Official: Starbucks Rewards Changes Coming April 16, 2019

Filed Under: Misc.
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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.

Get extra rewards for dining/restaurant purchases

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?

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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. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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?

  29. 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.

  30. Does this effectively mean that the gold cards are dead? I just piled on 300 more points to extend my gold through all of 2020. I can see a LOT of angry customers over this if it’s true the the gold is gone. Also, keep in mind that the 50-star bakery items are ‘select’ items only, not the entire display case selection.

  31. I buy triple vanilla latte venti’s all the time and redeem my stars for the same all the time. So now, my free drink that was 125 stars will now cost me 175 stars? 150 for the drink and 25 for the extra shot? Pretty big jump on redeemed stars for a longtime Starbucks customer. Is a ham and cheese croissant still considered a bakery item so I can get one now for 50 stars? I think I’ll use up my 25 free rewards, oh wait, that will change too, and buy a machine and make my own at home.

  32. I used to buy from Starbucks to get the points. This is the beginning of the end of me running to Starbucks to get coffee.
    Wil enjoy my expresso s at home from now on. They can take their point program and stick IT.

  33. So I actually fill my running late mornings w Via iced instant. How do I find the numbers now to get credit?

  34. I buy triple caramel macchiato venti’s all the time and redeem my stars for the same all the time. So now, my free drink that was 125 stars will now cost me 175 stars? 150 for the drink and 25 for the extra shot? Pretty big jump on redeemed stars for a longtime Starbucks customer. And we could get the protein boxes for a 125 point reward, now that’s over. It used to be a benefit to be a gold customer. No longer! I think I’ll use up my free rewards on all the things I can get now and no longer participate beginning 4/16! I will make coffee at home with my Keurig. Starbucks are you listening to your loyal customers?

  35. This is NOT a good deal for me!!

    Does anyone know if this applies retroactively to points already earned? Obviously, I mean for redemptions done after April 6th.

  36. My understanding is that the new redemption rules apply to all redemptions on or after April 16, regardless of when the stars were earned.

  37. So my protein box just went from 125 points to 200… that’s quite the negative loss for me.

    I have a free reward on my account now – will they honour it I wonder… maybe need to go pick one up tonight since it starts tomorrow

    Sigh…bye bye my friends… time to get smarter with my coffee options.

  38. @ Dave
    Folks who weren’t gold lost all their points completely! I redeemed most of my accumulated rewards last week, but at least we get to keep our balance through 2020.

    I think Starbucks blew it; the program is now more appealing to casual users who only want a quick bite or drip coffee, and I think high volume users will explore other programs/brands. Really glad I didn’t get the Starbucks Credit Card – it’s even less worth it now.

  39. Adios, Starbucks! This is (another) terrible devaluation of their *rewards* program. Of the two stores near me, one closed after being overrun by homeless people and the remaining one is heading in the same direction. When I try to support them by overpaying for brewed coffee, the only coffee actually available and brewed is Pike Place Roast, which I personally don’t like. Is this a coffee store or what? If I’m overpaying for coffee, I want it dark and strong! Or something unique, at least. I’ve literally walked out of the store the last few visits without making a purchase because I often don’t have time to wait for my dark roast coffee to be brewed as I’m heading into work. This devaluation leaves an even more bitter taste in my mouth. It’s a terrible way to treat Gold members, especially. This latest move has completely turned me off, and I’ve been Gold for years.
    However, McDonald’s gives away free coffees (or Chobani smoothies!) to everyone after 5 (yes only 5!) visits if you download their app. The prices are also less and they have a drive through to boot! I generally brew my own coffee at home, but if I’m going to buy overpriced corporate coffee and not go into an independent place (which I prefer), I’ll only be stopping by McDonald’s from now on. Starbucks has made a huge mistake by screwing over their loyal customers with this change.

  40. I have been a “gold” member since 2013. I drink Starbucks at home and buy their bagged coffee at the grocery store. They used to give you 10 stars per bag (a bag is almost $10 in my area if you don’t get it on sale. I usually buy it when it is on sale for $6.99) A couple of years ago they changed the program and now only give 5 stars per bag. That is a fraction of the “2 stars per dollar spent” model. Then they changed from putting a star code number on every bag to having you upload receipts. Stupidly, I just pulled those gold stickers off the bags so I could eventually enter my 2 star codes per day limit and did not save my receipts. I lost out on about 90 stars.

