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When Starbucks Rewards made changes to their rewards program back in April, there was a lot of talk about how this was a big devaluation. As someone who frequents Starbucks quite a lot, I can say for sure that the statement is only partly true. I’ll outline in this post where the sweet spots lie and how you can maximize your for redemptions.

Starbucks Rewards Changes

Starbucks Rewards was largely criticized for the changes they made on the earning and redemption side. While they gutted redemption values in certain categories, there’s still a lot of value in the program, especially if your frequently visit Starbucks.

Earning Potential

Under the new structure, here’s how you earn points, which Starbucks calls Starbucks ‘Stars’.

  • For every $1 you spend, you earn 2 Stars
  • You earn bonus Stars each time there’s a targeted game or goal you have to meet
  • Each month, you can earn 4 stars per $1 on double star days

Redemption Options

Under the previous iteration of the program, you could simply redeem for a free reward for anything from the menu after completing 12 purchases. Then Starbucks changed it whereby you could redeem 125 stars for anything on the menu.

Most recently, Starbucks has made changes to the redemption side and your options to redeem for food or drinks are based on a certain number of Stars in that product category.

Maximize your Earning

On the face of it, you may think that 2 Stars per dollar spent is not a very lucrative multiplier for earning stars. However, if you frequent Starbucks, then you can use a lot of promotions in order to kickstart your earning. Every couple of weeks, Starbucks sends promotions to members. In essence, these are like games where you get bonus points for making purchases. These are usually product specific, time specific or both. Once you receive a promotion, you need to sign up for it before you make a purchase. I’ve been able to earn hundreds of bonus stars by using some these promotions to my advantage.

 

Starbucks Rewards

150 stars for completing a challenge!

A few simple examples of how these promotions or ‘challenges’ work:

 

If you time your purchases to perfectly, you can really earn a lot of Stars very quickly.

Starbucks Rewards

My current Starbucks Rewards balance, after maximizing ‘challenges’

 

Starbucks Rewards Redemption Options

When Starbucks made changes to their program, they introduced a new structure for redemptions. They defined each product category and then outlined the number of stars you need in order redeem. The previous program was agnostic to the product category you were redeeming in. You could earn a lot of stars and then simply redeem them for an expensive sandwich or a Frappuccino. Here’s the new redemption structure. You can call it the Starbucks award chart.

 

Product Category Stars Needed for Redeeming
Extra Espresso Shot, Dairy Substitute or Syrup 25
Brewed Hot Coffee, Bakery Item  or Hot Tea 50
Handcrafted Drink, Hot Breakfast or Parfait (Includes Breakfast Sandwich, Oatmeal or your favorite drink) 150
Lunch sandwich, protein box or salad 200
A bag of coffee, a signature cup or coffee accessories 400

 

Sweet Spots

Here’s where you can really maximize the program. In the miles and points space, we often talk about a 1-1.5 cents per point value to be a decent redemption at a base level (Capital One points or Ultimate Rewards). When a loyalty program makes changes, there are always winners and losers.

By using Starbucks’ pricing data, I’ll demonstrate how you can stretch the value of your Starbucks Stars. Please note that these prices are based on data collected from Starbucks stores in California.

Also, please note that when it comes to redeeming for drinks, you’ll get a higher redemption value when you redeem for a Grande or a Venti beverage instead of the standard Tall beverage. Pricing data in the chart below is based on the price of a Grande beverage.

Redemption Values

Drink/Food Price Stars Value per Star
Ham & Cheese Croissant 3.75 50 0.0750
Almond Croissant 3.25 50 0.0650
Iced Lemon Loaf Cake 2.95 50 0.0590
Chocolate Croissant 2.95 50 0.0590
Double Chocolate Chunk Brownie 2.75 50 0.0550
Classic Coffee Cake 2.75 50 0.0550
Butter Croissant 2.75 50 0.0550
Brewed tea 2.65 50 0.0530
Brewed Coffee 2.45 50 0.0490
Chocolate Chip Cookie 2.45 50 0.0490
Confetti Sugar Cookie 2.45 50 0.0490
Dark Roast – Thanksgiving Blend (Whole Bean) 14.95 400 0.0374
Blonde Roast (Whole Bean) 12.95 400 0.0324
Starbucks Blonde Espresso Roast (Whole Bean) 12.95 400 0.0324
Pike Place Roast (Whole Bean) 12.95 400 0.0324
Nitro Cold Brew 4.75 150 0.0317
Mocha Frappuccino 4.75 150 0.0317
Java Chip Frappuccino 4.75 150 0.0317
Double Chocolate Chip Crème Frappuccino 4.75 150 0.0317
Pike Place Roast Verismo Pods 11.95 400 0.0299
Iced Chai Tea Latte 4.45 150 0.0297
Caffe Mocha 4.45 150 0.0297
Dragon Drink 4.45 150 0.0297
Sous Vide Egg Bites 4.45 150 0.0297
Spinach, Feta & Cage Free Egg White Wrap 4.15 150 0.0277
Iced Caffe Latte 3.95 150 0.0263
Capuccino 3.95 150 0.0263
Hearty Blueberry Oatmeal 3.75 150 0.0250
Cold Brew 3.65 150 0.0243
Hot Chocolate 3.45 150 0.0230
Classic Oatlmeal 3.45 150 0.0230
Iced Americano 3.25 150 0.0217
Iced Coffee 2.95 150 0.0197

 

The Pundit’s Mantra

As seen in the examples above, you can really stretch the value of your Starbucks stars if you redeem them for brewed coffee/tea and most baked goods (croissants and cakes). In contrast, you’ll get a really poor redemption value if you redeem your Stars for Ice Coffee or a Frappuccino.

With the new pricing structure, it’s really expensive to redeem stars for blended drinks like Frappuccinos. However, redeeming Stars for baked goods, brewed coffee/tea and a few handcrafted drinks still provide very good value. Also, your redemption value will only get better if you order a Venti beverage instead of a Tall or a Grande.

How do you use your Starbucks Stars? What’s your favorite way of redeeming them? Let us know in the comments section.

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