Starbucks Plans to Accept Contactless Payment in the UK

The Starbucks coffee chain is the latest merchant to signal it will accept contactless payment in the United Kingdom, adding more momentum to the rollout there.

Credit card issuer and acquirer Barclaycard, part of Barclays bank, announced today it had signed a deal with the large coffee chain to accept contactless in selected shops starting next spring. Provided these pilots are successful, the chain will roll out contactless across most of its stores in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Starbucks has more than 700 stores combined in the two countries.

The Starbucks announcement follows an earlier announcement by McDonald’s, in January, that the fast-food chain would accept contactless payment at its 1,200 restaurants throughout the United Kingdom starting this summer, one of the first tier-one merchants to embrace the technology in the country.

“We’re seeing more and more people use cards for payment, and contactless will allow us to serve our customers more quickly and with greater ease,” Pete Blower, Starbucks’ technology services manager for Europe, said in a statement.

Starbucks accepts contactless in some other countries, but not yet in its largest market, the United States. It is currently rolling out bar-code based payment from smartphones stateside.

Barclaycard used today’s Starbucks announcement to promote its “Quick Tap” NFC service, which it announced last Friday with mobile operator Orange UK. Users of the service, which only is available on one NFC phone so far, will be able to tap their phones to pay for purchases of £15 (US$24.27) and less at Starbucks and other contactless outlets. They will also be able to tap contactless credit and debit cards.  

Barclaycard and Barclays, which is leading the contactless rollout in the United Kingdom, have together issued more than 11.4 million contactless cards, more than 80% of the total contactless cards issued in the United Kingdom, said the bank. Barclaycard’s acquiring arm accounts for most of the contactless terminals deployed so far, as well.

Visa Europe was also included in today’s announcement with Starbucks, but MasterCard Worldwide’s PayPass application will also be accepted at Starbucks. All told, more than 50,000 merchant location accept payWave and PayPass in the United Kingdom, according to Barclaycard, though few of them are part of large chains.

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