Going for status with a new program!

There’s nothing I like more than a shiny gold card. A few days ago I posted about Aer Lingus status matching British Midland elite members, and while I don’t think I’ll get any use out of the status match, I took advantage of it, figuring it’ll get me a shiny elite card if nothing else.

I’ll do absolutely everything I can to make sure each flight I take accrues miles in a program, no matter how obscure it may be.

But sometimes I come to the realization of just how unbalanced my life is, and how useful loyalty programs go beyond the travel industry.

I go to Starbucks just about every day. It’s not because I think it’s the greatest establishment on earth, but rather just that options are limited in my area. Within a five mile radius of my house I don’t think there’s a single dining/drinking establishment that isn’t a national chain, and it drives me nuts.

While I’ve known they have a loyalty program, I’ve never actually gone through the hassle of signing up. I’m not sure why, exactly, given that it only takes a few minutes, but for whatever reason I never did.

Today my “usual” Barista said “you’re here all the time, why don’t you sign up for our rewards program?” So I did, and I feel like a total idiot, since I didn’t realize that the benefits are actually pretty good. You get one “star” per purchase with a Starbucks card, and 30 “stars” gets you Gold status, which gets you free syrup or soy milk, free coffee refills, a free drink every 15 “stars,” and a shiny Gold card (the coolest part, of course).

Seriously, how dumb am I for not signing up for this earlier? If they had an invitation only level I’d probably qualify based on how much I spend there.

So while the free iced coffee I get after every 15 “stars” might not be more “aspirational” than the ones I pay for, I’m kicking myself when thinking of how many free drinks I’ve missed out on.

Now the real question is whether the Gold card leads to more Barista phone numbers than the Chase Sapphire Preferred… thoughts?

Filed Under: Advice
  1. Since each swipe earns you a ‘star’ if you’re buying for someone else, swipe twice. If you’re buying a coffee and a lemon pound cake, swipe twice.

    Online reloads of your cards are internet purchases. In-store reloads are restaurant and earn double points with Sapphire Preferred.

    Buy Starbucks cards at an office supply store with an Ink Bold card to earn 5x points, then you can add the gift card to your gold Starbucks card… but of course buy those Starbucks cards from the office supply store online, through the Ultimate Rewards Mall…

    Outside the US you can add leftover foreign currency at many Starbucks onto your US Starbucks to get a favorable currency conversion rate with no fee…

  2. I’ll happily trade my gold Starbucks card for your status with American airlines šŸ™‚

  3. Starbucks…loyalty…rewards….!?!?

    Man, you’ve changed. You used to be cool! šŸ˜‰

  4. I’m embarrassed to admit that I have a Starbucks gold card for three countries (US, UK, China), and a regular card for a few others…. =/

  5. It’s not the volume of phone numbers you get, but what you do with them that counts! Have you capitalized on any of those yet?

  6. Forget the gold card … the cool kids all have the MyCoffeeCard or Starbucks app and just let them scan our phones!

  7. The sad thing is that I went to Starbucks every morning during my last year in college, but never signed up until about a month ago šŸ™

  8. How is your currency left over if you are still in the country? Wouldn’t that require you to use an airport Starbucks, which of course is unnecessary since you’ll have access to a lounge? Of course the lounge coffee may suck…maybe this is why I don’t go to Starbucks?

  9. Thanks for the info on the Starbucks loyalty program, I would not have known about it without your info! FYI, Panera also has a loyalty program where they give out a free basic drink, or even a premium drink like a latte, and possibly even more, so do sign up for it the next time you visit a Panera.

  10. The best part is that you can load all your SBUX cards onto your iPhone and use the app to pay and keep track of your status. I would never carry around a loyalty card for SBUX, but I do carry my phone.

  11. Another thing you didn’t know about the Starbucks Gold Card: It comes with lounge access. No, not airport lounges, but they were a sponsor at the Sasquatch music festival this year. Show your gold card to a roaming marketing major with a big gold umbrella and you and a guest got entry to the Starbucks Gold lounge, with free beer/wine, snacks and clean bathrooms, conveniently located next to the main stage. I don’t think they’re planning on expanding this to Tampa though…

    Also, I have a friend who used to work at the gay Starbucks on Cap Hill and he would get numbers pretty much every day. He did not give his out and would never call any of them!

