I have loved going to Starbucks since my college days. We would go on a fairly regular basis and get a cup of coffee whilst studying (read: generally procrastinating with books open). And I still love to treat myself to Starbucks, but it is admittedly an expensive treat. But in the last couple of years the folks at Starbucks have worked very hard to make it something a bit more budget-friendly (meaning people will come more often!). Their Starbucks Rewards program is actually very generous and makes a coffee-flavored goody more attainable even on a budget.
I haven’t really seen an expansive tutorial on making the Starbucks Rewards program work for you, so I thought it would be good to create one. I was in a Starbucks a little while back and was asked by a complete stranger if it was worth it and I think I kind of overwhelmed him with information. So get ready for a long(-ish) post:
What is the Starbucks Rewards program?
It is basically a modern-day, internet-based, punch-card rewards system. You know the old-fashioned kind of punch-card rewards where you take your card in to the store, buy a specific amount of a product, get your card punched, and get the next one free. In Starbucks Rewards program, you are earning “stars” as punches and there are many, many ways to get them. There are levels to the Rewards system and once you reach the Gold Level, you get free food or drink each time you earn 12 stars.
Here are some tips for making the Starbucks Rewards program work for you:
1. Get a gift card and register it.
First and foremost, when you get a Starbucks card as a gift, always, always, al-ways register it. For that matter, if you are going to Starbucks with any frequency, get a gift card for yourself and register it online. It is a very simple process and opens the Starbucks world of rewards. You get your very first reward when you register your first card: a free drink on your birthday! Make sure you register your card through an email you read frequently because Starbucks will send you offers through this email. When you get your free birthday drink, they will email you the coupon and you will have about three to four weeks to use it in the store. You will also get notices on how to earn bonus stars and coupons for food and drink items.
2. Use your smart phone and download the Starbucks app.
This is not necessary, but it makes it more convenient to use your gift cards, especially if you have more than one gift card. Each time you get a card, you can quickly upload the information to your Rewards account through the Starbucks app. When you get to the store, you can use the app to access any rewards codes on your account and to pay with your registered gift card. You can also transfer the balance of any additional gift cards you receive to your “main” card, that way you can cut down on the clutter of the physical cards and carry one physical card with you (Or give it to your husband, so he can “surprise” you with a treat every now and then and still earn stars – 😉 ).
3. Every time you purchase anything at Starbucks, use your card.
You will earn a star for every purchase, so make sure each purchase goes to your account. You will need to earn 30 stars in order to achieve Gold status. This sounds like a lot of lattes, but there are LOTS of opportunities to turn a one star purchase into a two star purchase. And there are many ways to earn stars.
4. Turn one star into two.
Once you have registered your card and are using it to purchase your coffee at Starbucks, you will get email notices (and notices on your mobile app) with Bonus Star opportunities. The company will offer you an incentive to purchase a specific item or group of items by offering the star you would usually earn for the purchase of that item PLUS a Bonus Star. An example is one currently running for this week is a Bonus Star for each food purchase. So when I go into the store and grab something to eat with my coffee, I will earn a star for the coffee and TWO stars for the food item purchased.
NOTE: If you want to maximize your star-earning when purchasing more than one item, ask the barista to ring the items separately. If you ring your entire purchase at the same time, you will only get ONE star (even if you are buying two items) and any bonus stars associated with a given promotion.
5. Buy specially marked packages of Starbucks coffee
Look for packages at your local grocer with a tag stating your will earn a star with the purchase of that product. Make your purchase (using a coupon, if you have one). When you get home, tear off the sticker and enter the code online. Log-in to your Starbucks account and look for the link to enter a star code. Each star code will earn you a star. This way you can still earn stars when you drink coffee at home.
NOTE: You can only input two star codes per day. I recommend you save up your codes for specific times of the year when Starbucks Rewards offers bonus stars for entering a specific amount of codes in a given time. I just received an email with a promotion of 3 bonus stars for entering a code by a specific date. I ran to the kitchen and got my saved up code and quickly earned 4 stars. I can do this up to 4 times on this promotion.
6. Complete the races Starbucks sets up for Rewards members
Starbucks periodically offers extra stars for completing what they call “dashes.” Basically, they reward you for purchasing a certain item a given amount of times in a specific period of times. For example, I just got one that encouraged me to purchase 3 breakfast items over the next week. If I meet the purchase requirements, I will get a generous bonus of 8 stars. This means I will receive a total of 11 stars for this promotion.
Sometimes the dash Starbucks Rewards offers is very enticing and sometimes it is something I am not interested in. When it is a task I think I would like to complete, I make sure I opt-in to the dash. There is no penalty for not completing the dash, but there is no reward for not completing the dash, either. I would rather stumble upon it than miss out on it. The promotion for this week would not typically apply to me, but my husband and I are planning an out-of-town trip this weekend and will be eating out for all of our meals. I like Starbucks breakfast choices, so I will likely be able to complete this dash. But if I don’t, no worries!
So there you have it, the way to use Starbucks Rewards to make getting coffee a little more budget-friendly. Use these tips and you can quickly become a Gold Status member and keep the rewards coming.
WANT MORE TIPS? I shared a post over at Ask Anna about how to Get the MOST out of your Starbucks gift cards. Check it out!