    Yesterday I could not log in to upload a receipt. I contacted customer service and they said they were “aware of the login issues” and I should try again in a couple of hours. No mention that they were changing their whole rewards program. Now the reward costs have increased to 150 stars per handcrafted beverage..

    I am starting to reconsider my loyalty to Starbucks. They make all these changes to their program on a regular basis and never let their customers know that changes are coming.

  41. With so many other excellent quality coffee and tea provider options now, the Starbucks Gold Card rewards program has been an incentive for me to use Starbucks. I was not prewarned about the change and was shocked when I went to use my reward on Tuesday morning that at 125 stars, I didn’t have enough for a “hand crafted drink” after all. WOW. So this increase of 25 stars and alot more for food items is the beginning of the end for me as well with Starbucks. I already have a Keurig and prefer the coffees I make at home with almond milk for the large part. McDonald’s also doesn’t make too shabby a vanilla latte, and neither does Sheetz: BOTH for 1/2 the price of Starbucks. Now any of those 3 options are MONEY back in my pocket.

  42. i was really excited about the new Stars Program, however just came in to Starbucks to start redeeming my 300 stars and saw they were all wiped out. When calling Starbucks, their reason makes zero sense. They try to make it sound like because I was only in Green Status (which shouldn’t have been the case because I had 300 points), then the stars were wiped out so that I could go into Gold Status. So all the value before was wiped out for all customers. I love Starbucks and am happy customer and big investor, but this was not a smart way to change over to the new system. I predict everybody is so jacked on caffeine anyway its not gonna make much difference, but for a company as smart and rockin as Starbucks, they should’ve been smarter about this.

  43. Starbucks doesn’t care.

    With the Starbucks app I have on my phone, that I use to make all my purchases, there was no warning that this major change was about to happen. Starbucks could have easily have alerted their “Loyal Customers” by having a “Pop Up” notification show up on the Starbucks app each time you opened the app prior to making a purchase and forcing you to acknowledge it before allowing you to proceed to payment. The stores could have also had “Warning Signs” that your stars were about to be devalued for your rewards.

    I found out about the change when I was telling a friend about how you can get extra stars if you join one of Starbucks “Dash” promotions. It was on my friends phone that I saw a message talking about the upcoming changes.

    I looked on my phone and after having to hunt for the same message that was buried in the “inbox”, I finally found the message.

    When I went to look at the message the next day, the message was gone.

    Apparently, Starbucks wants to do their “Due Diligence”, but deletes the information off the app after you look at it once so you can’t reference it again.

    I contacted Starbucks customer service and had to speak with a supervisor to get the information I needed.

    The supervisor had no explanation for the message being deleted from the app and made excuses for the message being deleted from the app.

    Once I got the information about what was about to happen to all the stars I had accumulated, I was angry and disgusted with the ignorance, arrogance and the cooperate greed of Starbucks.

    I had accumulated over 1,000 stars, which worked out to over 8 Rewards. I would use my rewards to get the best value for the reward I wanted to redeem. I always would get a “Lunch sandwich, Protein box or a Salad”. This meant that I could get eight items as long as my stars hadn’t expired, which they hadn’t.

    With the “New, Exciting Reward Program” at Starbucks (their words, not mine), my same reward items “Doubled in Price” by virtue the the item went from 125 stars/reward to the new system of 250 stars for the same item. (It’s 250 stars in Canada, not 200 stars as stated in this article). If I didn’t use my rewards that day, the next day my rewards would be “Devalued” by half. Making the same purchases I would usually make, work out to be 4 rewards for the items I would normally purchase – a “Lunch sandwich, Protein box or a Salad”.

    Again, Starbucks doesn’t care.

    So Starbucks, you lost a LOYAL customer.

    I am no longer a LOYAL customer.

    I am no longer a customer at all.

  44. @Randy TOTALLY agree! If you’re referring to their plain black coffee, I think it’s absolutely horrible. I think it’s because they do the dark roast which isn’t stronger, it just tastes burnt to me. I actually think McDonald’s black coffee is the best I’ve ever had by far, at least far as buying it already made somewhere is concerned. I do like the caramel frappucino, or drinking a snickers bar as someone put it. I don’t think it’s diva, I just really like the caramel.

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