How to set up Passbook in iOS, a convenient way to pay and more

Apple’s Passbook app is pre-installed on every new iPhone, but there’s information on how to actually use the new feature. The app itself does little by itself, instead relying on secondary Passbook-ready apps to push information to Passbook. There are a handful of Passbook ready apps available, which include airlines, retail stores like Walgreens and Target, along with the movie ticket app Fandango. So as one author was tired and in desperate need of caffeine, I took a trip to Starbucks to figure out how to set-up Passbook in iOS for iPhone and iPod touch.

how to use Passbook in iOS

Set Up Apps For Use With Passbook

First things first, you’ll need to download the latest Starbucks app. So if you’ve had the Starbucks app installed previously, make sure you update it to the latest and greatest. You will need to associate a Starbucks card with the app. This is done through your online account at Here you can buy a card or set-up an existing card. You’ll also have an opportunity to set up a reoccurring charge to you preferred credit card once your card reaches a certain dollar amount.

Use Passbook iOS

About now, your thinking this isn’t worth all the trouble. To an extent, you are absolutely right. Many of these steps, while required to set up Passbook, are identical to enrolling in Starbucks Rewards program. Passbook is simply making it easier to utilize your card information at checkout. As you purchase more coffee and related items at Starbucks, you’ll start to accrue stars. Once you receive 30, you’ll get a free beverage of your choice. At the cost of venti specialty drinks, you can see how this can be advantageous. Oh by the way, once you get through the pesky online setup, all of this information is now available in the app.

You’ve labored through all of this and you simply want a cup of coffee. Take a deep breath, open up the Starbucks app and you should be prompted, “Would you like to add your Starbucks Card to Passbook?” There is no choice for YES, YES, YES, so we’ll just click on ‘Ok’. You’ll now proceed to a nifty feature that asks you to Add Favorite Stores.

Add favorite stores

Once you make the selection, Maps within the Starbucks app launches and finds locations within your area. You can add multiple stores, if you have more than one favorite.

Passbook maps

Click on the blue arrow, then select ‘Add as a Favorite Store’.

Add as favorite

What this does is puts your iPhone or iPod touch on notice that Passbook needs to kick into gear and work it’s magic when you are near that location. Once completed, you’ll have an option to add a Store Card, which in most cases will be the one you’ve setup in the previous step. On it will be the nickname for the card, bar code and balance.

How to setup Apple Pay using Passbook

If you are using an iPhone, your first step is to open Passbook, pull down any existing cards and select the ‘+’ option. Select the link to ‘Setup Apple Pay’. iPad owners, your initial step is different, due the lack of a Passbook app. Tap on Settings > Passbook and Apple Pay. You will have to enter your Apple ID password.

Passbook Setup Apple Pay

What you’ll see next depends upon the credit or debit card you’re using for iTunes. If your banks supports Apple Pay, you’ll see the screen on the left. If not, you’ll need to manually add a credit or debit card. If available, select ‘Use Card on File with iTunes‘.

You’ll be prompted to add the three digit security code that appears on the back of your card. Following this step, you’ll need to agree to the terms and service.

The next step involves verification of your card. It’s important to note that depending on your bank, you may have to call to verify your request. Using Citibank as an example, I had to enter a verification code, which was sent via text message. Your iPhone will prompt you to enter the verification code.

Once completed, you’ll see a picture of your card with the message ‘Card Activated’, advising you that it is ready for Apple Pay. It’s time to take it for a spin.

How To Use Passbook

I proceeded to make my way to my local coffee joint. As I got close, I received a notification from Starbucks in Wantagh.

Passbook location

As I tempted as I was to open it, I wanted to experience the full Passbook experience. I ordered my (2) grande coffees, a blueberry scone and a croissant. Took my iPhone out of my pocket, slid the notification to the right and there was Passbook proudly displaying my Starbucks card information.

Starbucks Passbook

Starbucks uses a handheld scanner, so they simply scan your iPhone or iPod touch. There is no handing over of the device, so gone are concerns of dropping it. Within an hour of leaving, I received yet another Passbook notification, which reflected the debit to my account for my caffeine intake earlier.

Passbook happiness

Why use Passbook?

Coffee might not be your thing, but the process largely remains the same. You’ll need the corresponding app, an account and authorize it to interact with Passbook. Some companies continue to support Passbook, even with the advent of Apple Pay. Even now, it’s the only option if you want to pay with your iPhone at Starbucks. That will change in time, as Starbucks has promised to rollout support for Apple Pay. I’d venture to say that Starbucks employees tend to skew towards being younger and perhaps that could mean more technically proficient, although that it is certainly go guarantee. They have had the app in place for while, so Passbook implementation is more on the consumer side, providing quicker access to your card information than fishing for the app. This process is likely to get even easier with the Apple Watch. Your mileage may vary as you proceed from retailer to retailer, store employee to store employee. While I didn’t have to hand over my iPhone, that might not always be the case. What about Starbucks drive through or a movie theater? The idea of paying with your iPhone has gone mainstream thanks to Apple Pay, but Passbook offers more than simply making payments. You can use it for airline boarding passes, movie tickets and more. At the core of any transaction process will be software and right now, it’s lacking because of the lengthy setup process. Passbook might save you a few seconds when you make a purchase, but at the end of the day, the coffee will taste the same.

Passbook Apps

You can download these Passbook apps from the App Store for free:

Original article published on October 9, 2012. Updated on March 21st, 2015.


  1. says

    Curious; security wise, it is secure, right? If say someone stole my phone (and I have no security, i.e. a PIN, etc.), I’d simply have to make sure the device was disabled before they tried to use Passbook, right?

  2. says

    When you go through the drive thru they have a wireless scanner that they can scan the card as you put your arm out the window. I’ve never had to hand them my device.

  3. says

    A short message to users “App populates as you add passbook capable apps to your phone” after you enable use app for passbook would have helped the confusion.

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