Pennies from Heaven: Starbucks Rewards, a Tutorial

starbucks card

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:

Starbucks Rewards tutorial, make your Starbucks habit more rewarding

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.

Starbucks for iPhone 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.

starbucks 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.

Starbucks bonus star capture

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.

starbucks rewards from purchasing coffee at the store

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!

Turn your Starbucks Giftcard into Rewards

This post was shared on Pinterest  Titus 2 Tuesday


This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. Stephanie Kay

    I’m not a coffee drinker (I know, I’ve tried but I just can’t do it!) but I know plenty of people who are. Passing this along to my friends. Thanks for sharing via Family Fun Friday!

  2. Sarah Mueller

    This is brilliant! A Starbucks just opened inside of my local Target and I adore their skinny peppermint mochas, although the price doesn’t make me happy. I’ll take your advice and get a rewards card.

    Thanks for sharing at Family Fun Friday! I’m featuring you this week 🙂

    1. ussleah

      Thanks, Sarah! The drinks are great, but the prices are prohibitive without this rewards program! This week they sent me a coupon for 50% off an espresso drink of my choice…not bad! Have fun getting the rewards! And thank you for the feature!

  3. Great post! I love Starbucks, but find it to too costly to do on any sort of a regular basis. (We are super frugal on things like this.) But for all the many regular Starbucks goers, this is too good not to share! I am featuring this on Makeovers & Motherhood’s Welcome Party Wednesday Link-Up this week! Thank you for linking up!

  4. April

    I raved when I found out not only could you register your cards online, but you could combine them into one, so you didn’t have to carry around four cards that each had $.57 cents. I will have to download the app since I’m pretty sure I don’t know where the card is now (lost in my move). So that I can use it when I need a little pick me up when I’m out. Thanks for sharing and linking up with Countdown in Style! Don’t forget to come back on Friday to see if you were featured!


  5. Kristen Daukas

    I’m not a huge fan of Starbucks and pretty much only go when I have a giftcard but this is a great idea for stretching those out so thanks for enlightening me by sharing with #LOBS!!

  6. Angel

    Hi Leah
    I’m visiting from April’s Blog Hop. Great to meet you. Great post. I’m a coffee junkie, lol. Can’t get enough of that wonderful stuff. I’m following you on all your avenues. Hope you will visit me too.

  7. Raina

    I had no idea! Just shared this on Pinterest. Great to meet you 🙂

  8. Great tutorial! I had no idea about the rewards card/gift card system until I became friends with a total Starbucks-a-holic last year. I signed up my gift card then and have been working towards gold status slowly. I did enjoy my free drink on my birthday.

    If you’re looking for another way to save – if you drink a lot of Starbucks it’s worth checking out and buying a gift card there at a discounted rate and then transferring it to your rewards card. You’ll save like $10-$15 on a $100 gift card.

  9. This is great information! I have pinned it to my “parenting” and “e learning” boards on Pinterest b/c most of my pinners go there! 🙂

  10. Very interesting Leah! I had no idea Starbucks had a frequent shopper card. My college son will be thrilled to find this out. He spends quite a bit of time there and we are always giving him cards as gifts.

    1. ussleah

      Oh, yes, I honestly do not spend at Starbucks without the card. And I spent a large portion of my time at Starbucks when I was in college, too!

  11. This is perfect Starbucks addicts out there. I love Starbucks but only drink it maybe three times a month.

    1. ussleah

      Krystle, If you drink Starbucks 3 times a month, it is still worth it to join. You get Gold status after getting 30 stars. So even if you only go 3 times a month and only get a coffee, you will get free drinks throughout the year and a free drink on your birthday. If you purchase any other food or other items, you just get more stars. Not to mention their special coupons and promotions. I think it is a great program, even for the casual Starbucks patron.

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