Starbucks Looks to Add Bitcoin, Cryptocurrencies to Payment Options

The popular Seattle-based company is collaborating with Microsoft on a new app that would allow patrons to pay for their lattes with bitcoin.
Shelby Rogers

Shortly after making waves with its straw announcement, Starbucks is making headlines once again. The company recently announced it too would jump on the cryptocurrency train. 

The coffee giant's announcement comes as a partnership with Microsoft and a global exchange to develop its own digital platform. The platform would ultimately give Starbucks fans a way to pay for their morning cup of coffee with bitcoin and other popular cryptocurrencies. 

Starbucks will work alongside Microsoft, Intercontinental Exchange (owner of the NYSE), and BCG to create a new platform called Bakkt. Bakkt will allow consumers and retailers to buy, sell, and spend their cruptocurrencies on a global infrastructure. The plan could go live as early as November 2018. 

"As the flagship retailer, Starbucks will play a pivotal role in developing practical, trusted and regulated applications for consumers to convert their digital assets into US dollars for use at Starbucks," Maria Smith, vice president of partnerships and payments for Starbucks, said in a statement. "As a leader in Mobile Pay to our more than 15 million Starbucks Rewards members, Starbucks is committed to innovation for expanding payment options for our customers."

Bitcoin is expected to be the first currency available on the platform. However, Bitcoin remains the most rapidly changing. Within the last year, bitcoin's value has spiked as high as $20,000 before dropping to $6,000 before hitting its current value at roughly $7,400. 

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However, a major company's investment into allowing bitcoin to be used for purchasing everyday items like a cup of coffee could help normalize a relatively controversial currency. 

"It's very big news for bitcoin because people say, 'Where can you spend it?' Now at every single Starbucks," said Brian Kelly, founder and CEO of BKCM, in an interview with CNBC. "Starbucks is seeing some kind of demand for acceptance of crypto and bitcoin, and to tie up with a huge regulated institution like the ICE is really positive for the space."

Starbucks isn't alone in its decision. U.S. companies like Overstock, Expedia, Shopify and Microsoft are all allowing customers to use cryptocurrencies like bitcoin to purchase goods and services online. In fact, Overstock began accepting bitcoin as payment years ago in 2014. 


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