Starbucks Has a New Tipping System, Here's What You Need to Know

The new feature is now available at Starbucks locations nationwide.

If you’ve been to Starbucks recently, you may have noticed something new at checkout. When you pay with a credit card, you'll now be prompted to select how much you want to tip your barista. It's a feature that, at most other coffee shops, is standard. But it's been a hard-fought battle to get the feature added at Starbucks locations.

"Our partners (employees) have been looking for us to implement credit card tipping," a representative from Starbucks told Thrillist. "It was something that was among the discussion at our collaboration sessions earlier this year and even before then. The system is similar to what you would see at other retailers and not unique to Starbucks."

Despite the relatively standard nature of the addition, some outlets have reported that customers have been griping on social media about the new feature. Some outlets and at least one viral TikTok have even suggested that Starbucks employees themselves don't like the feature. Yes, yes, there are some people who are willing to admit online that they don't like to tip the service workers in their lives. However, despite this drama that seems to be dominating the headlines, everything about the new option is pretty straightforward.

First, the option to tip on payments made through the Starbucks app was already in place. The new tipping ability for credit card payments made in-store and in the drive-thru was first launched in some Starbucks locations in the fall. After swiping or tapping your card, you'll be shown a screen where you can choose to tip or not, and how much.

Starbucks confirmed that the new option is being widely used among customers.

"Starbucks began to roll out the new capability in September 2022 in select stores in the US. We expect to continue rolling out this feature through the end of the year," the Starbucks representative shared with Thrillist. "That rollout completed this week across all eligible stores and we’ve already seen customers take advantage, with nearly half of credit card/debit card transactions including a tip."

Credit card tipping has been a demand from Starbucks Workers United, the group organizing Starbucks workers into unions. It is the first major win for Starbucks. According to Jacklyn Gabel, a Starbucks employee and member of Starbucks Workers United, it has been a long time coming. Gabel says it feels cruel that the option was rolled out to non-union workers before it was made available to unionized Starbucks employees.

"When Starbucks first released the benefit of credit card tipping to all of our non-union employees, my first thought was honestly, 'Why are they trying to punish us,'" Gabel explained to Thrillist.

Starbucks, for its part, explained the rollout of the tipping option a bit differently. "Changes required to implement this new reward channel may modify the terms and conditions of employment for partners, so we're obligated by law to bring it to the bargaining table before launching it in union represented stores," a Starbucks representative told Thrillist via email.

And if you're wondering what sort of difference it makes, the addition of credit card tipping options was a demand from Starbucks Workers United for a reason. "Credit card tipping in our stores is the difference of making $2-$3 more per hour in some cases," Gabel explains. "It would make a huge difference in my life and in the lives of my partners."

Not sure how much to tip? Gabel has a pretty straightforward suggestion for customers. 

"I think any service worker would agree that the ideal tip is 20%," Gabel told Thrillist. "For a $5-$6 drink, that puts you at a dollar or so per drink. And Starbucks workers every bit earn that tip too because we essentially work in a factory. We are making hundreds of drinks per day, many are specific and can be complicated… On the other hand, Starbucks—and every company—could just pay their workers what their labor is worth."

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Opheli Garcia Lawler is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.