Verdict: Even as a coffee addict and avid (confessed) Starbucks fanatic, I find the Starbucks Rewards card, introduced in late 2009, overly complicated to use.

Any Starbucks gift card can act as your rewards card (and you can even “build your own card” online), but you have to load it up with money and make a purchase to accrue points (“stars.”) The more you buy, the faster you’ll achieve different tiers of rewards. (Stick with us; we’ll explain.) One good point is there’s no annual fee on the card, and you can (eventually) earn free coffee.

Overview: Starbucks has jumped on the loyalty rewards card bandwagon with their own My Starbucks rewards programs that lets customers accrue stars, which eventually add up to free drink upgrades and free beverages. You can manage your card easily online, set it up to reload automatically (so you always have money for a latte), and, unlike many other rewards programs, can even create your own custom Starbucks card.


How This Card Works: This loyalty rewards program starts, like all others, by signing up. But, unlike many rewards programs, which require just your name, address and email address, or maybe an annual fee, this rewards program requires only a re-loadable Starbucks gift card. You can purchase the card yourself with any amount of money loaded onto it — or maybe you’ll be lucky and receive one as a gift. You can activate any Starbucks gift card to join the My Starbucks reward program and start earning stars toward free coffee.

First, register your Starbucks card online at www.starbucks.com. From there, you can add a balance to your card, or sign up for automatic re-load. Then, you start using your My Starbucks card for purchases, and earn points.

Rewards:

The card offers rewards on a tiered basis.

At the Welcome level, which simply means you’ve registered your Starbucks card, you’ll get a free tall birthday beverage. (It pays, then, if you’ve received a Starbucks gift card as a holiday present, to register the card and get an extra free drink on your birthday… even if you never re-load the card or use it again.)

Earn five stars, and you’re at “Green” status, where you get a free drink on your birthday, free syrup and milk options, unlimited free brewed coffee and tea (hot or iced) refills on every visit, and a free drink with every pound of coffee beans you buy.

When you move up to 30 stars, you’ll get a free beverage for every 15 stars you earn and a new Gold card with your name on it that distinguishes your status as a Starbucks addict!


Oddly, you earn stars for every transaction you make, not on the basis of how much you spend. So if you treat the office to Starbucks using your My Starbucks card, you’d have to ring up each transaction separately to make it really worth your while. A $4 coffee purchase or a $100 + coffee machine purchase each count as one purchase, which count as one star each. This doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, as it doesn’t encourage customers to spend more in order to garner rewards points.

Pros:

  • Earn free drink refills and “upgrades” quickly, after just five purchases
  • No annual fee to sign up
  • Easy online card management
  • My Starbucks rewards program integrates with your iPhone; pay with your iPhone and earn points!
  • Starbucks card is re-loadable
  • Customized cards
  • Stars/points never expire
  • Join the program with any Starbucks gift card and earn a free drink on your birthday

Cons:

  • Takes a long time to earn substantial rewards
  • Earning rewards is based on the number of transactions, not the amount you spend
  • You must pre-load money onto your Starbucks card in order to earn rewards
  • You must pay with your Starbucks card