Initial Thoughts on Starbucks’ New Rewards Program

Starbucks gave us a peek at their new rewards program back in February and customers didn’t seem to be too happy with the changes to come. Yesterday they unveiled and implemented the program and well, it’s still not looking like an “upgrade” from the previous one in place.

Previously Starbucks granted loyal customers (“gold” members) one star per  purchase and after accumulating 12 stars, you’d earn a freebie, which was your choice of a  drink or food item. While star accumulation is sticking around, it seems like it’ll be much more difficult to get to freebie status. Rather than earning one star per visit, you’ll earn 2 stars per $1 spent and to score that freebie you need to reach 125 stars. 

   

My typical order at Starbucks is a venti vanilla iced coffee with soy milk which runs me $3.80 per visit. With the old program I’d get my freebie after 12 visits/spending $45.60. With the new one I’ll earn 7.6 stars per visit and will need 16.45 (rounding up to 17) visits to reach the goal, and will need to spend $62.50. Hmm.

I’ll admit that I’m still feeling a bit skeptical with the changes they’ve implemented, but at the same time, the company has been ahead of the times with so much from every aspect (especially business and technology), so I’m thinking it’ll actually end up being a great program in the end. 

Benefits that are staying in place? The free birthday reward, ability to pay by phone, order ahead (my favorite thing ever), member events/offers, free in-store refills (I’ve never actually tried this benefit out), and monthly double-star days for gold members (which is a more recent roll-out).

It’s still too early to know for sure whether it truly is an “improved” program, but I did see my 11 stars shift to 121 stars, so I’m relieved that one more visit with the old or new program would give me that freebie. 

Are you a Starbucks customer? What do you think of their new rewards program?

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  • Hmm. I’m intrigued. I am a “gold” member, but not even really sure how the program works. Thanks for this post. It actually helps a lot. I just keep using my app and ordering ahead and pretending nothing has changed haha!

    • That’s definitely a good way to do it :) I’m just happy we still get the freebies!

  • I’ve never been part of the Starbucks rewards program, but I hope the changes turn out to be a good thing! I’ve just been sad because I really want to try the new butterscotch Frappuccino they say tastes like Butterbeer from Harry Potter, but every location I’ve gone to has been sold out! :(

    • I haven’t tried that one yet either! Hopefully they’ll get it back in stock soon!

  • I didn’t realilze Starbucks had a rewards program!!! I don’t go very often but when I do the old rewards program must have been nice! The new program sounds terrible because yeah literally as you’ve shown you have to buy A LOT more to get a perk. =(

    • I’m hoping they’ll have additional ways to earn bonus stars (like they’re saying). Freebies are the best!

  • I’m so not feeling this change either. My typical drink is a treinta unsweetened green iced tea which comes to $3.05 and it’s going to take me FOREVER to get a free drink even though I go daily! Oh well :-(

    • Ugh, that’s what I’m thinking too :( Hopefully we’ll be able to take advantage of the bonus stars they keep talking about to boost us closer to reward status.

  • Melissa Klotz

    Ugh. So many stars needed. I was so excited when I saw the headline that they’d be changing to reward stars based on dollar amount spent, but then when they said you need 219301274 stars for a reward? Buzzkill.

    • My feelings exactly! It seems more like a loyalty program based on $ spend vs. number of visits!

  • My order is pretty similar to yours, and I know that I’ll have to make way more drink purchases in order to get a free drink with the new program. The good news is that when we buy coffee mugs when we’re out of town, those will actually count as way more stars than just a drink. The same is true for when you order multiple drinks at the same time. Definitely some pros and cons to the new program, but I’ll still be getting my weekly drink from Starbs!

    • That’s true, that’ll help for sure! I’m still kicking myself for not picking up their adorable mug in London a couple years ago. I’ll still be going for my weekly drink too, but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to accumulate rewards at the same speed (or faster) one way or another!

  • I was most worried about my previous stars getting transferred over, and luckily they did! Hopefully this will work out for the best, but we’ll see…

    • Oh good! I heard some reports of stars not transferring over at first. I have faith that it’ll end up being a good program!

