Coke ON - buy from vending machines with your phone16 May 2021 | #japan
Japan is full of drink vending machines:
However I don’t like coins. The vending machines at the train stations usually accept Suica, but elsewhere they are mostly cash only. Or that’s what I thought.
Meet Coke ON, the fun and reasonable (🤨) Coca-Cola official app, which lets you buy drinks from selected vending machines using your phone, paying with credit card, PayPay or LinePay. Moreover you get stamps for each purchase, that gets you a free drink after 15 stamps.
- No need to carry cash (especially useful when running or cycling)
- No need to touch coins or the machine (you select the drink on your phone, you only need to pick up the drink)
- Occasional free drink for stamps
- Limited to Coca-Cola vending machines, so you might need to walk a bit to find one (the app has a map though, and I enjoy turning my runs into an orienting game)
- Limited to Coca-Cola drinks - forget Pepsi, Pocari Sweat or melon soda 😢
- Sometimes it can be more expensive, even with the stamps (see below)
How to use
Most of the app is available in English, and it’s pretty straight forward to use.
- Download the app (Google Play, Apple Store)
- Sign up in the app
- Setup payment under
Coke ON Pay - Payment Settings
- Walk up to a vending machine with the
Coke ON Paylogo (or use the map in the app). There are some vending machines that only have
Coke ONand not
Coke ON Pay, and with those you can only buy drinks with either the drink tickets you get for stamps, or with cash. Using the app when paying with cash still gets you the stamps though.
- Have the app open on your phone with bluetooth turned on
- As you put the phone close to the vending machine, they will connect via bluetooth and the app screen will change
- The list of drinks available in the vending machine will appear on the screen
- In the app, click on the drink you want to buy. It will open a floating ticket with a photo of the drink
- Swipe the ticket toward the top of the screen to confirm the selection (this took me a while to figure out)
- The vending machine will release the choosen drink, and the app will charge your registered payment method
- The app will show the received stamp(s)
Does the saving makes sense?
So normally buying one drink will get you one stamp (though appr. 25% of the time there is a campaign giving 2 stamps per drink). After 15 stamps you get a drink ticket that can be exchanged for a single drink of any kind. No stamp is given if a drink is bought with a drink ticket. Assuming all drink cost the same, this comes down to getting 16 drinks for the price of 15, equalling to a saving of 1/16 or 6.25%. So in practice a 160 yen drink (the usual price for Aquarius) comes down to 150 yen, which could still be more expensive the the alternatives, for example this one:
Coke ON Pass
I haven’t personally tried, but Coca-Cola also offers a drink pass for 2700 yen/month giving you one free drink per day. If one uses it all 30 days, then one drink comes down to 90 yen, which is a decent price, though supermarkets might have the same drinks for 70-80 yen. However I assume most people’s weekday and weekend routine is significantly different, so if one can only use it during weekdays (so ~21 days a month), then one drink will be close to 130 yen. At that point a 100 yen Lawson or even directly buying some of the drinks from the same vending machine will be the same or cheaper (but prices might be higher around train stations):
So overall unless someone only drinks the most expensive drinks; they drink it realiable every single day, then this pass doesn’t seem to make sense financially.