What’s Up With Starbuck’s Revamped Rewards Program?

coffee-beans

If you’re part of the Starbucks Rewards program, you likely got an email yesterday announcing changes to the program. It was brief and to the point with a simple chart showing the changes between how members currently earn and redeem points and the new program’s rules.

The response thus far has been mixed. Customers that usually just buy a regular coffee realize that they’ll now need to spend a lot more money to accumulate enough stars for a reward. People who regularly make large purchases, especially those that go on coffee runs for the office, benefit from the change. Some baristas are also looking forward to the change as the new program removes the incentive for customers to split transactions.

Starbucks Changes

The New Starbucks Rewards Program

There are now two rewards levels, Green and Gold, rather than Welcome, Green, and Gold. To receive gold status, you need to get 30 stars (today), or 300 stars (starting in April), within 12 months. Gold members get a free drink or food item after accumulated enough stars and receive a personalized gold card.

Before, once you got to Gold, you could get a free reward – a free food or drink item – after 12 purchases. Based on a purchase of a regular cup of coffee for $2, it would cost $24 to earn a free reward with the old program’s rules. (There are some cheaper items, but we’ll use $2 for the example.) Now, you may need to spend about $62.50 at Starbuck, Teavana, or Evolution Fresh retail stores to earn enough stars to get a reward.

Because the new program rewards partial stars for uneven dollar amounts, the break-even point is about $5.21. In other words, if you spend $5.21 per visit it will take about 12 trips to earn a free reward. If you generally spend more than that during each visit the change may be good for you.

Starbucks Rewards program enthusiast often looked for ways to hack the old system. For example, when purchasing multiple items, you can ask the cashier to ring up the purchases as separate transactions and receive a star for each one. Starbucks baristas posting on Reddit confirm this happens fairly frequently. One of the reasons Starbucks is changing its program is to decrease wait times in the stores by eliminating the benefit of splitting transactions.

 

New Ways to Earn

There are several new or altered star-earning opportunities for Gold members.

Purchases of whole or ground beans, as well as VIA instant coffee, from grocery and Starbucks stores are still rewarded. Now, the number of stars depends on the size of the package and ranges from ten to 20 stars, as opposed to the one bonus star previously earned.

Members will also receive personalized offers in their email or via the Starbucks app based on their past purchases.

Referring a friend is rewarded with six stars, and the friend gets a free drink.

Once a month, Gold members can earn four stars per dollar spent with their registered Starbucks Card at participating Starbucks, Teavana, and Evolution Fresh Stores (online orders are excluded). The Double-Star Day, as it’s called, changes each month and is personalized for the member. You must opt-in to emails, texts, or physical mailings to be eligible to learn what day will be your Double-Star Day.

Potential Earnings Hack. Starbuck’s updated Terms of Use doesn’t specify that gift cards don’t count towards earning stars on Double-Star Day, so you may be able to load or buy a gift card and effectively earn double stars for the entire month. This hack could help, but it may not be enough for some people. Earning four stars per dollar, it will take $31.25 worth of purchases to receive a free drink or food item. That’s 16 $2 drip coffees, which means the new program is still less rewarding for drip coffee drinkers.

 

Expiration

Stars you earn as a Green member, the new first level of membership, expire after 12 months if you don’t reach Gold level. Gold members’ stars expire six months after you earn them, although the oldest stars are used first when you redeem them for a reward.

 

The Short

For the Starbucks lover that gets a daily cup of coffee or occasionally stops by for a coffee or tea, the new program is less rewarding. It will likely take much longer, and cost a lot more, to earn a free reward. For those that enjoy more expensive items or go on drink runs for friends or coworkers the new program might be more rewarding. Starbucks could reveal new star-earnings opportunities, but right now it looks you’ll break even if your average order is $5.21.