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Starbucks Rewards Card: A Good Deal for the Frequent Drinker

Starbucks, you win.

My coffee shop fix has been a little over the top lately. I go to Starbucks about 3-4 times a week, in addition to sprinkles of Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and Nordstrom Cafe visits.

CB and I like to go to coffee shops during evenings and on weekends – he studies for his GRE, I work on my freelance work. All those $5 here and there adds up, and we show no sign of quitting the java. So night I finally caved in and signed up for the Starbucks Card rewards program.

With Starbucks Rewards, you will earn 1 Star every time you pay with your card. Once you get up to 5 Stars, you get a small offering of free services, such as free flavored syrups, free soymilk, free refills on iced tea, etc. I am probably most excited about the free soymilk, as I love my chai soy lattes. For every 15 Stars, you will get a free drink. You also get a free drink on your birthday. Plus, you can you can always exchange gift cards in case you want to get another one.

Since the Stars are based on per transaction, I wonder if I can break up all my purchases into separate transactions. 😉 In any case, I have sort of admitted defeat to the lure of Starbucks.

Anyone has a Starbucks Card and is earning the rewards?

photo courtesy of Starbucks.com

Edit: The winner of the Cholula 4-pack giveaway is Julia C! Congrats Julia. Winner is Hedy. Thanks everyone for entering!

  • Barista - You can absolutely break up all your purchases into different transactions. I wouldn't do it with a huge line forming behind you during the morning rush but as long as it's slow just ask the person ringing you up. They'll understand why. And it's good for the store, as well, because it gets extra labor hours for extra "customers." ReplyCancel

  • Aleksie - I've caved in, too, because Starbucks is unfortunately the only okay coffee on campus (not a fan of their coffee). The stores are franchised or something like that to the school, so I'm not sure if the Rewards card would work. The one Starbucks doesn't even take credit or debit, only cash or the university card. ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - I go to Starbucks inside Barnes & Nobles quite often, and you are right, I don't know if these Starbucks-within-a-store would take the cards. ReplyCancel

  • Ashley - I've got one, and I'm ashamed at how quickly I earned Gold status (and how many free drinks I've earned since then!).

    1) In my experience, the stars only accumulate if you have some period of time between purchases. I know I've earned multiple stars by going in the morning and again in the late afternoon, but know I've missed stars from making two purchases within 20 minutes. I just got 2 yesterday from 2 purchases about 45 minutes apart – so you might want to test and see how much time has to elapse before you earn another star! (It may just be that the system didn't credit me properly.)

    2) 5 stars gets you Green Level, 30 stars gets you Gold Level, and THEN every 15 stars gets you a free drink (which they mail to you as a postcard you can redeem in store).

    3) Gold level has some fun perks. I've gotten two postcards for free items — once, a premium artisan breakfast sandwich, another time for a free holiday pastry — and I get preview emails in advance of announcements (like their Tribute blend!). ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - Thanks for the information. I will have to spread out my soy latte and madeline cookie purchases then.. 😉 ReplyCancel

  • Kira - I love LOVE my Starbucks Rewards card. I'm currently up to 16 "Stars" in my cup. (You can check your status online, on your iPhone, or your Blackberry.
    Loving the free flavors and Soy, and my birthday is coming up too, which means a free drink.

    I have one of the keychain gift cards that's been indisposable to my Starbucks success. I will be ditching it though for my Gold card once I reach Gold. :-) ReplyCancel

  • CityFlips - @Ashley: I'm glad you clarified that you can't get a free drink till after 45 stars. I was going to add that when I read the post!

    I started this program, because I was trying to stick to a coffee budget. I figured putting a certain amount on a gift card every month was a great way to stick with the budget. Sure, I don't rack up the stars very fast, but it's a nice treat every once in a while! ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - The coffee budget on card sounds like a great idea. I might do something similar… I think I have to do it by the week, though, or else I might run through a whole month's budget in the first 10 days! ReplyCancel

      • CityFlips - Yeah, I've already blown my budget for the month! I have 2 empty Starbucks coffee bean bags that I can use though. ReplyCancel

    • Laurie - You get a free drink for every 12 stars! Been doing it for yearsReplyCancel

  • fromshoppingtosaving - I need this! I don't go every week but I do go maybe every other week. My dad would be a fan too, he goes 2-3x a day!

