Starbucks Devaluing Their Program For The 2nd Time In 3 Years

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Update: Today is the last day to redeem 125 stars for a free handcrafted drink. You’ll need 150 stars starting tomorrow.

Originally posted on 3/20:

Starbucks used to have a fantastic rewards program. Green level members got free substitutions and additions like Soy Milk and Syrup. Gold level members got a free drink for every 12 stars and every purchase got a star, even if the purchase was just $1.

On 4/12/16 they took out a page out of airline mileage devaluation by moving from a frequent visitor star earning program to a revenue based star earning program. They started requiring 125 stars for a free drink, which in the new program meant that you would need to spend $62.50 for a free drink after you earned Gold status.

On 4/16/19 Starbucks will devalue yet again.

A free drink will go up to 150 stars, which means you’ll need to spend $75 to get a free handcrafted drink.

Starbucks is spinning this as an improvement as you can now also use 25 stars for each substitution and addition like Soy Milk and Syrup (which used to be free in the last version of the program), 50 stars for brewed hot coffee, 200 stars for a lunch item, or 400 stars for a bag of coffee or coffee cup.

Yes, if you spend $200 at Starbucks you’ll be rewarded with a cup.

Starbucks is also getting rid of elite tiers, though they have been giving those away for free in recent years. It’s downright puzzling why they wouldn’t want to create more meaningful elite tiers and benefits to generate more marginal spending from their most loyal customers.

Once again this just confirms that the three certainties in life are death, taxes, and reward program devaluations. Which is why I earn and burn and try to save points in bank programs rather than individual airlines and hotels.

HT: Yonah, via DDF

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38 Comments On "Starbucks Devaluing Their Program For The 2nd Time In 3 Years"

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CLE Rocks

Maybe coffee bean will start up a rewards program. Either way these places are such a rip off.


Coffee bean does have one


Spend $50 and get a free drink. They have 3 tiers. With the top 2, it’s spend $40 and get a free drink. Costco has their gift cards where you get $100 worth for $80.


Its is an improvement for those of us that likes plain regular coffee. Will be much easier to get my free cup.


I think I agree with Paron that this seems like an improvement for people like me that just get regular coffee and have no use for the more expensive drinks. This being said, if someone presents a good counter point to show this is not an improvement for those of us just drinking plain coffee, I am prepared to change my mind.


How is this an improvement for anyone?


If you really like plain coffee you wouldn’t agree to just be be ripped off by Starbucks…


Dan1 makes an interesting point. I try to minimize how “ripped off” I am getting by by buying Starbucks credit on discount through various offers such as when Amex is giving $15 back on $60 through use of 1 or more Amex points and other things like this. I have managed to average purchasing Starbucks credit at around a 25% discount through these methods. I then add onto this the effective rebate I am getting with their rewards program and at least I am not paying their retail prices for cups of coffee albeit still probably not the best deal. The other reason I unfortunately have to, “agree to be ripped off,” is because getting coffee at Starbucks at my work is THE standard networking opportunity. While I can understand people that might criticize this or say, “just don’t get anything”, this sometimes isn’t really a socially acceptable option and missing out on connecting with people over Starbuck coffee could carry other costs. Thanks for all this great insight and opinions, I have found it very helpful. And what a great website this is!


Will people with few 125 stars be grandfathered or will it take 150 for drink


It wasn’t clear, but it seems to me that you would keep the points, but not the rewards


Dan, did you really need to remind us of coffee on Taanis Esther?


Not a problem here. Stopped going to Starbucks after having real coffee from a local shop. Their coffee is GARBAGE. They cater to basic sheeple. Save your money folks.


Totally agree


Does the local coffee shop you found offer free refills for tea and coffee while I work there 11 hours a day?


If you buy a grande coffee for about $2.50, you get 5 stars. That means it only takes 10 purchases to get a coffee, which is an improvement.

If you buy a crafted drink for $5, you get 10 stars, so you now need 15 drinks to get a free one, instead of 12.5.

Overall, this change will benefit some purchasers.


Starbucks is such crap, always tastes burnt!


Time to switch to dunkin donuts!


Basics! Dunkin donuts is much better quality.


The brewed coffee one is great!


Bit of a bold move to make after marketing their credit card by saying you get 2500 starbucks stars, which equals 20 food or beverage items, after spending $500.


I’ve already started moving over to Coffee Bean. As I realize my cost per drink increase (Thank you Cold Brew) I find myself frequenting CB more often


My local news did a story on this yesterday, spinned as an improvement to the program.


The real upside is that the points do not expire.

So for someone like me they upgraded the program


Why are people still buying “coffee” from starbucks? I am so happy making real coffee(not chocolate coffee flavored) in my coffee maker at home.


Why are people still buying sandwiches, soup, fruit cups, bottled water from a vendor’s stand? Same reason, isn’t it? Don’t get me wrong — I absolutely agree with you! I have my own espresso machine and use premium coffee and probably pay 10 cents per cup and the coffee is ten times better than the burnt Starbucks roast.


Meh. Actually, 50 stars for a coffee is not a bad deal comparatively. Regardless, it is a rewards program built to keep you coming back. They also use gamification to keep people coming on the regular to earn points.

Do yourself a favor.

Buy a DeLonghi espresso machine and learn how to pull a good shot. Your life will change.

A woke coffee drinker.


DeLonghi espresso machine + Lavazza coffee = 10-15 cents a cup! I love mine!


Do they still offer free refills? My local store honored that for their nitro brew ( one of the only things I actually enjoy at Starbucks)


Wouldn’t it make money sense to just download the McDonald’s app, and then for very 5 McAfe drinks – you receive one free.

Some McDonald’s have any size coffee for a $1.00, so for $5.00 plus tax, after purchasing 5 coffees, I get a free coffee or any McAfe drink including frappes, smoothies or lattes!

I get it. Not all McDonald’s have $1.00 any size coffee. In the same city where I live, the large coffee is $2.00.

From my view, the McDonald’s app has different deals and the buy 5 get 1 free McAfe.

To me – this is cheaper than Starbucks.



One issue I have with this is that the timing sucks – I usually save rewards to use at the airport flying for pesach – Airport prices are usually higher, and flying with the family, it’s the increase * 5! The deal changes the monday before Pesach.

As a longtime starbucks drinker, I try to take advantage of their bonus offers – for example, buying on double points day, finishing a challenge for bonus points, and/or playing one of their quarterly games all give you extra points. Even if these don’t go away, they’re devalued as well. (i.e. 75 bonus points is now 50% of a drink instead of 60%).

I also try to use my rewards in places where starbucks costs more – i.e. airports or highway rest stops


Can I redeem for 2 drinks at the same time?



Shaul Yaakov Morrison

I have 135 stars and took a screenshot showing me that I have 1 reward. Hopefully they will allow me to keep the banked reward and if they don’t, I will send it to customer service.

Moshe G

Not sure if this was a glitch or part of the new system, but this morning I bought a venti brewed coffee and added 2 shots (should cost $4.85), and I applied 50 stars to pay for the brewed coffee part, expecting to pay for the shots, but the whole thing was free.


Starbucks bonus point offers are getting ridiculous with buying 5 premium drinks for 50 points n 5 days. I think it’s the new man n charge. I may buy one thing out of my usual but a frap, tea, latte, cold brew all for 50 stars n 4 days. I will just drink Starbucks at the house. Thanks but no thanks