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Starbucks Rewards Visa card review

Starbucks Rewards Visa card review

Published: February 21, 2018
Ratings Policy
Retail Rating:
2.6 rating
2.6 rating
2.6 / 5
Rewards Value: 1.4
Annual Percentage Rate: 3.3
Rewards Flexibility: 3.7
Features: 3.0

In a nutshell:

You would have to drink a spectacular number of Frappuccinos to justify the $49 annual fee on the Starbucks Rewards Visa card.

Rewards Rate

  • 1 Star per dollar that you digitally load to the Starbucks mobile app using your Starbucks Visa card (in addition to 2 Stars earned as regular Starbucks member)
  • 1 Star per 4 dollars on purchases outside of Starbucks stores

Sign-up Offer

  • 2,500 Stars if you spend $500 in first 3 months
  • 250 Stars when you use your Starbucks Visa card to load your registered Starbucks card within the Starbucks mobile app for the first time

Annual Fee
$49

Average Yearly Savings ($1,325 monthly spend)
$162

APR
17.24-24.24% (variable)

Rewards Redemption

Pros

  • No limit on number of points you can earn
  • Only 125 points required to redeem for a reward
  • Points stack with points earned as regular Starbucks member
  • Points have very high value (approximately 3.4 cents per point)

Cons

  • Points expire in 6 months
  • Can only redeem points for Starbucks merchandise, including handcrafted beverages, ready-to-drink bottle beverages and food items

Other Notable Features: Instant Gold status in Starbuck’s loyalty program, 8 barista picks, monthly double-star days, birthday rewards, free in-store refills, special events and offers

Coffee drinkers around the country may want to set down their mugs to imbibe this latest bit of news from the world’s largest coffee chain: At long last, Starbucks has introduced a co-branded credit card to go along with its popular loyalty program.

The new Starbucks Rewards Visa card lets you earn Starbucks rewards on every purchase. The press release promises cardholders “fast, frequent rewards” through their everyday spending. Unfortunately, the card has a serious drawback: A $49 membership fee.

Given the Starbuck Rewards Visa card’s less-than-spectacular rewards earning rate, even a diehard Starbucks drinker would have a difficult time swilling enough cups of coffee to see the value in the card’s membership fee.

Rewards earnings are on the low side

The regular Starbucks rewards program – open to any loyalty program member who earns at least 300 points (Stars) in a year – is generous with its points, so it is surprising that the Starbucks Visa Rewards card offers such a modest rewards rate. In addition to the two Stars that you earn as a regular Starbucks member, you get a mere one Star for every dollar that you load onto your Starbucks card with your Starbucks Rewards Visa card. Also, you earn one Star for every four dollars on purchases that you make outside of Starbucks (that’s a ¼ of a point!).

To be fair, Starbucks points are far more valuable than their face value, so the rewards rate isn’t quite as meager as it seems. 125 Stars entitles you to a free food or beverage item at Starbucks. Since we estimate the average menu item at Starbucks to be worth around $4.25, that means that every dollar that you spend at Starbucks with the card nets you around 3.4 cents worth of rewards on average.

Even at a rate of 3.4 cents per dollar, you would have to drink many, many cups of coffee to earn $49 in rewards. Not to mention, it’s not worth using the card for anything but coffee, since the rewards earnings on outside purchases is extremely low, amounting to less than 1 cent per dollar. 

Better than average sign-up bonus

On the plus side, the card comes with a decent sign-up offer. You earn 2,500 stars if you spend $500 on the card in the first three months, and you can earn an additional 250 points when you use the card to load money to your Starbucks card within the Starbucks mobile app for the first time.

That’s a total of 2,750 points, which, by our estimates, amounts to around $90 in Starbucks rewards, more than making up for the annual fee in the first year. 

Limited redemption options

Another major drawback is the card’s limited redemption options. You can only redeem your rewards for Starbucks menu items, and only once you’ve accumulated a sufficient number of points. Furthermore, points have a short shelf life, expiring in only six months.

Starbucks Gold status

The one thing the Starbucks Rewards Visa card offers that you can’t get with any other credit card is automatic Gold status in the Starbucks loyalty program. Unfortunately, perks are limited, amounting to a personalized gold card, the ability to redeem your points for rewards and monthly double Star days where you can earn twice the number of points.

One additional cardmember benefit: You get eight annual barista picks, where a Starbucks barista curates and automatically uploads a food or beverage rewards to your account. That’s a nice perk, but probably not worth a $49 membership fee on its own. 

Why not use a cash back card instead? 

It’s even harder to justify the Starbuck Visa Rewards card’s annual fee, when you consider that there are a large number of cash back cards that let you earn rewards on Starbucks purchases without an annual fee and that offer far more flexibility in how you redeem your rewards.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card, for instance, offers 1.5 cents per dollar on every purchase. Even better, the Citi Double Cash card offers up to 2 cents per dollar on every purchase. Compared to the Starbucks card, which gives you 3.4 cents back for Starbuck purchases, that’s a mere 1.4 cent difference. At that rate, you would have to drink approximately $3,500 worth of coffee per year to justify paying the $49 fee for the Starbucks card rather than using the Citi card. That’s a serious coffee habit!

Why get the Starbucks Rewards Visa card?

  • You want to take advantage of the card’s valuable bonuses in the first year.
  • You are an especially heavy Starbucks coffee drinker. 

How to use the Starbucks Rewards Visa card:

  • Use the card to load dollars onto your Starbucks membership card through the mobile app to earn the bonus on your Starbucks purchases.
  • Visit Starbucks during double Star days to earn double rewards points.
  • Alternate the card with another card for your purchases outside of Starbucks, since the card’s rewards rate on outside purchases is low.

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