How Does Starbucks Rewards Work & Is it Worth the Hassle?

If you’re a Starbucks fanatic, there’s nothing better than learning you can get free Starbucks, right? That’s exactly what you’ll get if you sign up for Starbucks Rewards.

Every time you swing through the drive-thru or order your drink and pick it up inside, you can earn stars for your purchase. Once you accumulate enough stars, you can redeem them for sweet prizes like free coffee or even free merchandise.

But how does Starbucks Rewards work? Is it hard to manage and is it worth it? We cover Starbucks Rewards in our review below.

What are Starbucks Rewards?

Starbucks Rewards is Starbucks’ loyalty program. They reward customers for buying coffee and other Starbucks products. You can earn stars by paying with a preloaded Starbucks gift card as well as cash or debit card, but you’ll need the Starbucks app to earn rewards no matter how you pay.

Every time you make a purchase, you’ll earn stars (as long as you scan the app or use a Starbacks gift card). As you earn stars, you can redeem them for free food, drinks, and even merchandise, but be careful because the stars don’t last forever.

How to Sign up for Starbucks Rewards? 

It’s easy to sign up for Starbucks Rewards either on the app or online. To sign up, you’ll provide:

  • Your name
  • Email address
  • A created password

If you already have a Starbucks gift card, you can add it to your account and use it to earn stars or you can earn stars other ways (see below). 

If you opt in to receive Starbucks emails, you’ll have more opportunities to earn stars, and of course, you need to accept the Terms and Conditions

How do you earn stars on Starbucks Rewards?

Starbucks recently changed (improved) how you earn stars. Before the fall of 2020, you had to pay with a preloaded Starbucks gift card that you registered to the Starbucks app to earn stars. If you paid any other way, you threw your stars out the window.

Today, you can pay with a preloaded gift card, cash, credit card, or debit card and earn stars, but the earnings will differ.

You can earn stars on every purchase excluding alcohol, gift cards, or gift card reloads. Here’s how many stars you may earn:

  • Pay as you go – Earn 1 star per dollar to pay with any method including cash, credit or debit card either at the register or by saving it to your app and scanning the app at checkout.
  • Pay through the app – Earn 2 stars per dollar to preload your Starbucks digital gift card and scan it at checkout or register your existing gift card in the app, using it at checkout.
  • Pay with the Starbucks Reward Visa Card – Earn up to 3 points per dollar on all purchases made with the Starbucks Rewards Visa card. You can earn 1 star per dollar for preloading your digital Starbucks card with your Starbucks Reward Visa card and earn another 2 stars for every dollar you spend when you use the preloaded card. You can also earn a bonus 4,500 points for spending $500 in the first 3 months you own the card.

You can earn stars by ordering ahead and paying using the app or ordering in the store/drive-thru and paying with the app at the register. 

What can you get with Starbucks Rewards?

Starbucks offers a variety of rewards starting at 25 stars, but the more stars you accumulate, the larger the rewards get.

  • 25 stars – Free drink customization such as an extra shot of espresso or an extra syrup or sauce
  • 50 stars – Get a free hot coffee, hot tea, or bakery item
  • 150 stars – Get a free handcrafted drink, parfait, or hot breakfast item
  • 200 stars – Get a free salad, sandwich, or protein box
  • 400 stars – Get free merchandise or at-home coffee

Where and how you can redeem your stars may vary by Starbuck store. Many retail stores (like Starbucks located inside Target or other grocery stores) may not offer star redemption, or they may limit their options to only the 150 star redemption. 

What are the Benefits of Starbucks Rewards?

Starbucks Rewards offers many benefits including:

  1. Free refills on hot tea or brewed coffee if you purchase with your Starbucks registered gift card or app
  2. Free birthday reward as long as you’ve made at least one purchase with your registered gift card or app
  3. Protection of the funds on your Starbucks gift card if it’s lost or stolen
  4. Easily manage your Starbucks Rewards account online or on the app
  5. Take advantage of double star days where you earn twice as many stars if you use your registered gift card or the app
  6. Receive special offers via email or the app including Happy Hour deals and other member-only deals

Do Starbucks Points Expire?

