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Would You Use an App That Offers Unlimited Coffee for a Monthly Fee?

Alyssa Bereznak
National Correspondent, Technology
Yahoo Tech

Like subway access or the ability to breathe through our mouths, coffee is one of those non-negotiable things New Yorkers need to live. Which is why a new coffee club app, launched Monday in Manhattan, might just be the most brilliant thing since the MetroCard. That is, if the right cafes get onboard.

Named CUPS, the Android and iOS app asks customers to pay a monthly fee in return for unlimited coffee at a select number of cafes in New York. 

Prices vary depending on what your drink of choice is. Those who usually just order a plain cup of tea or coffee every morning can pay a straight $45 fee for all they can drink. If you want unlimited access to the fancier stuff — Americanos, cappuccinos, macchiatos, lattes, or iced coffee — you’ll have to fork over $85 a month. 

So let’s say your go-to spot is Little Fox Cafe in Little Italy. You usually order a $3.75 large Americano every morning before work. If you bought one every morning in the month of May, you’d be about $116 poorer. With the CUPS app, you’d save about $30 — and be able to drink as many Americanos as you want (at a variety of locations).

It works pretty seamlessly. After downloading the app, you pick a participating cafe, go there, order, enter your order into your phone, and ask the cashier to punch in a payment code. The app tracks your location (with your permission) and provides a map of all of its locations nearby. Right now CUPS is offering a free cup of coffee if you sign in to the app using Google or Facebook.

CUPS definitely has its limitations. Since it’s brand new to the city, participating businesses are mostly limited to the lower half of Manhattan, in trendy neighborhoods like the West and East Villages, Noho, and the Lower East Side. Out of its 31 locations, there are only single outposts in Queens, Williamsburg, and Brooklyn. Its lack of participating cafes might make it difficult for members to get their money’s worth. After all, no caffeine-deprived New Yorker is below opting for a cheap cup of bodega coffee if the time and location are right.

Another impediment: CUPS’s unlimited service will let you refill only every hour. This is probably better for the health of New York’s general population, but it might not jibe well with the type of person who wants to camp out at a cafe with her laptop and exploit her CUPS subscription every half-hour. 

That being said, for those who live below 14th Street, CUPS is a nice alternative to relying on the scarce benefits that come with a Starbucks customer loyalty card. The app’s past success in Israel is promising, too. After launching there in September 2012, about 80 locations are now part of its subscription service. 

If CUPS catches on like it did abroad, New York City might soon be moving at an even faster pace than we previously thought possible. You have been warned. 

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