COMMENTARY

Sorry Starbucks lovers, the rewards program is changing for the worse on Feb. 13

The coffeehouse chain is hiking up the prices of its rewards, in addition to introducing new items

By Joy Saha

Staff Writer

Published January 24, 2023 12:30PM (EST)

Starbucks logo is seen on disposable paper cup (Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Starbucks logo is seen on disposable paper cup (Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Starbucks Rewards — the coffeehouse chain's esteemed loyalty program — is slated to change on Feb. 13 as more new items are added to the Starbucks menu. For years, the Starbucks rewards program has been hailed as "one of the best rewards programs" that coffee lovers can sign up for, but the forthcoming changes seem to only make it worse.

The rewards system operates via a barcode in the Starbucks app that allows customers to earn points — also known as "Stars" — when they make a purchase. Customers will earn one Star per dollar spent if they scan the barcode and then pay in store using cash or a card. But if customers make their purchases through the Starbucks app's "Starbucks card" and then use the barcode to pay (whether it's a mobile or an in store purchase), they will earn two Stars per dollar spent.

Per The Takeout, here are the rewards that are currently available:

  • 25 Stars: Free drink customization (extra shot, alternative milk, flavor syrup, etc.)
  • 50 Stars: Free hot coffee, a pastry, or a hot tea (note that this is "plain" coffee and tea, not lattes, cappuccinos, etc.)
  • 150 Stars: Free "handcrafted drink" (such as lattes, macchiatos, etc.), hot breakfast item (such as the Impossible breakfast sandwich), or yogurt parfait
  • 200 Stars: Free lunch sandwich, protein box, or salad
  • 400 Stars: Free merchandise (specific items) or bagged coffee for at-home use

Starting February 13, here's how customers will be able to redeem Stars, also per The Takeout:

  • 100 Stars may be redeemed for one (1) of the following items: hot brewed coffee or hot steeped tea, iced brewed coffee or iced brewed tea, OR a bakery item (such as a cake pop or cookie), OR a packaged snack (such as popcorn or potato chips) OR one (1) Cold Siren Logo Plastic To-Go Cup (24 oz only) or one (1) Siren Logo Plastic Hot Cup (16 oz only).
  • 200 Stars may be redeemed for one (1) of the following items: any handcrafted beverage (such as a latte or Frappuccino blended beverage) OR any hot breakfast item (such as a breakfast sandwich or oatmeal).
  • 300 Stars may be redeemed for one (1) packaged salad or lunch sandwich OR one (1) packaged protein box, OR one (1) packaged coffee item (such as whole bean coffee). Packaged coffee availability may vary by store location.

The biggest change is that most of the rewards will cost twice as many Stars under the new program. A free hot coffee, pastry, or hot tea will no longer be 50 Stars but, rather, 100. A free "handcrafted drink" or hot breakfast item will soon be worth 50 Stars more. And a free lunch sandwich, protein box, or salad will be worth an additional 100 Stars.


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Despite these changes, Starbucks outlined in its new terms of use that the same amount of Stars can be earned for each purchase, meaning customers will still earn 1 Star per $1 spent or 2 Stars per $1 spent using a Starbucks card on their account. 

Starbucks will also add several new items that customers can get with either 100 or 300 stars. Here's a complete list of the items along with their necessary Stars: 

  • 100 Stars ($50 or $100 Spent): Iced coffee (reg. $4.45), iced tea (reg. $3.45), ham & cheese croissant (reg. $4.45), packaged snack (reg. $2.35), Siren Plastic To-Go Cup (reg. $3), or Siren Plastic Hot Cup (reg. $2)
  • 300 Stars ($150 or $300 Spent): Packaged coffee (reg. $13.95)

By Joy Saha

Joy Saha is a staff writer at Salon, covering Culture and Food. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.

MORE FROM Joy Saha


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Brief Chains Coffee Commentary Food Loyalty Programs Starbucks Starbucks Rewards