  • I’m still trying to feel out if I’ll like this new program too. I get that some customers would break up their purchases to get stars (I worked at a Starbucks in university and I’m not kidding people do 8 separate orders to get the stars and hold up the line like crazy). I’m sure Starbucks will work out the kinks after a few months of it being used.

    • I’ll admit when I first joined the program years ago I’d sometimes 2 separate orders for things (but it’d be one for me and one for someone else – not both my items). It makes sense that they’d change the program because of frequent abuse of broken up purchases. I agree that the kinks will be worked out though!

  • I’m not thrilled about the new program, but it’s too early to make a final decision.I will have to spend more money on drinks to get to a reward, but I do buy a decent amount of mugs and tumblers for gifts, etc. so I’m glad those will now go towards earning rewards! I’m anxious to see how it all works out.

    • Totally agree! They did mention bonus star days, so I’ll have to try to make it a point to get my drinks on those days :)

  • Olivia Muller

    I don’t like the new program.. Starbucks makes enough money as it is so I am confused as to why they would implement a program that makes it harder to reward it’s regulars

    -Olivia

    Miss Olivia Says

    • It seems confusing, but they’re saying ultimately it’s supposed to be better. We’ll have to see over the next few months!

  • I’m so glad you did the calculations. I have been meaning to do them myself to see how much I would need to spend for my freebie vs. before. It’s disappointing that it will take longer, though we still have our free refills in-store. I have been meaning to cut back on Starbucks so this may give me an incentive to do that.

    • They said they’ll be offering bonus star days more often, so hopefully that’ll boost us up to reward status quicker. I usually don’t stick around long enough to take advantage of the free refills. I might need to start though!

  • Kassi M.

    I am a rewards member but had no idea it was changing… Obviously I don’t pay much attention. Doesn’t sound like it’ll be a good thing though!

    • I’m hoping they work the kinks out quickly and it’ll end up being a beneficial program for us!

  • I’m also a rewards member, and I’m not so sure either. I usually order a Trenta Black Iced Tea, which is only $3.10, so it will take me a long time to earn a freebie. But, I do love the birthday one and the other bonus stuff.

    • Birthday freebies and other bonuses definitely help! I hope we’ll still be able to accumulate regular freebies as quickly too!

  • I’m still very skeptical about this and think it’s a sham to get their customers who already pay a crap load of money to pay even more. I also feel that they’ve banked on their loyal fan base to not bat an eye at the changes or stop to think how the changes will affect their wallets. And with as much negative feedback as they seemed to get when this first came out in February, I feel as if Starbucks isn’t listening to their customers which is what annoys me more than anything. I don’t need to go to Starbucks, shoot more times than not I make my own coffee at home BUT listen to your customers!

    • I totally agree. I’m hoping it ends up being better than it sounds. They have to know that the majority of their loyal/everyday customers probably spend the least amount (for just a plain coffee)!

  • I don’t really like coffee too much so this program doesn’t really affect me but it doesn’t sound like the best trade off if you ask me. It will be interesting to see how it pans out though.

    xoxo, Jenny

    • You’re not a coffee fan?! I’m not sure how I’d survive without it, haha. I’m hoping it ends up working out better than the old program!

  • I’m not too sure how I feel about this program yet either…I’m on the fence. I was worried, though, that my existing stars wouldn’t carry over, but they did so at least I’m happy about that!

    Coming Up Roses

    • I saw a few reports that people were having issues with them carrying over but fortunately, mine did too!

  • I have mixed thoughts on this because the “Starbucks” on my campus aren’t real Starbucks (they just brew it) so I can’t even use my rewards program anyhow, but this does sound like a bit of a bummer.. I guess if you’re spending more money on fancy drinks & food (I do love the bacon gouda sandwich…) you’d be getting more of a bang for your buck… hmm I guess we’ll have to see…

    Emma | Seeking the South

    • Aww bummer! My campus was the same way. Hopefully this new program will end up working out for us!

  • I’m also skeptical about the change! I will admit though… I always get an extra decadent large drink on my freebie order to maximize the value. At least they aren’t taking that perk entirely away, but can understand if they’re making changes to offset the costs of customers gaming the system.

    • So funny you say that – I normally do the same thing with my free drink! I feel like the change is probably related to people who break up purchases to get multiple stars at once.

