The New Starbucks Rewards program: Worth it?

And now for something a little different on the blog… 

I’m always looking out for ways to be frugal and/or get the most bang for my buck. While it feels like every store has their own reward program – they aren’t all worth signing up for, and many, in my opinion, mislead us into spending more than we want to or should (I’m looking at you, Sephora!). With that said, there are a few programs that I feel are well worth it – and the Starbucks rewards program is one of those. 

I signed up for Starbucks rewards a few years back when I realized that it wasn’t a paid for program as I had mistakenly thought that it was for years! When I found out that members received free upgrades to non-dairy milk alternatives, I was even more excited because I can’t handle dairy very well. For every purchase you make you can earn a star, and after 12 stars, you receive a free drink (you can also get some food items, but I always go for the drink). It takes twelve stars in a year to receive gold level, which has the most benefits. They also run promotions throughout the year where you can earn bonus stars. I drink Starbucks coffee at home so every bag of coffee that I purchase earns me a star, which is great because I have stopped drinking as much caffeine as I once was, so I still have a way to earn stars and easily maintain my gold status. While I found out that the milk claim was inaccurate, I still enjoy the program. It’s an easy way to earn freebies with little effort (Although! I will say – I did not get to use my birthday freebie because it expired within two days of my birthday and I didn’t get a chance to get there. While my other rewards generally last a month or two – or more!!).

So today when I received an email from Starbucks and learned that they were revamping their program, I was a little skeptical… 

Through the new program, you earn 2 stars for every $1.00 spent. As opposed to earning a star for every purchase made. With the new program you need to reach 125 stars to earn a reward. With this new structure, you need to spend about $62.50 to earn a reward. With the old structure, which was a reward for every 12 stars, you could earn a reward much quicker.

For example: a grande White Chocolate Mocha costs $4.45, which means that 12 of them will cost roughly $54. That’s about 8 bucks cheaper than the new star earning structure. Of course if you buy a more expensive drink, the new program might be rewarding. Or, if you purchase for many people at once (I’ve split up drink orders many times to receive my stars and never once has anyone given me a hard time). However, if you are spending less than 5.20 or so per drink/order, the new system does little to benefit you and will actually result in fewer rewards.

In my opinion, the new program is a downgrade for the customer, and a win for Starbucks. It appears at face value that this program allows you to earn stars faster, which it does in a way, but you now need far more stars (from 12 to 125!!) to receive a reward!

They also specify gold members in the email, which makes me wonder if the reward and earning structure is different for different levels, so if anyone out there has received the email and is not gold, please let me know if it’s different!! I’m specifically wondering if we now need to earn 125 stars in a calendar year to maintain our gold status.

I welcome your thoughts on this program in the comments – whether you’re happy or disappointed by the change, I’d love to hear why!


  1. I think it's perhaps ridiculous that Starbucks has changed their rewards program. The increase in stars needed seems to a contradiction in their customer appreciation. While I personally am not enrolled in their reward program, I can certainly understand the disappointment in those who now have to spend more to get the new required total of stars. Perhaps they might focus less on coming out with the newest tastes in sugary-coffee beverages and more on true customer appreciation considering their drinks are so pricey as it is.

    1. Yes, I agree - their prices are quite high for an everyday choice. I didn't have too many complaints about their program before, so I think that they are messing with a good thing!