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Dunkin' Donuts app: Swipe a card? That's so passé.

Dunkin' Donuts app saves a few seconds off each transaction. Customers who use the Dunkin' Donuts app have their smartphone scanned. 

By Lindsey AndersonAssociated Press / August 17, 2012

New York Giants quarterback and Super Bowl XLVI Most Valuable Player Eli Manning kicks off his partnership with Dunkin' Donuts by surprising guests behind the counter at a Dunkin' Donuts store in Secaucus, N.J., in June. The chain's new Dunkin' Donuts app allows customers to pay with their smartphone, instead of swiping a credit card.

Stuart Ramson/Insider Images for Dunkin' Donuts/Reuters/File

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BOSTON

Dunkin' Donuts die-hards can now cut down on their time in line each morning with the chain's first mobile pay application.

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Customers can forgo cash or plastic with the app and just flash a smartphone, as well as send virtual gift cards via text, email or Facebook.

The Dunkin' Donuts app should speed up lines because users won't have to wait for change or for credit cards to be processed, said John Costello, chief global marketing and innovation officer for the New England institution, based in Canton, Mass.

That shorter wait time is valuable to consumers, said Erik Thoresen, a food industry analyst at Chicago-based Technomic.

"A transaction that you do every day, even a few times a day, if it saves even a few seconds, it has a meaningful impact on consumers' lives," he said.

Dunkin' app users can store and purchase Dunkin' Donuts Cards on their iPhones, iPads or Androids and add money to the virtual cards, like customers do with plastic ones. But rather than offer a physical Dunkin' card to the cashier, users open the app and pull up a barcode for the cashier to scan.

The orange- and pink-accented app also includes nutritional information, a menu and a franchise locator.

A Dunkin' representative said about half of the chain's U.S. customers own smartphones. Most of Dunkin's 7,000 U.S. locations will accept the app.

Starbucks launched its new mobile pay app last week to much fanfare, and other smaller chains have similar apps. Thoresen said the later start won't matter for Dunkin' because an app lets the company build on its existing base of loyal customers.

Dunkin's announcement is part of an industry trend to combine payment, gift cards and loyalty programs, Thoresen said. Overall, consumers are less afraid to use mobile phones for payment these days, he said, noting that the number of mobile bankers has increased.

But Steven Smith, 29, a customer at a Dunkin' Donuts in downtown Boston, said he would rather pay with a credit card.

"I don't really want to put credit card information on my phone because of safety," he said.

Mobile gift cards, like Dunkin's mGift, are an "untested method that seems like it should do really well" as more people, especially young people, have smartphones and use mobile pay apps, Thoresen said.

Some customers said they'd still prefer plastic gift cards.

"I'd rather give a gift card by hand and then they could load it onto the app," Paula Dawson, 48, said outside a Boston Dunkin's. A mobile card "doesn't mean anything to me."

IPhone user Norman Lang, 58, said a Dunkin' app is "awesome."

"I use the Starbucks app all the time, and I spend way more money (at Starbucks) than I should because it doesn't seem like you're spending money," he said.

Lang said his coffee loyalty flits between Starbucks and Dunkin'. While Dunkin's app wouldn't make him exclusively choose the chain, he said, it's "just another easy, convenient thing that I do."

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