I have something of a love-hate relationship with mega-chain Starbucks. On the one hand, they consistently offer soy milk in (almost) every store, which I appreciated as a vegan. On the other hand, they are a mega chain, and I prefer to patronize local independent coffeehouses when possible, and they charge $0.40 extra for drinks with soy. On the one hand, they have consistently good wifi, but it requires a T-Mobile Account or expensive “daily pass.”

Or at least they used to. Now, if you buy and register a Starbucks Card (one of those refillable, prepaid cards) you can get what they call “beverage customization” free of charge, including soy milk.

Starbucks Rewards

In addition to free soy milk, this also gets you two hours per day of free use of the AT&T Wi-Fi in Starbucks stores.  As someone who travels a lot around the US for work, it is incredibly convenient to work out of the local Starbucks in virtually any US city for an hour or two between meetings, and now to do so essentially free of charge (since I was going to get coffee anyway).

I’ve already tried it out last week in San Deigo, and while the barista first rang up my drink the old way – with the extra charge for soy – when she tried to charge it to the card it gave her some kind of notice and she had to re-ring with a different code, making the soy free.

Small thing, I know, but well worth allowing Starbucks corporate to track my travel and coffee consumption habits. (All that’s required is that you use the card once every 30 days – not a problem for me!). Heck, maybe they could integrate with FireEagle or BrightKite and automatically update my location whenever I use the card in a new store – save me the effort. (In Austin, I’m still going to The Hideout).