How to Maximize Starbucks new Reward System

The Math behind getting the most from your Starbucks Rewards Program

Hellooooooo, free coffee.

More drinks. More fun. More free stuff.

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Is the third time the Charm?

For the third time in recent memory, Starbucks has wheeled out a new rewards program. The original program rewarded you for each visit/transaction. The problem was not all visits were equal. For example, Aunt Alice might buy a tall coffee and get the same number of stars as Steve that just ordered 7 caramel frappuccinos for the office. This led to an even bigger problem: people splitting their orders into multiple orders. For example, Steve would take his 7 frappuccinos and tell the barista that he would like 7 separate transactions so that he could get 7 times the number of stars. Needless to say, the average wait time in line began to increase.

That led to the most recent reward system in which everyone received 2 stars for every dollar spent. This eliminated the need for people to split their orders and allowed for lines to move quicker. This second reward system really benefited people that spent more money buying hand crafted drinks like frappuccinos and macchiatos and was a bit of a disadvantage for the person that just ordered a basic tall coffee. With this reward system everyone received a free drink when they received 125 stars. Like most people, this was my chance to load up on a larger, more expensive drink . I usually opted for a Trenta Pink Drink (YUM!). Normally I would never order this drink, but it was free and I wanted to get the maximum that I could from my freebie.

Like your frappuccino? It now takes 25 more stars (was 125 - now 150) to get a free Frappuccino!

Like your frappuccino? It now takes 25 more stars (was 125 - now 150) to get a free Frappuccino!



First off, before we look at how this latest version of the rewards system works, I just went to spend a second to talk about Starbuck’s signage and brochures for this new program. They are using the tagline “Hellooooooo, free coffee” as if this is a new concept. If you have never been to Starbucks before I guess this speaks to you, but for over 98% (totally make up number on my part) of us we are already getting free coffee. Thanks for letting me get this out of my system. I feel much better now. Let’s continue to break down the new Reward System.

The most recent program allowed you to get a free drink every 125 stars. This newest Starbucks Rewards Program gives you levels staring with 25 Stars and progressing up to 400 Stars. Here is a brief summary of the different things you get at each level

25 Stars - Customize your Drink (up to $1)

50 Stars earns you a free coffee

50 Stars earns you a free coffee

  • Basically, you can add different things to you drinks like espresso or syrup for free

50 Stars - Hot Coffee, Hot Tea or Bakery Items

  • At this level you can get yourself a free HOT coffee or tea. You can also get a free bakery item like a muffin or bagel.

150 Stars - Hand crafted drink, hot breakfast, or parfait

  • This is the level to achieve if you want a free frappuccino or macchiato. This is also where you need to be if you want a free breakfast sandwich (ex. bacon gouda) or some oatmeal.

200 Stars - Lunch Sandwich, Protein Box, or Salad

  • Now you are able to get free food items such as the Ham & Swiss Panini, Chicken Wrap, or the Chicken & Quinoa Protein Bowl

400 Stars - Merchandise (up to $20) or at home coffee

  • Cups, mugs, bags of coffee are all in play at this level


How to get the most from your Starbucks Rewards

First off, is the new Starbucks Reward Program better? The answer is: it really depends on what you get. The previous program everyone got a free item at 125 Stars so most of us would get our fancy hand crafted beverage or a tasty sandwich to max our free item. With this new reward system, Starbucks is giving us options.

1200 Stars

To make it easy to compare our different options I’m going to base everything off of 1,200 Stars. To achieve 1200 Stars you need to spend $50 a month for a year. Some of you might spend this in a week. But why 1200? I’m using this number because each of the Star Levels (25, 50, 150, 200, and 400) will divide into evenly. In the world of math, the 1,200 is the Least Common Multiple of these five numbers.

Let’s look at what you can get at each level for 1,200 Stars.

If you are just nuts about customizing your drinks you can use 25 stars to jazz up your drinks (up to $1). 25 will divide into 1200 a total of 48 times. So this means with 1200 Stars you could customize you drinks 48 times. The total value of this would be $48 if you maximized it.

150 Stars gets you a Bacon Gouda

150 Stars gets you a Bacon Gouda

By cashing in 50 Stars at a time you would get 24 free items. This would include things such as coffee, muffin, or a croissant. A venti coffee cost $2.45 which means you would get $58.80 worth of free product. A muffin is $2.95 each or a total of $70.80 of free product. The almond croissant is valued at $3.45 each or a total of $78.

At 150 Stars you would get 8 free items with 1200 stars. This includes hand crafted drinks (such as frappuccinos) and breakfast sandwiches. The most expensive item at my local Starbucks is the Caramel Mocha Frapprccino which cost $5.25. This would equal $42 in free product.

200 Stars will get you a total of 6 free items such as a Lunch Sandwich, Protein Box or a Salad. The most expensive of these items is the Chicken Wrap at $8.15 which would be a total of $48.90 of free product.

Finally, at the 400 Stars you would get 3 free items which you could use on bags of coffee or merchandise (up to $20). A bag of coffee cost around $14 so this would be a total of $42 worth of free product. You could get up to $60 worth of merchandise such as cups, mugs, tumblers, etc.


The Verdict

Looking for an excuse to eat more Muffins? If you want to maximize you Starbucks rewards make sure you eat plenty of these delicious treats!

Looking for an excuse to eat more Muffins? If you want to maximize you Starbucks rewards make sure you eat plenty of these delicious treats!

So what is the best thing to do? Glad you asked.

If you like hot coffee, muffins, bagels and croissants then the 50 Stars is the place for you. With the old system the mindset was that we earned this free item so we wanted to go a bit nuts and get an expensive item. With the new tiered system you are actually further ahead to use 50 Stars to get these items and splurge and buy the hand crafted drinks like the Caramel Mocha Frappuccino.

Another way to think of it: With 150 stars you could get one Caramel Mocha Frappuccino for $5.25 or you could get three muffins at $2.95 each for a total value of $8.85. For every 1,200 STARS, you would get an extra $36 in product by getting bakery items.

A basic venti coffee earns you and extra $16 in product over course of the 1,200 STARS.

Another good option is to spend it on merchandise. Many items at Starbucks are right around the $20 price point. If you enjoy having Starbucks swag or you buy gifts for people that love Starbucks this could be a great option. The nice thing about getting product is that you have something you can keep.

What is the worst thing you can do?

Using your stars to get a hand crafted drink or customizing your drinks gives you the least amount of value.

When you look at the new Starbucks Reward System, it’s clear they are hammering the handcraft beverage crowd (the 150 Star Level). First, to get a hand crafted drink now takes an additional 25 stars (a 20% increase) when compared to the old program. Second, the value you get is far less compared to the other levels. It’s almost as if Starbucks understands that most people are going to use their stars on frappuccinos and lattes and they skew the program to penalize the people that love these products.

The feeling of getting a free coffee or bagel is not as exciting as getting a free Caramel Macchiato but in the long run you are getting the most value hanging out in the 50 STAR World.

Now go get yourself a venti coffee and a blueberry muffin… you earned it.