Coke Machines Go Cashless with MasterCard

Last Updated Aug 20, 2007 5:23 PM EDT

Today MasterCard Worldwide and USA Technologies Inc. announced plans to install cashless payment terminals in 7,500 Coca-Cola vending machines within 8 markets (Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Miami, New York and Seattle). Customers will be able to use traditional credit cards as well as MasterCard's PayPass. Thacher Worthen, Coca-Cola's VP of Marketing, sees this as a natural progression, considering the prevalence of credit card payment options in every consumer outlet, from McDonald's to 7-11.

T.J. Sharkley of MasterCard said:

"More and more consumers are telling us they want to use payment cards for small purchases from vending machines, and together with USA Technologies and Coca-Cola United, MasterCard is responding to this demand. MasterCard PayPass provides greater speed and convenience for consumers making purchases from vending machines, while helping vending operators improve efficiencies and drive increased revenues."
While it's true customers enjoy the convenience of paying with plastic, it's also true they generally spend more money when real dollars aren't exchanged. Earlier this year, Cadbury Schweppes PLC and MasterCard Inc. installed cashless vending machines in several markets. According to the Associated Press:
Some of the machines were installed in January and have seen sales increases of 5 percent to 35 percent without any change in prices, said Mark Jackson, a vice president with Cadbury's U.S. beverages subsidiary, which markets Dr Pepper, Snapple, 7UP and other drinks.
Another incentive for Coca-Cola to go cashless: customers will not only buy more -- they'll also buy higher-priced items. When Coca-Cola began testing this initiative earlier this year, Sharkey commented that consumers would be more apt to buy a $2.25 energy drink when they don't have to rustle through their pockets for quarters.

Is going cashless good for business? Absolutely. Will it tempt America deeper into credit card debt? Well, a $2.25 energy drink won't break the bank -- even if you buy two. But those dollars do add up. Coca-Cola is hoping so.