recipients just tap the message, which opens the card in the Starbucks app. They can use it as a stand-alone gift card or transfer it to an existing balance on another card they have stored.

Then, in the words of my java fiend, “boom, coffee.”

The text gift cards can be spent the same as any other money on your Starbucks app and still allow users to gather up those star rewards.

Beer, movie tickets are also text-friendly now

In the process of sending the gift card, I also noticed that some other places allow you to send and receive payments or get more for your money within iMessage.

Venmo will let you pay for that beer, your part of dinner or a movie ticket to your friends directly from the iMessage app.

If you are feeling generous and just want to get movie tickets for your whole gang, Fandango allows users of its app to search movies, theaters and times and even buy and send ticket information without ever leaving your text.

Whole Foods, in addition to stickers touting the virtues of kale and avocado toast, lets you send and receive coupons and recipes through iMessage.

If you’re planning on using those credit card rewards soon, Kayak lets users compare prices on trips and send them back and forth to one another and book flights, hotels and rental cars within iMessage.

Except for Whole Foods and Venmo, all these apps also offer availability through Apple Watches, making it easier for credit card holders with an iPhone to spend money on guilty pleasures.

Android users are out of luck if they want to send virtual coffee money via text unless they are on Verizon. Verizon offers a gift add-on through its messaging app that allows users to send Starbucks gift cards. However, the money is billed to senders on their Verizon account.

I should say I am sorry for facilitating you and your loved ones’ expensive coffee addiction, especially since a simple hookup to Apple Pay could cost you more Starbucks money than usual. But I won’t. Instead, I will just say I accept thank-yous in the form of pink drinks (which are finally on the actual Starbucks menu).

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