Changes coming to the Starbucks Rewards program will make it easier to earn free drinks, but if you want to maximize rewards on Starbucks purchases, the Starbucks Rewards Visa card might not be your best option.
Dear Cashing In,
I stop and get something to drink at Starbucks on the way to work a few times a week. I know Starbucks is changing its rewards program. But I just found out that Starbucks also has a credit card.
Does it make sense to get the Starbucks card with the new rewards program? – Eric
Starbucks has had a loyalty program for years. But now, following the trend of a lot of other big retailers, it is overhauling that rewards program in a way that is making it easier to earn and spend rewards.
If you’re a Starbucks regular – and there are millions of them across the country – it is probably worth paying attention to the changes.
And it is also worth considering the Starbucks credit card, the Starbucks Rewards Visa card from Chase. Some people like to save up their rewards and use them for a big trip. But Starbucks and Chase are betting that a lot of customers want to take their rewards one grande iced caramel macchiato at a time.
See related: Chase’s new Starbucks Visa card rewards you for every purchase
Starbucks Rewards program is changing
For years, Starbucks has had a rewards program that gives you two “stars” for each $1 spent. When you hit 300 stars, you earn “gold” status, which entitles you to a free drink when you hit an additional 125 stars.
Effective April 16, 2019, though, Starbucks is doing away with different statuses and is making rewards available for as little as 25 stars:
- 25 Stars: Extra espresso shot, dairy substitute or additional flavor.
- 50 Stars: Brewed hot coffee, hot tea or select bakery items.
- 150 Stars: Handcrafted drink, hot breakfast or yogurt parfaits.
- 200 Stars: Lunch sandwich, protein box or salad.
- 400 Stars: Select merchandise or packaged coffee.
Other perks of the rewards program include a free drink on your birthday, mobile ordering and free coffee refills in the store.
Hardcore Starbucks fans don’t like the changes much, which seemed aimed at more casual Starbucks visitors. But if you spend a lot at Starbucks, you will no doubt qualify for free drinks.
See related: Best rewards credit cards
Starbucks Rewards Visa card: What it offers
Then there’s the credit card.
Its sign-up bonus will give you a bigger jolt than all that caffeine – if you are into coffee drinks as a reward.
- It gives you 6,500 stars after you spend $500 in the first three months. That’s enough for 43 handcrafted drinks.
- If each of those drinks costs $5, that’s $215 in value just from the sign-up bonus.
- Now, the card does have a $49 annual fee, so that cuts into the value. But that’s still the equivalent of about 33 free $5 Starbucks drinks just for using the card a little bit initially.
After you burn through those 43 drinks and have to actually pay for Starbucks coffee, the card gives you three stars per $1 at Starbucks – 1 star when you digitally load your Starbucks card with your Starbucks Rewards Visa, plus 2 stars when that Starbucks card is used to pay at Starbucks stores.
This means you would earn about one free drink for every 10 $5 drinks you buy.
You can also use the card elsewhere, but the stars don’t pile up as quickly. You earn 1 star per $4 spent outside Starbucks stores.
Starbucks Rewards Visa card: Is it worth it?
The credit card can be a way to earn a lot of free drinks, and if you are really into Starbucks, you should take a look at it.
Dollar for dollar, you can probably earn more valuable rewards from airline, hotel or bank credit – especially if you consider that if you sign up for the Starbucks Rewards program, you’d still earn 2 stars per dollar spent at Starbucks stores regardless of what credit card you use to load your Starbucks card.
If you used a rewards or cash back card that earns bonus points on dining purchases your rewards earning rate would be higher.
But if you enjoy Starbucks, who am I to stand between you and your coffee in the morning?