Starbucks Won’t Be Accepting Bitcoin After All

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Last Friday, Intercontinental Exchange Inc. (NYSE: ICE), owner of the New York Stock Exchange, announced a plan to launch a cryptocurrency platform and a bitcoin futures contract. According to the announcement, ICE said it was “working with” a number of companies, including Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX), “to create an integrated platform that enables consumers and institutions to buy, sell, store and spend digital assets on a seamless global network.”

That statement, along with a quote from Starbucks vice-president Maria Smith, generated headlines that the coffee purveyor would be accepting bitcoin as payment for your next latte. Those headlines were wrong.

Tech news site Motherboard checked with Starbucks and clarified that Starbucks will participate in the program to the degree that it will support the conversion of digital assets into U.S. dollars that consumers can spend at Starbucks. In other words, Starbucks is a consultant to ICE and its new Bakkt cryptocurrency venture, but the company won’t be accepting bitcoin.

In an email to Motherboard’s Jordan Pearson, a Starbucks spokesperson said:

It is important to clarify that we are not accepting digital assets at Starbucks. Rather the exchange will convert digital assets like Bitcoin into US dollars, which can be used at Starbucks. At the current time, we are announcing the launch of trading and conversion of Bitcoin. However, we will continue to talk with customers and regulators as the space evolves. … Customers will not be able to pay for Frappuccinos with bitcoin.

ICE’s futures contract, which it plans to launch in November, is a one-day physically delivered bitcoin contract along with “physical warehousing.” The contract is being reviewed by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

The Bakkt platform will run on Microsoft’s cloud and is expected to include merchant and consumer applications, as well as the federally regulated futures contract.