  • For me personally I get an oatmeal every morning from Starbucks which previously got me ZERO stars, with the new program I’ll earn stars on my oatmeal, but less on my coffee since I don’t drink fancy lattes too often. I’ll have to see how fast I’m earning stars compared to before, but I’m hopeful!

    Laura | Laura Aime Vous

    • You didn’t earn any stars from your oatmeal?! I’m hopeful we’ll be able to accumulate quickly too!

  • Rachel Dhupar

    I am very skeptical about this new program. Since i am not a regular customer(only go there 1-3 times a weeks) not worried a lot.

    • Most days I make my coffee at home but I do go 1-2 times per week usually. I hope we’ll still be able to earn freebies just as quickly though!

  • Heather Gullett Denniston

    I like that those of us that have higher price orders get the benefit of dollar for dollar instead of transactional. Love the order by phone!

  • Joscelyn | Wifemamafoodie

    I hate when companies change a good thing. Hoping it isn’t as bad as it seems… : /

  • Michelle Mink

    it’s annoying how big of a difference it is to earn the freebies now. but hey, at least they still have the birthday freebie.

  • It is disappointing when companies change the perks that you’ve grown accustomed too! Hopefully the system will actually end up working pretty well for most loyal customers. I go to Starbucks maybe once a year, if that, so I’ve never even looked at the regular customer program.

    • Agreed! I usually go once a week so I hope it works out!

  • Love Starbucks, but get frustrated when companies change a loyalty program that works. Not liking that freebies will be harder to reach… Great post and comparison.

  • I just experienced the new program this morning and I think I’m okay with it. I order for my office a lot so I’ll be getting all of those points. Also they *thankfully* transferred over my stars and I had a free drink this morning!

    • Oh that’s awesome that you order for the office – I bet that’ll boost your number of freebies quite a bit!

  • I just can’t really afford Starbucks. I love their drinks, but for $3-$5 I’d rather get a meal (granted, a fast food meal, but still!).

    • I hear you! I treat myself to it once a week usually, but mainly it’s just from gift cards I received for birthdays, Christmas, etc.

  • Kate

    Wow! I had no idea. I have been trying to cut back on coffee, but love Starbucks! Thanks for sharing this. It won’t be popular!

    • I’m hoping it’ll end up being better than it sounds!

  • OnceUponADollhouse

    Any type of rewards program is ok with us. Everything changes so we accept it.

  • I really need to get more involved with their rewards program—like the pay by phone thing..genius! Their new honey latte drink is going to help me get my stars this time around.

    • The order + pay ahead features are brilliant! I haven’t heard of the honey latte but I need to check it out!

  • Maple Alps

    I prefer the other rewards program. I don’t get the really expensive drinks so now it will take me much longer to get the rewards. Oh well, there isn’t a Starbucks where I live anymore, so I guess it doesn’t matter much ;)

    • No Starbucks where you live?! I feel like they’re everywhere! I’m hoping their bonus days will help get rewards quicker!

  • I’m definitely interested to see how this goes. I get most of my stars from buying bags of coffee from the store which I brew at home. I’m interested to see if the bags will continue to earn stars, otherwise my usual in-store order is a grande hot or iced coffee, simple as that and will take me a very long time to earn. I guess it probably benefits the people who buy a more extravagant coffee regularly?

    • I think the more you spend the faster you’ll earn for sure, so your bags of coffee will probably be big earners!

  • Christine

    We have Starbucks in the next town over which is about 20 minutes away. I will get a coffee from there time to time. But this is good to know about and might look into it.

    • It’s always good to sign up for just in case. Those visits add up over time!

  • Janella Panchamsingh

    I am not sure how i feel yet until I go get something again. but good thoughts to keep in mind

    • I’m hoping it’ll end up being a good program! Only time will tell!

  • I have not seen my stars shift over. And I lost my free drink I had. I’m not too happy about it. I’m pretty skeptical about the new rewards program.

    • Oh no! I hope it ended up coming over for you. That’s so frustrating!

  • I’m not so sure about the new rewards program. I understand that they need to raise their prices every few months as the cost of coffee fluctuates, but this seems like a huge jump! Jumping $45 to $62 is a lot of money!