    Btw I linked your last post on my latest blog post, hope u don't mind! ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - Thanks for linking to this post. Yes, get your dad on the card, I'm convincing my bf (who is also a java addict) to sign up as well. ReplyCancel

  • Lindy Mint - I have been meaning to do this for a while now, even though I'm only going to Starbucks about six times per month now, it's still something. It's also a good way to budget by loading your card a certain amount each month and not going anymore if you run out. I really need to get my husband on this plan too, he sometimes goes to Starbucks twice a day when he's working. ReplyCancel

  • Laura - I have had a register card for a while… and since i used it enough I know have a monogrammed gold gift card! … what I really like is the free refills on coffee and tea, and free soy and flavor shots. ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - Monogrammed? FANCY! At the rate I'm buying drinks, I'll get there in a few weeks. >< ReplyCancel

  • Kim - I recently used a Starbucks gift card, and the cashier told me that if I register the card, I get free soy milk. He didn't tell me that I have to buy 5 drinks before that perk will kick in, but meh. Whatever. It's free to have the card registered, and I like having a Starbucks card in my wallet just in case. I did have to put $10 on it…I don't go to Starbucks very often, but I figure at least now I'll have a gift card that I can use (even if technically it's a gift to myself) to earn stars to eventually earn free soymilk?

    Sigh. ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - I didn't know you have to have 5 drinks before you can get free soymilk? When I signed up, they said I only had to start with $5. ReplyCancel

      • Kim - Oh weird. Yeah, it says I have to earn 4 more stars to get to the next level (I'm at the "Welcome" level right now), and when I got my first coffee on my card yesterday, I definitely got charged for the soy. Have to be at "Green" level to get the free soy, apparently. Sadface for now…eventually I'll get there. ReplyCancel

  • SS4BC - I have the Gold Card. I like the one free for every 15, but I miss their old gold card when I just got 10% off everything. =\ ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - Do they have limits on the one free? Because I am going to get a Trenta. LOL. 😉 ReplyCancel

      • Craig - The free drink is any free drink. If you want four extra shots in a venti drink then that's what you get. ReplyCancel

    • CityFlips - I think you get 10% off if you take your own coffee cup! At least my Starbucks gives me 10% off! ReplyCancel

  • Hedy - I don't have a Starbucks card, as I only go to Starbucks once in a blue moon, and I'm enough of a sucker that getting more points would make me go there more. I have begun meeting a friend there on occasion, so I am considering joining.
    On the other hand, I love my MyPanera Card http://chattywomen.com/pennythoughts/2011/01/18/hReplyCancel

  • socalneighbor - I'm kind of surprised you haven't signed up for Starbucks Rewards till now, since you go 3-4 times a week! You could've gotten a lot of free drinks by now! LOL My husband goes to Starbucks a lot, so he's always getting those free drinks. I'm only at the Green level status. But Starbucks occasionally sends me postcards for free food. I just got a free oatmeal this week :) ReplyCancel

  • Amanda L Grossman - Neat–I will have to sign up. I love my Iced soy chai! I will be including this in an upcoming post. ReplyCancel

  • Carol - I rarely go to Starbucks, as I feel it's important to support my local coffee shop (also not so crazy about their coffee). Not likely I'd get much use of the card. My place just lowered their in-shop prices for when you use a real mug, which will hopefully cut down on excess waste. ReplyCancel

  • Craig - I love my Gold Card! One great perk is you get free coffee refills while you are at the store. When we moved I didn't have internet for a couple of weeks. Instead I'd use SB and I'd be able to get all the coffee I can drink for the price of one.

