My Starbucks Rewards Program Changes Kick In Tomorrow

While I of course love hotel and airline loyalty programs most, I also do what I can to take advantage of other rewards programs. After all, maximizing my return on everyday spend goes beyond credit cards.

In February I first wrote about the major changes that Starbucks is making to the My Starbucks Rewards program, which is their loyalty program. The program is essentially switching from a transaction based rewards program to a revenue based rewards program. The changes kick in as of April, though at the time they hadn’t yet announced the exact date on which the changes will kick in.


Under the old Starbucks program you’re rewarded based on how many transactions you make, rather than based on how much you spend. After every 12 transactions you receive a free drink or snack.

Under the new program:

  • You earn 2 stars per $1 spent (rather than one star per transaction)
  • Gold status requires 300 stars (rather than 30 stars)
  • You need 125 stars for a reward (rather than 12 stars)


In other words, under the new program you need to spend $150 to earn Gold status, and you need to spend $62.50 to get a reward. If your average receipt at Starbucks is more than ~$5.21, you’ll come out ahead under the new program.

Personally I’m a fan of the new system, as my usual order at Starbucks is a cold brew and a spinach feta wrap. If someone’s with me, that adds to the order total even more. So I’ll be coming out way ahead under the new system.

In theory I could have just always had them run each item as a separate transaction, but personally I think doing so is rather inconsiderate to the people behind me in line, given that it takes longer to run two to four transactions than it takes to run just one.

Anyway, it has now been announced that the new My Starbucks Rewards program will be implemented on Tuesday, April 12, 2016. Per an email I received yesterday:

On Tuesday, April 12, we’re launching the new Starbucks Rewards.

You’ll start to collect 2 Stars for every $1 you spend on coffee, food, drinks, mugs—and more.

On Tuesday, April 12, the new program launches. Gold and Green members will keep their current membership level, and Welcome members will be upgraded to Green. Any rewards you’ve already earned will carry over and any Stars you had in your account will be multiplied by 11 to reflect the program change.

We’ll also be releasing an update to the Starbucks® app, so be sure to check your phone on Tuesday. When the new version becomes available, the app will prompt you to update.

In practice there aren’t any immediate implications, in the sense that your Stars will be converted to the new program.

In terms of otherwise maximizing your spend at Starbucks, be sure you use a credit card which offers bonus points on dining, since Starbucks is coded as that. This includes cards like the Citi Prestige® Card, American Express® Gold CardChase Sapphire Preferred® Card, etc.

If you want to achieve an even better return on spend, consider using the Ink Plus® Business Credit Card or Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card to buy Starbucks gift cards at office supply stores, so you can earn 5x points.

Bottom line

At least in the airline industry, switches to revenue based programs are almost always bad news. That’s because in order to breakeven most people need to greatly increase the average amount spent per flown mile.

In this case, the breakeven point is ~$5.21 per transaction, which I’m guessing is pretty close to what the average person is spending at Starbucks. If you’re someone who picks up drinks for the whole office, you may come out way ahead under the new program. Meanwhile if you’re someone who just orders a tall coffee with every visit, you’ll probably come out behind.

How are you feeling about My Starbucks Rewards going revenue based tomorrow?


  1. They are changing it to ‘Starbucks Rewards” and dropping the “My”. No more of that Obama “My” crap.

  2. I would argue that most people will be a bit worse off under the new program. As you mentioned, assuming no one was behind me in line we would run 4 or 5 separate transactions in one visit totaling maybe $9 or $10.
    8 stars would be 2/3 towards a “free” drink. Now that gets 18-20 stars(will they round up or down if the cost is $7.51??), or about 1/7-1/8 the way to a freebie.
    No huge deal either way, but these “enhancements” are generally not:)
    And Starbucks knows well that us coffee drinkers are an addicted lot.

