Official: Starbucks Rewards Changes Coming April 16, 2019

Over three years ago Starbucks’ loyalty program went revenue based (time flies, because I feel like this was just yesterday). Well, it has now officially been confirmed that Starbucks will be greatly adjusting their program as of April 16, 2019.

How Starbucks’ loyalty program works

The way the program is structured, you earn 2 “stars” per dollar spent, and you need 125 stars to earn a reward. In other words, you earn a reward for every $62.50 spent.

A “reward” can be just about anything, whether you want a small black coffee, a lunch sandwich, or a frappuccino with a dozen modifications. A lot of people make a game of seeing how expensive of an item they can get for “free” using their stars.

At the beginning of the month it was rumored that changes would be made to the program, and they’ve now been confirmed.

Starbucks Rewards changes as of April 16, 2019

Starbucks Rewards will be radically changing as of April 16, 2019.

First of all, the earnings side of the program will remain the same, so it’s just the redemption side of things that’s changing.

Essentially Starbucks is planning on ditching the fixed cost for all redemptions, and rather plans on charging a different number of stars for different rewards. Now rewards will cost anywhere from 25 stars to 400 stars. The pricing will be as follows:

  • 25 stars gets you a drink customization, like an extra espresso shot, dairy substitute, or a dash of your favorite syrup
  • 50 stars gets you a brewed hot coffee, bakery item, or hot tea
  • 150 stars gets you a handcrafted drink, hot breakfast, or parfait
  • 200 stars gets you lunch sandwiches, protein boxes, or salads
  • 400 stars gets you select merchandise or at-home coffee

Whether or not this program is good news depends on what you like to get at Starbucks. If you’re someone who just goes to Starbucks for “basic” hot coffee or bakery items, these changes would be great, as you’ll earn rewards more than double as fast.

Meanwhile if you’re someone who usually redeems stars for breakfast sandwiches or fancy drinks, this is a mild devaluation, since you’ll go from paying 125 stars to 150 stars.

When I go to Starbucks I typically order a cold brew and a spinach feta wrap. Unfortunately a cold brew qualifies as a “handcrafted drink,” so in all cases the things I get are increasing in price from 125 stars to 150 stars, which is a negative change.

In the press release, Starbucks also shares some other interesting statistics. They have 16 million rewards members. The program was introduced in 2009, and in the last two years alone, membership has grown by more than 25%. Amazingly Starbucks Rewards transactions accounted for 40% of purchases at US locations.

What do you make of Starbucks’ loyalty program changes?

Comments

  1. @ Ben — This would de great for me. I only want to buy one thing at Starbucks — regular coffee. If I want a sandwich, that’s what sandwich shops are for.

  2. This would be great for me – I drink a black Blonde roast and OCCASIONALLY a breakfast pastry – it would literally take less than 50% of the time to earn the stars.

    It always seem illogical that a medium black coffee was the same amount of stars as one of those big salads.

  3. The best redemption is for the protein boxes. They are pretty good and retail for about $8. Starbucks also has a ton of star promotions which make it easy to rack up a ton more points (assuming you are a regular). I can see why they are going to a revenue based redemption methodology.

    I switched to a plant-based diet a couple months ago so I don’t go there as much nor redeem for sandwiches anymore.

  4. Oh! I better start getting more cheese and fruit protein boxes as this is what I usually get with stars and I have like 20 rewards available. I will definitely loose out with the new system.

  5. I often redeem 125 points for a salad or protein box, very rarely on a coffee or snack. Guess 50 for a venti coffee would be decent though.

  6. I used to get a latte from Starbucks 5-6 days a week. Sometimes twice a day if I was traveling. I had the too Starbucks status for whatever that was worth in the old program. When Starbucks changed I stopped going to Starbucks. I bought an espresso machine and haven’t looked back since then, not least because what I spent on Starbucks I can now spend on wine.

  7. I’m glad I no longer buy anything from Starbucks because now I have a kuerig and I can go to Rite Aid or CVS and just by the Starbucks K cups instead for a fraction of the. This week I bought 10 K cups for 5.99 ea. Starbucks Brand that’s a whopping savings of $14 versus buying it a cup of coffee each morning every week.

  8. I do not understand Starbucks’ success. The drip coffee is terrible, the coffee drinks are expensive, the specialty drinks are mostly high-calorie sugar bombs and the food is mediocre.

    Occasionally I’ll grab a tall drip at an airport, but I sometimes wonder how many of the customers in the queue have fully funded their retirement accounts.

  9. @Randy – Couldn’t agree more. Their coffee tastes like shit. I only go there if that’s the only option. Why anyone buys actual food there no idea.

    The later option you mention is why there’s 2457 cars in the drive thru every time I pass one. Because the average American is obese and thinks it’s diva to drink a snickers bar.

  10. @Shawn

    Hahaha! You’re right. Idling at a drive-thru for “coffee” and getting what’s essentially a DQ Blizzard.