    • It definitely doesn’t sound good upfront! I’m hoping the additional incentives they’ve mentioned will pull through to make up for the difference!

  • I’m feeling pretty ripped off by this new program and am really annoyed with these changes. I love Starbucks and have really enjoyed the benefits of the Gold status, but when you do the simple math of how much you will have to spend to get the same reward, I just don’t see how they can think that people will be happy. We will have to see what happens in the long run, but I’m not sure if Starbucks is ahead of the curve on this one!

    xoxo Jess

    • I know what you mean. They’ve mentioned having more bonus star days, so hopefully that’ll help out. It’s still too early to tell!

  • Not too sure how I feel about the new rewards program…I feel like Starbucks isn’t the best with their rewards!

    • We’ll have to wait and see – hopefully it’ll end up working out for the better!

  • Ruthie Ridley

    Yikes…. I wish I visited your blog earlier today. I signed up with their rewards program this am lol

    • Well regardless of the new program, you’ll still be eligible to earn rewards :)

  • I have been wondering how this is going to work out, there is so much talk about it costing more to earn rewards, I am hoping it is not true. Thx for the info

    • Hopefully the kinks will work themselves out soon and it’ll end up being a better program. Thanks for reading, Carissa!

  • I have gotten into so many arguments with people over this new system haha so many people were so excited for the new rewards program so I decided to do the math and see if it really would be better and it wasn’t. My typical drink is over $5 (venti iced caramel macciatto). If you’re spending less than $5 each visit then you’re screwed haha you have to be a very loyal customer otherwise it’ll take you forever to get those freebies. You literally have to spend $5+ every time you’re there in order for it to be beneficial. It’s crazy! I’m glad someone else notice these flaws haha

    • It’s definitely not sounding like an improvement right now! I’m hoping these bonus star days they’ve mentioned will be more frequent to help us earn. I think the most loyal customers probably have the cheapest order (the basic black coffee)!

  • Sarah Emily

    Wow..how did I not know anything about this?! My usual is $4.55 so obviously I won’t be maintaining gold status next year-bummer!

    • Hopefully you’ll still be able to reach it! They did say that with the rollout of this new program anyone who makes ONE purchase will automatically get gold status!

  • oh this is interesting. i rarely go to starbucks, i am not a coffee drinker. i love their non coffee chocolatey drinks but obviously can’t be drinking those all the time, so i’m not in the rewards system at all. seems like they just want you to spend more in general, which hey.. they can probably get away with lol.

    • Right! I don’t think people will stop going because of this. There are still freebies after all, and I love their coffee too much to quit :)

  • The Perfect Storm

    I love starbucks and im not sure how I feel about the new program. I seemed to get my freebie a lot easier with the old programs. But I’m glad they are keeping a lot of other features the same.

    • Agreed! I’m hoping we’ll still be able to earn as quickly!

  • I hate the new one but we started cutting wayyyyy back on Starbucks a few months ago anyway so now I’m just like, “ehhhhhhh” about it.

    • Good for you! Most weeks I pick up a coffee there once, but I’m thinking it might be good to cut back to every other week to save some $. Those visits really add up!

  • Mar

    I have mixed feelings about this. Usually when I go to Starbucks, I am buying a drink for both my husband and I, so I can see the benefit of a point per $1. I felt like I was getting cheated before when I would buy 2 or more drinks and only get 1 star. But on the other hand, if I’m by myself, it definitely does not seem beneficial. Thanks for doing the math and breaking it down.

    • Totally understandable. Maybe it should be stars based on number of items purchased instead of dollar amount or visits!

  • Tamara Goyette

    I’m not happy that I have to spend way more now!

    • Me either! I’m curious what the process was to develop the new program. I’m sure quite a bit of time went into it though, so hopefully it’ll end up being better than it seems!

  • I used to have a Starbucks gold card, but since I don’t drink coffee it was hard to keep it up. Seems like quite the rip off though!

    ​xx katie // a touch of teal

    • You don’t drink coffee?! I don’t know how that’s even possible, haha.

  • I am still on the fence about the new rewards program for the same reasons you mentioned. Hopefully they will see if it really works and how their customers respond to it. I doubt that anyone is going to quit drinking just because they changed the new rewards program.