Starbucks Rewards Visa card review

Starbucks Rewards Visa card review

Published: August 27, 2019
Published: August 27, 2019
Ratings Policy
Rewards Rating:
2 rating
2 rating
2 / 5
Rewards Value: 0.7
Annual Percentage Rate: 1.9
Rewards Flexibility: 3.1
Features: 3.0
Customer Experience 3.6

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 2 dollars on grocery stores, local transit and commuting, internet, cable and phone services
  • 1 Star per 4 dollars on purchases outside of Starbucks stores

Sign-up Bonus

  • 6,500 Stars if you spend $500 in first 3 months
  • 300 Stars when you use your Starbucks Visa card to add money to your Starbucks account

Annual Bonus
None

Annual Fee
$49

Average Yearly Savings ($1,325 monthly spend)
$183

APR
18.24-25.24% (variable)

Rewards Redemption

Pros

  • No limit on number of points you can earn
  • Only 50 points required to redeem for a reward
  • Points stack with points earned as regular Starbucks member
  • Points have very high value (approximately 3 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

Customer Experience

Other Notable Features: 8 barista picks, monthly double-star days, birthday rewards, free in-store refills, special events and offers, auto rental collision damage waiver, extended warranties, purchase protection, travel and emergency assistance services, trip cancellation/interruption insurance

If you are a loyal Starbucks drinker, you may have heard that Starbucks is updating its rewards program. Perhaps you are wondering if it’s time to give the Starbucks Rewards Visa a try.

While Starbucks has made its rewards program more accessible to customers by lowering the threshold at which you can start earning and redeeming points, the news on its Visa card is a little less positive: Starbucks has also raised the amount of points required to redeem for a reward, making the card’s points a little less valuable. Also, since Starbucks has eliminated elite status as a requirement for earning and redeeming points, you don’t have to worry about enrolling in its Visa card (and paying the $49 fee) to automatically qualify for status.

The card has tacked on additional ways to earn bonus points, such as groceries and rideshare services, but at a mere half a point per dollar for the new categories, this update barely makes a dent on the rate at which you earn rewards with the card.

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 $49 membership fee.

Rewards earnings are on the low side

The regular Starbucks rewards program 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 2 Stars that you earn as a regular Starbucks member, you get a mere 1 Star for every dollar that you load onto your Starbucks card with your Starbucks Rewards Visa card. You earn 1 Star per every $2 spent on grocery purchases, local transit and commuting, internet, cable and phone services. Finally, you earn 1 Star for every $4 on purchases that you make outside of Starbucks (that’s a ¼ of a point per dollar!).

Fair sign-up bonus

The card comes with a modest sign-up offer. You earn 6,500 stars if you spend $500 on the card in the first three months, and you can earn an additional 300 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 6,800 points, which, by our estimates, amounts to around $209 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.

On the plus side, Starbucks points are far more valuable than their face value, so the rewards rate aren’t quite as meager as they seem. 150 Stars entitles you to a handcrafted drink, hot breakfast or parfait at Starbucks. Since we estimate the average menu item at Starbucks to be worth around $4.45, that means that every dollar that you spend at Starbucks with the card nets you around 3 cents worth of rewards on average.

Starbucks redemption options

Brewed hot coffee, bakery item or hot tea 50 Stars
Handcrafted drink, hot breakfast or parfait 150 Stars
Lunch sandwich, protein box or salad 200 Stars
Select merchandise or at-home coffee 400 Stars

However, even at a rate of 3 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. 

Other benefits

Aside from bonus points on Starbucks purchases, the Starbucks Visa is exceptionally light on reasons to pay a $49 fee for card membership. Card members are entitled to 8 Barista Picks per year (offers for free food and drinks that are automatically loaded into your Starbucks app throughout the year).

Otherwise, the card comes with a pretty standard set of Visa benefits, including car rental insurance, extended warranty, purchase protection, trip cancellation and interruption insurance. You’ll find these benefits on most cards targeted to cardholders with good to excellent credit scores, and often without an annual fee.

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 – 1 percent cash back as you buy and another 1 percent cash back for paying your bill on time. Compared to the Starbucks card, which gives you 3 cents back for Starbuck purchases, that’s a mere 1 cent difference. At that rate, you would have to drink approximately $4,900 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.

Is the Starbucks Visa Rewards card worth it?

By our estimates, there are few cardholders who will see the value in  the $49 annual fee for the Starbucks Rewards Visa card. Even if you make multiple Starbucks stops per week, you’ll likely find plenty of more versatile and rewarding credit cards.

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