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jonathans cardIn my last article about Jonathan’s Card, Broadcast Mobile Currency [And Starbucks Coffee] With Jonathan's Card Broadcast Mobile Currency [And Starbucks Coffee] With Jonathan's Card With products like Square and Google Wallet, the ability to pay for real-world items using virtual financial institutions is rapidly becoming the most common form of commerce. However, Jonathan Stark, a mobile application consultant, has... Read More we discussed how you could grab a quick coffee fix for free, but unfortunately, the system was shut down by Starbucks Starbucks & Apple Offering Free Paid iPhone Apps [News] Starbucks & Apple Offering Free Paid iPhone Apps [News] For all you coffee and iPhone addicts, Starbucks and Apple have partnered up again to offer a free weekly paid iPhone app from the iTunes App Store, starting August 23rd. The promotion is similar to... Read More when Sam Odio manipulatively gained money from it. Granted, he gave the money he raised to the charity foundation Save The Children, but he also instructed how anyone could use the card to make profit.

Odio may have killed the Jonathan’s Card, but fortunately, other currency-broadcasting fans have rushed in with their very own versions of the Starbucks-sharing system. Check out these new (safer) up-and-coming replacements for Jonathan’s Card.

In a swift move that happened directly after the unfortunate fall of Jonathan’s Card, a man by the name of Nicolas J Sheriff Jr. took a chance and developed another form of the ill-fated social sharing experiment. His version – – functions as a website which features a Starbucks barcode which you can use with your iPhone or Android phone. As with the case of Jonathan’s Card (and the official Starbucks app), all one must do is simply scan the barcode at the register when they are ready to pay for their coffee.

jonathans card

One of the advantages to is the fact that when you go to refill the card for others to embrace the joy of espresso, the link is already set for you with the numbers of the card hidden from view. This means that if someone is feeling like ruining the coffee fun for everyone, the task will prove to be difficult since they don’t even know what the code for the card is.

jonathans card alternatives


One thing that I found a little confusing (and I tried to contact Sheriff about this) was that I simply could not find a way to check the balance of the card. My advice for you right now would be to only try it out if you have some backup money in your bank account. This way, if you try to use the card and it’s entirely empty, you can avoid any minor embarrassment. Granted, you could still take a chance since you have to pay before the drink is made anyway.

jonathans card alternatives

The Pay It Forward Card

Here we have another similar program sponsored by TalkAboutDesign – the Pay It Forward Card. The system utilizes an almost identical setup to, but it does have some minor differences that separate the two.

jonathans card alternatives

For instance, upon arrival to the card’s website, you will see the card’s balance right off the bat. Unfortunately, the current balance has been relatively low (likely due to its very recent start-up), but in order to remedy that, all one must do is deposit money into the card’s privately-numbered account with a few clicks of a button. Besides the website itself, TalkAboutDesign has also released an Android app that does virtually the same thing.

jonathans card

One of the differences between the original Jonathan’s Card and the PIF Card is that creator Maksim Petriv does not release any of the API What Are APIs, And How Are Open APIs Changing The Internet What Are APIs, And How Are Open APIs Changing The Internet Have you ever wondered how programs on your computer and the websites you visit "talk" to each other? Read More whatsoever. He believes that this will help keep the card’s financial status safe, and furthermore, balance updates never show the exact state of the card. The TalkAboutDesign Twitter account has also used various Tweets that will simply state whether the card is full or not.

The Movement

The movement began with Stark, and even on the original card’s still-existing Facebook page, there are quite a few followers still discussing ways to keep paying it forward. Users have found the coffee to merely be a symbol for what inspires them to share whatever they may have with their fellow man. That being said, it’s not so much that these people are (as Odio puts it) “yuppies buying yuppies coffee” as it is that they are average Joes who are finally taking time out of their day to think, “hey, maybe I could do something nice for this person.”

As a matter of fact, taking a cue from the original Jonathan’s Card, you can find numerous individuals who have set out with the goal of making their own community Starbucks Cards, releasing little-followed Facebook pages featuring images of the barcodes as profile pictures. Click around on Facebook, and you’ll be sure to find at least one or two.


No matter what happens, there are always people that will want to shut down even the coolest of things. It’s the general cynical nature of the Internet, and sadly, you can’t help that. However, there are still people in the world out there trying to be kind to whoever they meet doing whatever they can – and yes, that can be in the form of a cup of coffee.

Were you able to use Jonathan’s Card before Starbucks had to shut it down? Have you been able to use any of the ones mentioned? In what ways have you paid it forward recently? Also, have you ever shared your own Starbucks card?

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  1. Jason Statum
    September 9, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    Not sure what the point in hiding the number is for since it's right there in the HTML code.

    Pay it Forward Card # is 6066384105999057

    • J. Lockhart
      September 9, 2011 at 10:20 pm

      Ha! Well. Do you think hiding the API helped at all?

  2. WireShout
    September 4, 2011 at 1:53 pm
    • J. Lockhart
      September 9, 2011 at 10:21 pm

      Just saw this. I really like the concept of this one, actually. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Chris
    September 2, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    J., might I suggest that you also add that while "Sam Odio manipulatively gained money from it." and that "Granted, he gave the money he raised to the charity foundation Save The Children", Odio's brother refilled the card with the same amount of money Odio removed.  So, while his actions sadly ended the experiment, nothing was "gained" in the true sense; his brother, in essence, just gave Sam $625 to donate to Save the Children.

    • J. Lockhart
      September 2, 2011 at 8:58 pm

      True, true. However, you have to look at the label of his blog post:

      "How to use Jonathan's card to buy yourself an iPad" is the title, and many people would view him as an enabler. I understand what Sam's brother did, but you just have to take that into consideration. That's a little beside the point, but thank you for pointing that out. Even though I disagree with the actions, I hope the money was well-used.

      However, I'd like to keep the focus on the fact that there are a lot of folks out there willing to do what Jonathan did and then go the extra mile. There are just a lot of different levels of being kind to your neighbor (some may be more visible than others).

  4. swag
    September 2, 2011 at 7:29 am

    I have stopped donating to other charities entirely so that I can focus on contributing 110% to buying white people free coffee.

    • J. Lockhart
      September 2, 2011 at 2:48 pm

      I think you've missed the point, swag. You'd buy your friend a drink, wouldn't you?

    • Chris
      September 2, 2011 at 7:32 pm

      Are "white people" the only ones with access to the internet to read about the cards, and/or who have a smart phone to be able to use it?  Sounds pretty biased and racial, but that's just me...  As J. noted you, you missed the point.