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With the Starbucks Stars Rewards program you can earn up to 3 Stars per dollar at Starbucks. But the best strategy for most people will be to earn 2 Stars per dollar, along with credit card rewards. Star Rewards can be quite valuable — if you use them right.
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Pumpkin spice. Venti, not large. A barista happily getting your name wrong. Love ’em or hate ’em, Starbucks has become a classic of modern culture.
Don’t feel guilty — the average customer visits the store six times per month, according to Business Insider, with the die-hards visiting 16 times per month. You’re not alone.
If you’re a regular, or even a semi- or wannabe-regular, it’ll be worth your time to sign up for the Starbucks Stars Rewards program. It’s free, it’s easy to earn free stuff, and there’s no reason not to. We’ll show you how to earn a lot of Starbucks Stars, and trade them in for the best food and drink rewards.
Already got some Stars, and wondering how to get the most out of them? Load up some free coffees. Jump down to see some valuable menu item redemptions, including the return on your spending for each one.
You have three main options when it comes to earning Stars on Starbucks purchases:
You could also earn 0 Stars per dollar, if you don’t have a Starbucks membership. But you’re better that that.
Option 2 is our recommended strategy for most people. This will let you earn 2 Stars per dollar at Starbucks, while earning credit card rewards on top of that.
This is a rewarding strategy you can set up and use in just a few minutes.
Just preload your digital Starbucks gift card with a rewards credit card, and then use your Starbucks gift card to make Starbucks purchases. You’ll earn credit card rewards for the preload, and Starbucks Stars for the Starbucks purchase.
This process — using two different reward programs — is known as double dipping. And you can take better advantage of it by using a dining/restaurant credit card for the preload, with extra points or cash back for dining at restaurants.
You can also use dining credit cards for regular Starbucks purchases, of course. You’ll earn credit card rewards, but you’ll only earn 1 Star per dollar. It’s quick and easy to preload a Starbucks gift card online or in the mobile app, so it’s worth the time.
Even though you can earn up to 3 Stars per dollar with the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card, we only recommend that for true Starbucks loyalists because that card comes with an annual fee: $0 first year, then $49.
Instead, most people will be better off with one of the general-use reward cards below.
But if Starbucks is your thing, here’s how you can earn a total of 3 Stars per dollar:
One dip is good. A double dip is better. But a triple dip? Those don’t come along often. You might be able to achieve a triple dip by exploring credit card shopping portals like Amex Offers or Chase Offers/Shop through Chase, and looking for Starbucks-specific deals.
In hushed tones, some even speak of the mythical quadruple dip. Theoretically, a high-ranking credit card master could triple dip, and add in yet another reward portal like Dosh or Ebates, or a dining network reward/loyalty program, or an airline/hotel dining program. But that’s just a rumor… right?
These are our favorite dining credit cards to use for Starbucks purchases, whether you’re preloading a gift card or just making regular purchases. If you were to split me into seven different people and said each one had to use a different card, I (we) would pick these cards.
Yes — when you reload a Starbucks gift card, it’ll usually count as a typical restaurant purchase.
But if you buy a new gift card on the Starbucks site or in the app, the purchase may not actually be from Starbucks because you might be buying the card from an independent gift card retailer. In that case, the purchase probably won’t code as a restaurant, which means your “restaurant” or “dining” credit card bonus category won’t apply. If you’re unsure, you may want to test this with a small gift card purchase. I learned this the hard way, so you don’t have to.
Here are your basic redemption options:
But not all redemptions are equal. You can find $2 and $8 items that each cost 50 Stars, for example. So it pays to take some time to figure out what makes for a good redemption value.
We have a few main points of advice when redeeming your Starbucks Stars:
Here’s a table of sample items, with their required Stars. Taxes are included in the prices, and all sizes are Venti. You can see your cash back equivalent for each item, if you earned either 2 or 3 Stars per dollar. Pay close attention to the 50-Star section.
|Item (Redemption Value)||Stars Required||Cash Back at 2X Stars/dollar||Cash Back at 3X Stars/dollar|
|Espresso shot ($0.97)||25||7.76%||11.63%|
|Pike Place Roast ($3.19)||50||12.76%||19.14%|
|Red Velvet Loaf ($3.35)||50||13.4%||20.1%|
|Blonde Roast + A lot of extras ($8.91)||50||35.64%||53.45%|
|Caffè Misto + A lot of extras; see below ($9.94)||50||39.76%||59.63%|
|Bacon, Sausage & Egg Wrap ($5.89)||150||7.85%||11.78%|
|Cappuccino + Caramel Syrup, Vanilla Bean Powder ($6.21)||150||8.28%||12.42%|
|Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino + 3 Espresso Shots, Caramel Drizzle ($9.77)||150||13.03%||19.54%|
|Chicken Caprese Panini ($7.29)||200||7.29%||10.93%|
|Pike Place bean bag ($12.95)||400||6.48%||9.71%|
There are a lot of menu variations (Starbucks claims there are over 80,000 drink combinations, according to HuffPost), but the figures above show you don’t need to save up a lot of Stars for a fancy order to get a good value. In fact, it’s not too hard to get a 10% cash back equivalent or more on a run-of-the-mill coffee stop. Free food, like breakfast sandwiches and desserts, can provide a decent value but you can do better.
You could, for example, get a souped-up latte or Caffè Misto with all kinds of caramel and cinnamon decadence, plus espresso, to turn it into one of Starbucks’ fancy sugar drinks. If you haven’t had the jitters for a while, now’s your chance. Thanks to Starbucks Hacker for the Caffè Misto tip.
Yes: Unless otherwise noted, Starbucks Stars expire six calendar months after the month in which they’re earned. So you’ll have to stay on top of your rewards. You can always check your Star balance online or in the Starbucks app. Starbucks will always apply the oldest Stars whenever you redeem.
If you have the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card, your Stars won’t expire for as long as your account is open (the six-month clock starts ticking when you close your account).
There are a few more notes to hit if you want to max out your Starbucks game:
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, please click here.
Brendan has been writing about personal finance for over eight years, and is now taking on the challenge of bringing high quality credit education to the masses. He makes sure that Credit Card Insider is covering the most important credit topics transparently and precisely, and that we have up-to-date reviews of credit cards so you can find cards that are right for you.
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