woman talking in front of photo of starbucks (l) starbucks logo (m) woman talking in front of cell phone (r)

@indexventures/Tiktok Papin Lab/Shutterstock (Licensed)

‘It’s secretly a bank’: TikToker’s theory on the Starbucks app goes viral

‘Basically, we're giving Starbucks a free loan.'


Cecilia Lenzen

Internet Culture

Posted on Feb 9, 2022   Updated on Feb 14, 2022, 2:10 pm CST

A popular TikToker explained why she thinks Starbucks is essentially a bank, and her theory has gone viral on the platform.

The video breaking down the theory, posted by an account known as Index Ventures (@indexventures), garnered 1.7 million views on TikTok as of Wednesday.

While Starbucks might seem like a regular coffee shop, it’s “secretly a bank,” the TikToker claims in the video. When people load money onto their Starbucks app, they’re basically storing money in the “bank of Starbucks,” she continues.


The app held $1.5 billion in balances—more than some actual banks store in deposits—at the end of 2019, the TikToker claims. But unlike a bank, the money stored in the “bank of Starbucks” can only be used to purchase Starbucks products.

“This is great for Starbucks in two ways,” the TikToker says. “One: Starbucks can use this money however they want whenever they want, before it’s even used to purchase coffee. So, basically, we’re giving Starbucks a free loan. And two: They are not required to follow the regulations of a bank because you can’t make withdrawals like you could at a bank.”

To add to those perks, about 10% of the money stored in Starbucks apps will go unused, the TikToker estimates. She claims that means free money for the coffee company.

Starbucks’ mobile payment platform has become so successful that many people consider the company to be more of a financial technology firm than a coffee shop, the TikToker says. In 2018, Starbucks was reportedly the most-used mobile payment app, outranking even Apple Pay. A 2018 report by Retail Dive projected that Starbucks will remain the most-used mobile payment app until at least 2022.

Viewers had divided opinions on the theory. Some said it’s like any other gift card system.

“That’s literally the same thing as a gift card. And more gift cards get unused than money on the Starbucks app. Use common sense people,” one viewer commented on the video.

“pov: you’ve discovered the concept of gift cards,” another viewer wrote in a comment.

Another user said, “This is true of all gift cards issued by retail businesses.”

“whats with the music?” someone else asked. “so weird to frame this as some deep conspiracy rather than just a super successful, but ultimately standard, gift card system.”

Other viewers said the Starbucks rewards system is too good not to use, regardless of whether you want to think of the app as a bank.

“Their rewards system is too good not to,” one viewer wrote.

Another commented, “It’s cus you get 2x stars on Starbucks money instead of 1 to the $1.”

The Daily Dot reached out to Index Ventures via TikTok comment and Starbucks.

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*First Published: Feb 9, 2022, 3:26 pm CST