The Starbucks rewards program is a significant rip-off


A picture from the Starbucks app showing the new policy for their rewards program

“Earning” a free coffee at Starbucks now costs up to $200.

As an avid iced coffee fanatic, Starbucks has always been a part of my weekly routine due to its convenient location and popularity. Still, the Starbucks rewards program has always left me unsettled, and the revamped version of the program is insanity.

Only a couple of years ago, I downloaded the Starbucks app in order to get a free drink on my birthday; I soon learned about the ‘stars’ system, which is Starbucks’ version of a rewards program. 

This rewards system involves scanning your card on the app and earning one point or ‘star’ for every dollar spent. The only time you can earn more than one star per dollar is through a gift card, which only ups it to two stars, or preloading money onto the app, which only allows a minimum of $15 at a time, no less. When a certain point amount is met, you can redeem some sort of reward.

Now, this seems like a pretty reasonable system, as every drink accumulates to around $5 or $6 which would earn that same amount of stars per trip, but the lowest amount of points that lets you redeem a product is 25 stars. After spending approximately 25 dollars on getting that reward, the only benefit you can gain is customizing your drink, such as an extra shot of espresso or adding cold foam. These are additions that normally only cost an extra dollar or so to have in your coffee, but in reality, the customer is spending up to $25 to get a $2 inclusion.

Obviously, Starbucks is not the only brand that has a program like this, but it is one I hear about often, and use myself, but word has spread about the inflation of the program.

As of Feb. 13, Starbucks has changed the point system, rigging it so customers have to spend more than before to redeem rewards. The items you could get for 50 stars (any size hot coffee, tea, or bakery item) have been raised to 100 stars, and the biggest upset, handcrafted beverages (including iced coffee), oatmeal, and breakfast sandwiches—which were once 150 stars—are now worth 200 stars. For most, these are commonly redeemed items, and the value going up resulted in many angry customers, myself included.

For most, these are the most commonly redeemed items, and the value going up resulted in many angry customers, myself included.

Although Starbucks has challenges that can grant an absurd amount of bonus stars, they are almost always unattainable in the short window of time they are given. An example of a challenge I have been notified about by Starbucks recently was “order five days in a row to earn 75 bonus stars.” While I love cafe iced coffee, making the trip five days in a row is simply unrealistic.

The only benefit to this change—if any—is the number of stars to receive a bag of at-home coffee, which was previously 400 stars and is now 300. While some may be relieved by this news, Starbucks coffee is not worth the amount of money you have to spend to simply earn a bag.

While Starbucks made this absurd change to its rewards program, they also did little to no marketing to warn coffee lovers that this change was being made, and many fans, including myself, had to find out through social media posts not affiliated with Starbucks.

Due to these changes and my knowledge of the rewards program, I am thoroughly disappointed with Starbucks and the new scams they are trying to push on their customers. Because of this, I will continue to be wary of the tricks they try to slip under my nose.