  11. Booo. But, I guess no truly sweet spot lasts forever. I’ve been earning piles of stars with the special promotions, then getting $9-10 salads for lunches for 125 points. Will have to burn those.

  12. @Josh

    It’s a latte so it’s a handcrafted beverage. They have to steam the milk rather than just pouring brewed coffee or sticking a tea bag in hot water.

    This is sort of a bummer of a change but will just mean I change how I use the program. The 50 star options will become the only good-value redemption.

    I really hope we get some notice on this change though, as I have a lot of banked 125 star rewards.

  13. When you can redeem Starbucks points for flying, get back to me!
    In the meantime I will continue to ignore the crap products on this conglomerate.

  14. I don’t drink coffee at all but do like their green tea latte with soy, no need for milk or sweet syrup if you use soy. Bummer I wonder if the soy will now cost an extra 25 stars too….

  15. I only go to Starbucks for protein boxes, coffee is only if there’s really no other option at all around. As others said it’s terrible coffee for the most part, it always tastes like they burnt it. Some of their reserve coffees can be pretty nice though. So for me that’s a devaluation.

  16. Thanks for the warning. I will be burning off all my accumulated food prizes right away. I have been maxing out on the promotional bonuses, and then using each 125 star food prize for a sandwich, high-cost beverage or a packaged food item like beef jerky, so that the value for each 125 star prize has been $6.00 – $9.00. I doubt the program will have much value for me if these changes are put into effect.

  17. I think the cheapest K Cup deal is to buy the 18 count boxes at Bed Bath and Beyond with their 20 percent off coupons…

  18. I don’t have easy access to a Starbucks that honors stars redeemption. They claim to be owned by companies other than Starbucks. As a customer this should not be my concern. Starbucks should either honor star redemption at all locations or either do away with the program altogether.

  19. I can’t complain about the 25 star increase. I’m the office person who runs next door to get everyone’s Starbucks. They all give me cash and I pay with the app. Free rewards non-stop.

  20. I’ve used awards for a 30 shot up of espresso before when I was making tiramisu. Gotta use up my awards now.

  21. I stopped caring about this program when it went revenue-based and now I just pay cash with a 2% card when I want a coffee, but the great thing is I can get the coffee from anywhere now.

  22. I’ve largely stopped visiting Starbucks. I used to be an almost daily customer.

    When I do order its via the mobile app so I never have to wait in line and I buy the gift cards via MPX for 3x with the CSR.

  23. They call it “exciting” for us consumers to increase the stars from 125 to 150 to redeem handcrafted drinks. Will just switch to making my own coffee with my Keurig at home. Or perhaps it’s about time i switch to Dunkin’s coffee.

  24. Horrible overpriced ‘coffee’ and their loyalty program is far too complicated. Just stamp a loyalty card like every other place and be done with it.

  25. I made a promise in writing to Starbucks that when they took their program to the revenue based system, that first I would never buy anything other than a grande in a venti cup blonde/medium roast and that I would only redeem for a Venti Mocha with an extra shot and raspberry. My argument being that before I’d order a latte or other steamed milk drink before and order the same thing on the 13th. This represented a less revenue for them and more expensive redemptions (I know its not great logic). Now the new system I suppose will be me using the reward at 50 stars as a steamed milk espresso drink is only half as expensive but costs 1/3 of the stars of an espresso drink.

    Stupid change and silly way to game us.

    Now, where is the nearest one, all this ranting makes me think I need a coffee…

  26. So thankful that I am strong willed person not addicted to sugar or caffeine. Poor slobs getting all worked up about expensive crap they need everyday.

  27. Everyone do yourselves a favour – get one of them coffee machines that autostart in the morning, buy some high quality Ecuadorian coffee beans, and a thermos. Make the coffee and take it with you. You will save money, and drink something that doesn’t taste like Satan himself peed it out.

  28. Im from the UK and the starbucks rewards program is different, you have to make 15 purchases this can be anything, cheapest item is a chocalate coin for £1, you can also buy giftcards with your balance on the app and earn a star, once your reward is earned you can buy any drink, i normally save them to get my daughter a venti frappachino or cold brew, its not the greatest reward programe but a lot better than the US programe thats for sure.

  29. Mark,

    You spend £15 for a drink. It’s a useless program.

    Here we get 100 stars for one purchase.

  30. Is it just me, or does “handcrafted coffee” sound like it starts with organic coffee plants grown in yak dung watered with dew personally collected in Tibet by monks, each coffee bean individually harvested by virgins at the precise moment of peak ripeness, then carried down the mountain by octogenarians who have practiced their coffee-carrying skills since the age of three, roasted by Buddhist hipsters and finally carved from a single bean using dental floss?

  31. I don’t see how people are excited about this change. The only people it benefits are those who don’t spend much money or time at Starbucks. It is a big detriment for those of us who used our free item for meals or even specialty drinks. They are taking away incentives for loyalty. I don’t see how people are excited for 25 points for customization? I hope my non-dairy requirements don’t make my specialty drinks with non-dairy cost 175 points now.

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