Unfortunately, Starbucks points do expire, but not for 6 months after you earn them. Your points expire six months from the month you earned them. For example, if you earned 50 stars on March 20th, they expire on September 1st if you don’t use them.

If you’re a Starbucks Reward Visa Card or Visa Prepaid Card holder, your points don’t expire. But if your card becomes inactive, they expire 6 months after the month you closed your card and/or it expired.

Starbucks Rewards FAQs

How many points do you need to get a free drink at Starbucks?

To get a free coffee or hot tea, you’ll need 50 points. If you want something fancier, like a frappuccino, you’ll need 150 points to get a free drink. As long as your points won’t expire, you’ll get more bang for your buck if you wait until you have 150 points to get the free drink as handcrafted drinks cost much more than a hot coffee or tea.

What can you get with 400 Starbucks points?

With 400 points, you can get free merchandise from Starbucks. The limit is usually $20, but it may vary by store, so always check with your Starbucks. If your local Starbucks has a $20 merchandise limit, you could score a nice tumbler or coffee mug for free. If you’d rather not have the merchandise, 400 points is also good for a free bag of Starbucks coffee to brew at home.

What can you get with 200 Starbucks points?

Starbucks has more than coffee, believe it or not, and with 200 points you can try it. 200 stars gets you a free salad, sandwich, or protein box. Step out of your comfort zone and see how delicious the food is at Starbucks to go with your favorite coffee.

Can you pay cash and get Starbucks Rewards?

Today, you can pay cash and get Starbucks Rewards. While you’ll get only one star per dollar spent rather than the two stars coffee drinkers with the preloaded Starbucks card on their app get, but it’s better than not getting rewarded. Until last year, the only way to earn stars was by using the Starbucks app. Starbucks opened the program up to everyone, making it even easier to earn rewards.

Does it cost money to join Starbucks Rewards?

It’s free to sign up for Starbucks Rewards, but you have to spend money to earn rewards. You can earn between 1 and 3 stars for every dollar you spend. The more money you spend the faster you earn stars and the more stars you’ll have to redeem for free items.

Can you redeem multiple tiers of stars at one time?

No, Starbucks only allows you to redeem one tier of stars per order. For example, if you have 75 stars, you can’t redeem it for a free hot coffee and a shot of espresso – it’s one or the other.

What should you order with your Starbucks stars?

To make the most of your Starbucks rewards, order the items that will give you the best return on your ‘investment.’ For example, if you redeem 150 points for a free drink. You can redeem it for a tall (small) or a venti (large). Obviously it makes more sense to get the venti.

If you’re redeeming your stars for a free bakery treat, choose the treat that costs the most. A cake pop for example, usually costs less than a chocolate croissant. Look at the prices, and choose the item that costs the most if there are a few that you like.

Who Should Join Starbucks Rewards and is it Worth It?

If you frequent Starbucks, it makes sense to sign up for Starbucks Rewards especially since you don’t need a preloaded gift card any longer. Before with the pre-loaded gift card requirement it was a bit of a hassle to earn your stars.

Today, you can earn stars paying anyway, but you’ll need the Starbucks app to accumulate the stars. So it’s a minor hassle to whip out your phone and get the app open, but it’s worth it when you hold that free drink, food item, or even merchandise in your hands.

Kim Pinnelli is a personal finance freelance writer and koopy.com contributor. She lives in the Chicago suburbs, writing from home for the last 13 years. Kim enjoys helping people understand personal finances and writes on topics about saving money, investing, planning for retirement, and ways to increase income. In her free time, Kim enjoys hanging out with her 3 children, reading, crocheting, and spending time outdoors.

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