I’ve been testing the Starbucks South Africa app since November last year but couldn’t mention it on any social platform, until today (1 February), the official launch date. After countless friend meets, selfies, and Frappuccinos later, I can finally speak about it.

The Starbucks app, just like it’s universal counterparts, offers two main functions – payment and rewards. However, each country’s version is not universal for the obvious currency fact. If you have R200 loaded on your South African app, you cannot use it in the UK to pay for coffee in pounds. You can load it with gift cards the same way you would with iTunes or Play Store vouchers, or by putting in your credit card details. Gift Cards can be purchased at any Starbucks store. Starbucks South Africa says it’s a completely secure digital payment method for customers who don’t have to worry about carrying wallets. Fun fact: globally, there are 12 million people on the Rewards program, and 8 million who use it for payment.

The combination of payment and a loyalty system on an app is genius. Yes, it’s not new; but the only way to get customers to download and use your app is to obviously tie two important things that matter to the customer: payment and rewards. Another South African coffee chain (who shall remain nameless) launched their own app for payments and rewards, but every time I tried to test it so I could write about it, it failed to scan at the till. I’ve since deleted their app. The Starbucks SA app is based on an already successful app in the US. It has a nifty ‘shake to pay’ feature. Once you’re in the app, just shake it to get to the payment screen.

Starbucks photo from Shutterstock

Also, Starbucks SA team tells Wired to the Web that our local version works the same way as the American version in that it’s based on spend. For every R2 spent, 1 star is earned. In the UK (at the time of writing this post), their rewards system was based on transaction. Thankfully, ours doesn’t work like that or it would take forever (or paying individually for five cups of coffee) to earn stars.

The app has a clean interface and your Dashboard is the default screen upon launch. At a glance you can see stores near you; Rewards status; Payment; and “Add credit card”. The menu on the left shows your profile because you will remain logged in; pay; rewards; stores; inbox; account history; and settings. Account history has every single transaction you’ve made through the app, including credit loaded. Settings has your basic info, payment methods, the option to turn on a passcode for the app (works with Touch ID on iOS), and help, etc. 


The two reward levels on the Starbucks app are Green and Gold. When you sign up to Rewards, you get 125 stars, half the amount needed to get a free drink or something to eat (250 Stars). So with every R2 spent, you earn 1 Star. For every 250 Stars collected, you get a free reward. As far as I know you can’t redeem it on the Reserve coffee. On Green level you are also entitled to exclusive offers, communicated by Starbucks. 

You get to Gold status when you reach 750 Stars. This entitles you to a birthday drink, free Origin espresso upgrade, in-store refills on brewed coffee, and member-only invites to events like new product launches. Your Gold level lasts for 12 months after earning another 750 Stars, I think.

I’ve been using it for close to three months now and I love the fact that I can pay with my phone. You all know how much I hate taking out my wallet! I also added the payment screen to the Wallet app on iPhone, so I don’t even have to open the app! This was handy when the trial version of the app expired and it wasn’t accessible until a new update was rolled out. When you get to Gold status, you get unlimited refills… that, combined with the free 100Mbps free WiFi, why wouldn’t you work from Starbucks? Starbucks SA are very proud of their uncapped WiFi offering – customers have used over 75 000GB of data to date! Everywhere else offers capped free WiFi (slow!) or constant purchasing for WiFi codes. 

To sign up for Starbucks Rewards, visit: http://rewards.starbucks.co.za/#/register If you don’t want to use the app for some reason (like, why??), you can opt for a physical card to earn rewards. You will be able to fetch it in-store.

The Starbucks app should be available on the App Store and Play Store already.

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