    Also, when you buy a pound of coffee you usually get a tall cup of coffee free. With the card you get ANY tall drink free. ReplyCancel

  • Craig - Another thing, if you get a card and use the rewards make sure you understand what they are. Many cashiers aren't familiar with all of the aspects. ReplyCancel

  • Kathleen - I've had registered Starbucks gift cards for a while now and have gotten a free drink on my birthday the past three years. I was bad about using/reloading my GCs on a regular basis instead of my credit card and have only started racking up stars since last October. I added $25 to one of my GCs a few months ago on my iPhone because Starbucks was offering a bonus $5 if you paid with Visa–that was nice. I'm at 12 stars now so only 18 to go! I try to limit my visits to Starbucks though and instead visit other cheaper coffee places such as Dunkin' Donuts and Au Bon Pain. ReplyCancel

  • Jill - The official rules say that you can only get one star per day although I see other people above claim to have gotten more than one. I love my card! ReplyCancel

  • Serendipity - I'm insanely slow and I need to register one of my gift cards so I can start redeeming my points! Heaven knows I'm in there at least twice a week! =) ReplyCancel

  • Liz - Just register your card online. You won’t need 5 transactions at that point, because when you register you automatically get “green level” benefits. For example, free soy, which they charge $.60 for. ReplyCancel

  • Scott - I got a question guys. I am at the green level, and have been getting my free coffee refills. But I am confused about what teas get free refills? I asked the girl at the counter if my large hot passion tea gets refills and she said no. So what teas are the refillables ones? ReplyCancel

  • CityFlips - I just thought of a few things to share in the Starbucks world…
    1) if you ever buy Starbucks coffee beans, you can take in the empty bag for a free tall coffee
    2) if you like lattes, you will love the Misto. It's not on the menu, but it's about $1 cheaper than a latte! If you're at Gold level, you can get free flavored syrup. If not, use the vanilla or chocolate powder. Mmmmmm
    3) My Starbucks gives me 10% off when I bring in my own coffee cup
    4) With the rewards card, you get free refills on brewed coffee if you're still in the store!ReplyCancel

  • Help your significant other save for retirement | Well Heeled Blog - […] Thanks to Magical Penny for hosting the Carnival of Personal Finance: International Pi Day Edition and for selecting my post on Mental Accounting as an Editor’s Pick! Also, Dr. Dean at Millionaire Nurse hosted the Yakezie Carnival: Spring Training Edition and featured my post on Starbucks Rewards Card. […]ReplyCancel

  • KARYN - I have a Starbucks card, and my birthday is next week, August 15. Will this information be in the computer system, and I'll automatically get a free drink that day? Or should I tell them it is my birthday? ReplyCancel

  • Rachel - For starbucks card, is it one drink per star, or just one star per visit?ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I believe it is one star per transaction. ReplyCancel

    • Lachesis - I read this question elsewhere, and it seems it's one star per card swipe. So, if you buy you and your friend drinks, and pay on your card, which gets swiped once for the transaction, that's one star. As a matter of fact, "Barista" posted as the comment at the top: "You can absolutely break up all your purchases into different transactions. I wouldn't do it with a huge line forming behind you during the morning rush but as long as it's slow just ask the person ringing you up. They'll understand why. And it's good for the store, as well, because it gets extra labor hours for extra "customers." " Now that _I_ know that as well, I'll be getting multiple swipes on my gold card! ReplyCancel

  • @Sylarti - @Wellheeled–Thanks for the breakdown. I couldn't find that info on the starbucks.com site. I suspected 1*/visit, but I wasn't sure. I made GOLD STATUS last week and was notified today. I got my birthday Peppermnt Mocha something a month ago and I'm looking forward to the other perks.


    • Well Heeled Blog - I just got my birthday drink a few weeks ago! One of my favorite perks… I love how they send you a nice little postcard. ReplyCancel

  • Rich - I'll have to start one up right away! ReplyCancel

  • Jae - I agree, the program is pretty cool, EXCEPT the one star per transaction. It should be one star per drink. It seems ridiculous that if I go buy 6 coffees for my office workers, I get the same amount of stars that someone who only purchases a tall drip. I always go during times when it’s crowded, so not only is there little hope of breaking up the order, but I’m sure the barista would be annoyed, too. :) ReplyCancel

  • Wyn - I share my gift card. Load it on my iPhone and give the card to my mate. We both can use it and get the benefits. Load it when it's empty. ReplyCancel

  • autumn - My husband and I frequently buy together or I will take a kiddo and get a coffee for me and a cake pop for them, so I think I'm going to have two cards. I registered to me and one to my husband. That way I will pay with two cards and still get two stars. I know it won't all add up to my free coffee, but the second card will eventually get one also. ReplyCancel

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