  12. Gold cards are an absolute dime a dozen, trust me as a former Starbucks barista. That being said, it’s very silly NOT to have one if you go to Starbucks with any regularity as all. If you hang out and do work while you’re still in the store, you can even get a free refill! And as far as “aspirational,” it’s definitely possible to use those free drink coupons for drinks far more expensive than what you’d normally buy. But then you have to want to drink that frou frou stuff so I guess there’s that. You could at least through a couple of extra shots of espresso into your normal iced coffee for an extra kick.

  13. Was going to post exactly what Gary said.

    I’ve had Starbucks Gold since 2008, when you actually paid to be a part of the program. I got in for the low price of $10 (normally $25), and I got 2 free drinks + 10% off every purchase. They killed that cash cow the next year.

  14. You get a star for each transaction/swipe. You get free refills on your iced coffee. You swipe your card with each refill. Therefore, get as many refills as you can and you might get a free “aspirational” drink after just a few tall iced coffees.

  15. You get a star for each transaction or swipe. You get free refills on your iced coffee. You swipe your card with each refill. Therefore, get as many refills as you can and you might get a free “aspirational” drink after just a few tall iced coffees.

  16. Signed up after Gary’s post several months ago (I had no idea it existed before he wrote about it)

  17. So what is the trick to get coffee in Starbucks?

    I like to drink my coffee with milk, Macchiato or Flat White are my favourites. I can do a quick espresso but I like to enjoy the moment a bit longer, my body doesn’t seem to react to coffee that much.

    I’ve tried to order triple-shot lattes at Starbucks but after double- and triple-checks what I just ordered it’s still pretty bland, tastes more like overheated milk and you end up not finishing the drink due to the taste and temperature.

  18. I joined in about a month ago, and I’m 1 star from gold. I haven’t really gotten any green benefits though.

  19. A two dollar cup of coffee at Starbucks four days a week, will cost you $416/year or about the price of a trancon MR. Fancier drinks plus going more often might cost you the equivalent of 2-3 MRs per year.

    Please Lucky, for the sake of your readership, brew your coffee at home and save your Starbucks money to go on more MRs. (Actually do it to start saving some serious $$…)

  20. If you want to make conversation/friends with your baristas, start collecting and using an International Starbucks gift card. And have a few spares for the baristas who collect them.

  21. Lucky, I am just the opposite of you, In my neighborhood in San Diego, I have to walk past 3 independent coffee places to get to the Starbucks….I just can’t do that (and some of the idies have even better frequent buyer programs…albeit not national programs.

  22. I haven’t been going to Starbucks as often recently and realized my gold card status was about to run out. I’m not sure why I care, but suddenly I find myself offering their cake pops to my son and loading up on Via as a (comparatively) cheap way of keeping my status. Again, I really don’t know why.

  23. The trick with starbucks is not the gold card. I dont know if you would call this a scam or not, but I consider it “milking the system”. After all, how does Starbucks get away with charging $5 for a 16oz Latte?

    Here’s what you do: Get a new card and reload it with $5. Everytime you get a coffee at Starbucks, use the card but NEVER refill it.

    When you register the card online,you’ll need to input your birth date and the perk is that you get a free drink on your birthday. What you can do is, everytime your card runs out, you THROW IT OUT and get a new card and input a different birth date. those free drink mailers will come a week before your birthday and are good for ANY drink.

    The math is as follows:
    Two grande coffees = ~$4.80.. ill round up to 5 bucks for easiness.

    If you get a free drink out of that, you’re essentially paying 5 bucks for 3 coffees.

    BUT… here’s the magic. The mailer you receive is good for ANY free drink. I usually crank this out to be a $7-8 drink. Something like a Venti Mocha with Syrups and extra shots of espresso.

    So you’re getting a $7 drink + two coffees, which is basically a 12 dollar trio of beverages, for 5 bucks.

    Rinse and repeat as much as you want. I’m moving apartments next year, and whoever moves into here, is in for a LOT of free drinks!

    P.S. I used your link to sign up and was approved for a Amex Gold Premier Rewards. Enjoy the referral bonus!


  24. Love it! And love the mobile app! …cool animations of your stars stacking up…though I wish my US card worked internationally…

  25. I have the Starbucks Gold Card and I love it. Best parts are the free drinks you get for every 15 and the 1:1 conversation rate between US and Canadian dollars.

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