WiFi Filter
July 21, 2009 3:33 PM   Subscribe

Is there a scammy catch or otherwise bad deal to Starbucks' free WiFi through the Starbucks card and AT&T?

Don't whale away at Starbucks and their corporate fascism and terrible coffee, please; I am taking an online class at my regular university and have to get online through the day. I registered by Starbucks card for 2 hours of free WiFi access at Washington, D.C. area Starbucks locations. As for why not the public library, the National Mall, etc. it is 90+ hot and I am carrying a laptop, which I used to access (not a smartphone) and books.

I realize that I've let myself in for a deluge of promotional e-mail from both companies, but have I let myself in for anything worse? Will AT&T send me bills?

I logged on at the Starbucks at 1502 Dupont Circle and then the AT&T link dropped out and I was unable to log out. I logged back on but the AT&T sign-in screen did not come back up. Will I be penalized for not logging out? I was able to log on and log out properly at another location. There were very many competing wireless links at the Dupont Circle location.
posted by bad grammar to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't think so. They just want you to keep buying coffee or other Starbucks stuff. The AT&T hook is that you could get in for free (I think) if you have an account with that company. If you like the Starbucks hotspots, you might be swayed to switch to AT&T as your carrier.

I'm not sure if this still works, but if you pretend to be an iPhone, you (could) get unhindered access.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:43 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Dunno about the states, but here in Canada it's a similar deal (but with Bell) and I don't get spammed. SBucks sends me a promotional email maybe once a month max (maybe only once a season really), and I get two hours of free wifi if I drop by and have my card on hand.

For the two hours, it might have used up your allotment for the day but then it would have dropped your connection anyhow, you'll be fine next time.
posted by Billegible at 3:43 PM on July 21, 2009

The catch is eventually you will break down and buy coffee.
posted by GuyZero at 3:44 PM on July 21, 2009

The catch is that the card must be active. That is, you must have made a purchase on it in the last 30 days. Also, it doesn't work at every Starbucks. Starbucks in airports are commonly excluded, making it less than useful for frequent travelers.
posted by kindall at 3:50 PM on July 21, 2009

My AT&T DSL account comes with free Starbucks wifi access. Maybe a friend of yours has an account you could use?
posted by alexei at 4:12 PM on July 21, 2009

I own a Starbucks gift card, which I continually put money on. When you do that, you get access to their wifi during the month that you have placed money on the card (or at least the 30 day period following it). I don't do banking or anything secure; I just download journal articles or read websites while I drink my coffee or tea (I usually eat or drink something so I'm not just taking up space). It works out well for me because I spend money at Starbucks anyway.

By the way, I have no problem with the taste of their coffee, but I do smell like burnt coffee beans when I leave.
posted by Piscean at 4:18 PM on July 21, 2009

The catch is that the card must be active. That is, you must have made a purchase on it in the last 30 days.

Not so with mine in Canada. Haven't used it in a year but still get free wifi every time.
posted by Billegible at 4:59 PM on July 21, 2009

I use it almost daily ( registered card--I am not an ATT subscriber ) whether at home or when traveling. You do not receive spam or daily solicitations--the only Starbucks email I receive is when I put more money on the card--Starbucks is a successful enough company it is quite aware that pissing you off is not in their best interest. I see absolutely no down side. As far as trashing the company--I like Starbucks, no matter where I am I can count on a reliable quality product get free wifi and the NY Times, responsive service and most importantly--they pay competitive wages and benefits.. I have been in way to many "local operations" where the coffee is inconsistent, the music is for the benefit of the underpaid staff, the wifi may or may not work, the bathrooms are poorly maintained and the staff are paid minimum wage and receive no benefits. There are excellent local operations ( and I do try and find them when I travel) but like a good diner--they can be hard to find.
posted by rmhsinc at 5:46 PM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

I did this when I first moved to FL and didn't have internet access yet. The way it was explained to me was that I had to charge the card to $5, then use the code to register for the wifi. The card had to have a balance change every 30 days, and had to have a minimum $5 balance. So use it to buy a drink or cookie or something, and then pay with the card and recharge the card simultaneously.

The crappy part was that it was only good for 1 session or 2 hours per day, whichever is less.
posted by TomMelee at 5:53 PM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I am enough of a caffeine addict that I would probably buy their coffee anyway, so I'm glad to hear there are probably no further catches. I never buy their fancy coffees (expensive, too much sugar).
posted by bad grammar at 6:09 PM on July 21, 2009

I've only used it once in Canada, but I didn't even need the card. I had registered a gift card a long time ago and was able to sign in with that username/password.
posted by betsybetsy at 6:33 PM on July 21, 2009

It's great for roadtrips since they are ubiquitous and you can get the signal from the parking lot. Purchase multiple cards from ebay or a gift card site at a discount and you can roll over access for a while (or just use the iPhone trick).
posted by calwatch at 11:11 PM on July 21, 2009

I have a registered card and I only get coupons (for starbucks grocery items) via email and only every so often. I've also found that when I use the at&t wifi thru them I don't necessarily get cut off after 2 hrs.

I do use my card for purchases at least once every 30 days, though - they give you free syrup and soy milk so it's worth it to me.
posted by superkim at 11:20 AM on July 22, 2009

No problems with the wifi. And the coffee out of the new Clover machines is unbelievable. Enjoy.
posted by dinger at 12:14 PM on July 22, 2009

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