  3. Interesting how you don’t like revenue based airline programs, at the same time you praise Starbucks program. I can imagine if you were getting to Gold level without actually spending money needed (similar the way you do with airlines) you would not be so happy.

  4. Geoff, they will not round. They keep track of the .51 and then add it up with your next purchase

  5. This program is terrible. Most people will be worse off and already I no longer go to starbucks. I went over 330 days last year and last month I went twice only beacuse I have credit.

    If you do some research and look at investor relations you will find average check is less than $5 per customer/day Also average drink price is less than $4.00 per customer per day.

  6. Quick question for anybody. Yesterday I renewed my gold status until late December 2017, I’m one star short of another reward. Do I earn that today or wait until tomorrow to see what happens with my points balance?

    Will be interested to hear your responses.


  7. @ David – In your case I don’t think it’ll matter too much since any purchase you will make at Starbucks (whether it be today or tomorrow) will get you a reward. Assuming you’re at 11 stars, you’ll have 121 stars tomorrow, needing 4 stars to get your reward ($2 purchase). So therefore I would say go about your daily routine, if you get one today, great! If not, you’ll still earn your reward just as fast tomorrow since you’re only 1 star (or 4 stars tomorrow) from getting your reward.

    All in all, you’re in a situation where it shouldn’t affect you regardless. If I had to go one way or another, I’d say wait till tomorrow and see if they run some “new” special for the new points system for gold members.

  8. According tot he email I got yesterday any stars you currently have will be multiplied by 11. So you will be given 121 stars. Based on that, you’d be better off waiting until tomorrow. Go and buy a tall brewed coffee and you’ll have a rewards plus a start for the next round. You need to spend $2 to get your next reward. A tall coffee is >$2.

  9. @Compspy
    He actually pays for domestic tickets and sometimes flies on (discounted) paid J or F tickets. So you’re wrong on that count.

  10. In this astute group, did any one notice mandatory ARBITRATION clause that was slipped in with the new program? Basically you have earliest of 30 days after the first day you loaded, reloaded, used, purchased after 4/12/2016. Full text below.

    Anyway, after tomorrow you have a minimum of 30 days to send in a letter requesting OPT-OUT of the Arbitration clause and I recommend you do just in case you ever need to join a class action lawsuit. It may never happen, but unless you opt-out, you’ll have to pursue your own claims.

    Arbitration Opt-Out clause is below:
    Opt-Out. Notwithstanding the above, you may choose to pursue your claim in court and not by arbitration if you opt out of this arbitration provision within 30 days from the earliest of the date you purchased, loaded, reloaded or used any of your Starbucks Cards (the “Opt Out Deadline”) after this Agreement has gone into effect. You may opt out of these arbitration procedures by sending us a written notice that you opt out to the following address: Starbucks Card Team, Starbucks Corporation, 2401 Utah Avenue S., MS: S-MK3, Seattle, WA 98134. Any opt-out received after the Opt Out Deadline (allowing three (3) additional days for mailing) will not be valid and you must pursue your claim in arbitration or small claims court.

  11. I was expecting a but more coverage on Marriott’s ‘new’ Member-Only rates.. These have been around for a while though.

  12. In the old system you had to pay using the Gold Card or registered gift cards to get the star credit, do you still need to? Or can you pay via CC as is recommended, and just simultaneously scan your Gold Card? Or was the need to pay with the Gold Card/registered gift card thing never needed?

  13. @Ryan:

    You have always needed to pay at least some portion of the transaction with a registered Starbucks Card. Use a bonus’ credit card to reload it.

  14. @askmrlee I am surprised they even give the option to opt-out or whatever. This is their “rewards” program which they really have no obligation to provide to their customers, normally one would think they would just have an binding arbitration clause and be done with it. And like who has ever had a need to even go to arbitration considering how accommodating Starbucks CS can be to pretty much any request?

  15. Thanks Collin and @David for the advice.

    I’ll wait, I’m interested to see how full the cup will be on my Starbucks app tomorrow!

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