What does a cup of coffee have to do with investing costs? A lot, apparently, as the world’s largest mutual company, Vanguard, is using a creative twist–and caffeinated buzz — to market itself to coffee lovers across America. From early May to late June, Vanguard’s traveling At-Cost Café will tour six cities across America, selling cups of hot and iced coffee at the “at-cost price” of 26 cents. From June 17-19, the mobile café will be in front of Penn Station at 33 St. and 7th Ave from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

The measly quarter and penny is just one-fifth of the typical cost of a cup of coffee–$1.45, according to Vanguard–although, the average price is sure to be even higher in NYC, where a tall coffee at Starbucks comes to $2.01 with tax. (Vanguard and Starbucks both seem to love that extra penny!) Vanguard uses coffee as an analogy for its mutual fund costs, which it says is also priced at-cost and is one-fifth less than industry average.

The truck offers three cleverly-named blends: the Mutual Fund Blend, ETF Roast and the IRA Blend. Vanguard customers can get a second cup for free.


Before NYC, the truck also visited San Diego, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, DC. The café will end its tour at City Hall Plaza in Boston next week, from June 25-27. This is the second year Vanguard has employed this marketing strategy. Last year, according to Advisor Intelligence, the At-Cost Café sold 4,500 cups of coffee in three East Coast cities. This year, it’s already sold over 5,600 cups, averaging 500 cups a day.

With At-Cost Café’s refreshing bargains, Vanguard seems to have found the key to customers’ stomachs. It remains to be seen if  marketers have found the key to their wallets as well.

Get in touch with the author @catku.

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